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As a fleet manager, you’re well aware of the dangers of overloading trucks. When a truck is overloaded, its weight imbalance makes it harder to handle, which can cause drivers to misjudge braking distance or even jackknife. Plus, any overloaded vehicle likely has cargo that isn’t sufficiently secured because of overcrowding, which can lead to items falling off the truck and causing accidents. That’s why overloading is usually considered a fleet safety issue above all else, and rightly so. 

But overloading has another big downside: it’s a major drain on your budget. In fact, an annual Automotive Fleet survey consistently shows that overloading is the top cause of unscheduled maintenance for trucks. 

Below are the three biggest ways overloading hurts your bottom line, and what you can do to avoid these unnecessary expenses.

Increased maintenance costs and downtime
Overloading a truck is a recipe for breakdowns and maintenance problems because trucks carrying more weight than they’re designed to increases wear and tear on the vehicle. Even if a vehicle’s weight is within the limits set by the OEM, it may still technically be overloaded depending on how the weight is distributed across axles. If a rear axle is carrying a disproportionate amount of the load, that means the front axle is unbalanced, leading to premature wear on the suspension and tires. 

Sometimes, fleet managers modify their vehicles in an effort to get them to accommodate more weight. While this might seem like a prudent step for safety, in fact it can damage your vehicles. By changing tire sizes or adding components like heavy-duty brakes or anti-sway kits, ultimately these modifications change the integrity of the vehicle and add weight to the chassis. Modifications are also problematic because they can nullify your warranty and increase liability exposure in the instance of an accident.

As a manager, you know maintenance is expensive, not only because of the repairs themselves, but also because of unplanned downtime. By not overloading your trucks, you’ll be doing your fleet’s budget a favor.

Wasted fuel
The more a vehicle weighs, the more fuel it consumes. Each pound of extra weight requires the vehicle’s engine to work harder, increasing fuel consumption, and an extra 100 pounds in vehicle weight can reduce miles per gallon up to 2 percent.

Plus, overloaded vehicles makes tires run hotter since the rubber becomes more pliable under the extra weight. This causes them to deflate more rapidly, which also leads to higher fuel costs because under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by about 0.2 percent for every 1 psi drop. 

Violations
If a CVSA inspector performs a roadside inspection of a truck at weigh station and it is found to be overweight, that can result in fines and having a vehicle taken out of service. An overweight penalty may apply either to gross weight or an overweight condition on an axel, and fines are generally calculated based on the greater of the two overweight conditions. Not only is your fleet on the hook for the fines, deliveries will be delayed and your capacity to take on new business will be diminished, resulting in less revenue.

The best way to prevent the costs associated with overloaded vehicles is to avoid overloading them in the first place. However, it isn’t always as simple as that. Drivers might request a specific vehicle, not realizing it’s too small for the cargo. Or, a truck might be the appropriate size for the load, but may not be loaded properly for optimal weight distribution. That’s why it’s important to train your drivers on how to distribute freight weight correctly. Routes can also be planned to take weight into account, not just delivery time. Finally, it’s important to take a hands-on, proactive approach in looking for signs of vehicle overload, like irregular wear on tires, loose suspension and premature brake damage, all of which can indicate overloading.

It’s understandable to want to load the most cargo onto a truck as possible to streamline the delivery process, speed up delivery time and maximize cargo per load. However, in the long run, it doesn’t pay.  

To learn how to monitor your fleet for potential signs of overloading, please visit: Fleet Performance Reporting

Marco Encinas is a Marketing and Product Manager of Global Platforms at Teletrac Navman.

Marco plans the product strategy and roadmap releases globally for all of Teletrac Navman’s software platforms. He gains industry insights from customers, integration partners and R&D to improve current Teletrac Navman product features and tools, and drive development of new product requirements. Before joining the Teletrac Navman team, Marco planned product strategy and roadmap releases for both commercial and consumer product lines, developed sales training tools and product curriculum at Magellan GPS and Mitsubishi.