What to do When a Shipper Overloads Your Truck

Jul 26, 2021 8:32:07 PM / Written by: Tiffney Lopez

The responsibility of safely transporting goods in the United States rests on the shoulders of an estimated 3.5 million truck drivers. All of those drivers are trying to maximize their loads and minimize the amount of time spent running to scales and avoiding weigh stations.

Getting overloaded is one of the biggest cost in trucking. Knowing a shipper has overloaded will have you following a series of steps much different than if you found out you were overloaded by an officer with the Department of Transportation. If the DOT tells you you’re overloaded or hands you a citation for it, it’s already too late.

That’s why knowing what you weigh at the shipper, before you leave the yard, is essential and it’s possible. But what do you do once the shipper has loaded you and you know it’s too much?

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Be reasonable with the shipper

Asking the shipper to take some of the load off may be all you need to get back to legal weight. Shippers want to get product out of their facility and move on to the next truck as soon as possible. If being overloaded is going to hold up the flow of operations some shippers will remove cargo just to get drivers out the door. If a shipper request that you visit an offsite scale then it is time for the next step.

Renegotiate the additional cost with the broker

When you agree to a job you and the broker should be aware of all of the cost involved in moving the load. If the load that is picked up is different than what was agreed on then someone will be have to cover the additional cost. In a majority of cases it is the carrier. Renegotiating the price of the load to include scale tickets, traveling to and from scales, lost miles, and/or permits will help avoid unnecessary cost and get the load delivered more timely.

Refuse to leave until the load is fixed

The goal is to get you and your load safely on the road. It's important to stand your ground as "eyeballing" or taking a Bill of Lading as word are not consistent forms of measurement. DOT officers say it’s illegal for truck drivers to leave the yard overloaded and if those drivers choose to leave overloaded they are assuming responsibility and civil liability for the overload. Today's mobile app technology can help drivers know the weight of their load at the shippers dock before leaving.

Leave the load

Leaving a load is nothing to frown upon. If it's gotten to this point, that means you take safety and risk seriously. You have demands you have to meet as an owner. The integrity of your business and your driving record are too important to you.

“How a situation plays out will be different depending on whether there is a way to prove the weight while at the shipper,” Norita Taylor, spokesperson with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said. “And how that shipper agrees to handle it.”

If a shipper refuses to remove any of the load once being overloaded is verified, a truck driver can file a coercion complaint with the DOT. Coercion happens when shippers compel truck drivers to operate knowing they are violating Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations rules. Shippers who are found guilty of coercion can be find over $10,000. If not, and the driver decides to take the load anyway, he or she is accepting responsibility for the load and can be fined for it.


Taylor went on to say that when truck drivers are dealing with bulk commodities, shippers will typically have scales in their yard to remain compliant because they are attempting to avoid liability in the event of an accident. Even if the truck driver asks the shipper to unload a little as soon as it happen, or comes back after finding out he or she is overweight, the shipper can still refused to take the load back.

Unfortunately, most of the battles against a shipper who has overloaded you will have to be done on your own, as officials with the DOT, and any other entity, cannot be on private property. 

It's important to note if a broker is used, they bear some of the load if the shipper asks you to get a scale ticket. That is going to eat into revenue. A job that started as $3,000 can decrease to less than $2,500 with additional time constraints, back-tracking, getting a scale ticket, avoiding weigh stations or having to apply for a permit. Is the broker going to bill the shipper for it? The majority of the time, carriers take the hit. 

Topics: Overloaded, DOT, Shipper

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