Market Trends

Overloading is No. 1 Cause of Truck Maintenance Problems

November 4, 2000

by Mike Antich

One reason is that more and more companies are seeking to lower their acquisition costs by selecting lower-GVW trucks. Although this strategy saves money on the front end, the inevitable overloading increases operating costs on the back end.A second reason for spec'ing lower-GVW trucks is to avoid DOT regulations, which require drivers to have a commercial driver's license (CDL) to operate vehicles greater than 26,001 lbs. GVW. With the ongoing shortage of drivers, those with CDLs are difficult to find, and when found, are expensive to hire. The easy way to avoid this problem is to spec a truck with a lower GVW rating.Overloading also creates an unsafe vehicle and increases liability exposure in the event of an accident. Consider the following:-- Emergency handling capability of an overloaded vehicle is reduced, which may result in an accident.-- Braking distance increases, which can cause drivers to misjudge stopping distances.-- Tire failure rates are higher, because tires run hotter.Plus, roadside weight checks (if applicable) could result in overloading fines, and possibly have your vehicle impounded until the problem is corrected.Five Ways to Avoid Overloading Your VehicleIf your overriding goal continues to be to minimize acquisition costs by going to lighter trucks, while not changing your payload requirements, there are five steps you can take to avoid overloading:1. Select a Different Vehicle. You may not need a larger vehicle to carry your desired payload, just a different vehicle, said Dan Karst, specification engineer for PHH Vehicle Management Services. "A cargo van may not be the best for your needs; you might do better with a pickup truck with a topper combination and pull-out shelving system, which can haul more weight."2. Use better load distribution. Design loading areas that force workers to position freight correctly. Schedule the routes so that freight is positioned for weight distribution and not in the interest of delivery time. "It is also important to train drivers on proper loading techniques so they don't create an unsafe situation," says Eric Strom, manager of customer service for GE Capital Fleet Services. During the training process, don't forget to train forklift operators on proper freight distribution.3. Maintain tighter inventory in the vehicle. "One way to avoid overloading a vehicle is to eliminate unnecessary equipment or shelving," says Bob White, manager, fleet services for ARI. "Modify storage bin units to fit your needs." Strom agrees: "Clean out the unnecessary items. Carry only those items which you know you will need. If given an opportunity, drivers will carry everything they can conceivably fit into a vehicle."4. Use a trailer. If a vehicle is heavy enough to tow a trailer, you may have additional towing capacity, even though you're maxed out on payload, said Karst.5. Carry your payload smarter. Schedule pick-ups to correspond to drop-offs. If applicable, employ a hub and spoke distribution system using a centralized hub vehicle, such as a large stepvan, rather than driving to a centralized warehouse, said Strom. This approach has been adopted by a large telecommunications fleet in Southern California, which is using smaller vehicles to make shorter trips to a hub vehicle.It's Smart to Ask for AdviceOne of the best ways to determine if your vehicles are being overloaded is to go into the field and assess vehicle usage, said Strom. There are several ways to determine this: a sagging rear-end, irregular tire wear, premature brake wear, and loose unresponsive suspension and steering. "Drivers can be requesting the wrong vehicle for the vehicle, and all the while the fleet manager thinks everything is fine," said Strom.If you are inexperienced at truck spec'ing, call the vehicle manufacturer, dealer, or fleet management company, if you are using one, and get their suggestions."If you're purchasing a vehicle and aren't sure of the application, you can always check with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) to ensure the vehicle you're considering is compliant with FMVSS safety regulations," said Karst.It is also advisable to avoid modifying a vehicle to accommodate a heavier payload, such as changing tire sizes, adding spring kits, air shocks, heavy-duty brakes, and anti-sway kits. "By modifying a vehicle, you are creating an unsafe situation by changing the integrity of the vehicle," said Strom. "In addition, this may affect the new-vehicle warranty and increase liability exposure if there is an accident."All of which is sound advice. Now, all we have to do is follow it.Let me know what you think.

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Mike Antich

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Mike has covered fleet management and remarketing for more than 20 years and entered the Fleet Hall of Fame in 2010.

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