Re: Ramifications of Towing Overloaded
I'm going to copy & paste a responce to a similar discussion in another forum. The person who wrote it is a CA. police officer. Shows how wrong I can be in at least CA.
Ok you were warned.
Here it goes. This is an area that I would not list on my "things I know the most about" list. It is a very short list and my wife may even say it is an empty list but that is another thread I think.
Weight defined by the CVC. Every vehicle has at minimum the GVWR specified by the manufacturer.
From the California Vehicle Code:
350. (a) "Gross vehicle weight rating" (GVWR) means the weight
specified by the manufacturer as the loaded weight of a single
(b) Gross combination weight rating (GCWR) means the weight
specified by the manufacturer as the loaded weight of a combination
or articulated vehicle. In the absence of a weight specified by the
manufacturer, GCWR shall be determined by adding the GVWR of the
power unit and the total unladen weight of the towed units and any
This is how the CVC specifies enforcement is taken related to weights of vehicles:
2802. (a) Any traffic officer having reason to believe that a
vehicle is not safely loaded or that the height, width, length, or
weight of a vehicle and load is unlawful may require the driver to
stop and submit to an inspection, measurement, or weighing of the
vehicle. The weighing may be done either by means of portable or
stationary scales and the officer may require that the vehicle be
driven to the nearest scale facility, in the event the scales are
within five road miles.
(b) Selected inspection facilities and platform scales operated by
the Department of the California Highway Patrol may, at the
discretion of the commissioner, be open for extended hours, up to and
including 24 hours every day. The primary purpose of the extended
hours is to assist in the detection of overweight vehicles. These
inspection facilities and platform scales shall be located near
primary border route points of entry into the state and key routes
within the state.
2803. (a) If the traffic officer determines that the vehicle is not
safely loaded or that the height, width, length, or weight is
unlawful, he may require the driver to stop in a suitable place and
reload or remove such portion of the load as may be necessary to
render the load safe or to reduce it to the limits permitted under
this code. A suitable place is an area which allows the least
obstruction to the highway and which requires the least travel on the
highway by the vehicle. Determination of the suitability of an area
shall be made by the traffic officer who requires the adjustment.
All material so unloaded shall be cared for by the owner or operator
of the vehicle at the risk of the owner or operator.
(b) If a certified weight certificate or bill of lading
accompanies a vehicle which has been determined to be overweight due
to the load on the vehicle, the driver shall submit the certified
weight certificate or bill of lading, whichever is appropriate, to
the traffic officer when the overweight load is removed in the
presence of the officer. The officer may note on the certified
weight certificate or bill of lading submitted by the driver the fact
that a portion of the load has been removed to bring the vehicle and
load within the allowable weight limit specified in this code, and
the officer shall return the certificate or bill of lading to the
(c) If the height, width, or length of the vehicle is unlawful,
irrespective of any load thereon, or if an unladen vehicle is
overweight, the traffic officer may prohibit further movement of the
vehicle until a permit is obtained as provided in Section 35780.
Now that the law is out of the way lets talk real world intrepretation of it as California is a "Spirit of the Law" state and not a "Letter of the Law" state. My eyes are neither good enough or calibrated to measure the weight of a load from a distance. More often then not when people are pulled over for being over load it is because the load they are carrying appears in some way to be unsafe. SAFE or UNSAFE are really the standards we are looking at here. And initally those are judgement calls by the officer making the stop. Once a vehicle is stopped, for whatever reason, an officer has a legal right to do a complete vehicle inspection including checking tread depth, looking under the hood checking under the vehicle etc...and yes even forcing the vehicle to either submit to a mobile weigh station (CHP commercial enforcement units have the mobile scales) or making the vehicle drive to the nearest weigh station for weighing.
If the officer believes the load to be unsafe and he believes that the "weight" of the load is at least part of what is making the load unsafe then the standard he will use for that will be the manufacture's stated GVWR. Lets try and remember though that most of the "Weight" stuff is generally for the purpose of commercial enforcement not "passenger enforcement"
I think we can all spot a vehicle that is unsafely loaded. Ever seen someone moving his 3 bedroom house in the back of his f150 holding it all together with a piece of twine and a bread bag twisty? The point I am getting at is that a vehicle can be unsafely loaded without being overweight but in my opinion a vehicle can not be over it's GVWR and be safely loaded.
Lets use the original poster for the examples.
None2 is tooling along down the PCH in his 2003 F250 with a 3000lbs truck camper on his back. It is a beautiful day. The sun is out, Skynard is on the radio, the wind is flowing through his hair, the women on the beach are in appropriate attire and all is jim dandy. Out of the blue "The Fuzz" (AKA CaFordDude) is on his tail. None2 is obeying the speed limit, truck does not appear to be sagging or otherwise posing a saftey hazard. All his lights and signal appear to be working, his plates come back valid and all appears fine. I sit back for a few minutes admiring how DAMN cool Ford trucks are before speeding ahead of him to get to the lady on the board walk that sells hot dogs out of a cart wearing only a bikini. None2 has sweat a few bullets knowing he is a bit overweight but gets no ticket.
Same setup as before except this time None2 has not maintained his rig so well. He has a brake light out, his registration is a month expired and he is looking a little low on the back end. This time he gets stopped, gets the full treatment. Maybe he gets weighed maybe he dosen't depends on the officer, depends on what he has to say about the load, depends on how far he is going and depends on how long the bikini clad hot dog lady is going to be there. If he gets weighed and he is over the GVWR he gets a ticket for an unsafely loaded vehicle. Do most officers go this far? Probably not, not on a passenger vehicle. On a commercial vehicle? You bet.
Same setup as #1. But this time none2 is watching the bikini's and not the road and rear ends the car in front of him. If no injuries, vehicle damage only then the weight issue may not come up. Say it does and he is weighed and is over the GVWR. That would go down as an "associated factor" to the crash meaning that had he not been overloaded then even though he was following to close for conditions (Primary collision factor) he may have still been able to stop in time. If there are injuries lets go extreme and say there is a fatality. same scenario and there may be some civil liability involved. Criminal liability is a decison the District Attorney would make though and the standard for that would most likely be gross negligence, was the load he put on that truck so much more then the GVWR that it was inherently dangerous. Was it loaded in such a way that it was loaded "recklessly".
Keep in mind that this is how I would handle similar situations on the street. My main concern is saftey. If your vehicle appears to be safe then I generally assume it is safe absent other circumstances. If your vehicle appears to be unsafe then I assume it is unsafe until I inspect and decide it is not unsafe.
I have given depositions in civil cases where there was an accident and the weight of the vehicle was called into question in trying to establish liability. Weight, like DUI will never be a "Primary Collission Factor" if involved in a crash but may be listed as an associated factor.
Hope this in some small way helps. Remember laws vary from state to state but I would imagine they are written with the same general terms.
2006 F350 CC Lariat FX4 PSD
Finally a reasonable temperature here in the SOCAL Chapter
97 F250 SC LB 4X4 PSD TDE0, E4OD,3.55's, 285/70/16"s ,Modified fuel tank vents, 375+k headed for 500k