Weight distribution

by Jimmy

I would like to give you some basic info re: weight. No, not your weight, the weight allowed on your wagon. You know, that 53' trailer you have behind you loaded with meat or is it soda pop, or corn flakes, possibly tennis shoes, or ping pong balls, maybe even tires. Anything consumers purchase gets there by truck.

All trucks/trailers weigh about the same, but not exactly. A day cab weighs less than a sleeper cab. A sleeper cab that pulls a flatbed trailer weighs more than one that doesn't. Thats because it is equipped with a headache rack, chains, binders, tarps and straps needed to secure the load. Those items are figured in with the EMPTY weight of the power unit. A nice fancy power unit with a 12-15' sleeper will weigh much more than a factory unit. Those fancy units are after market installations and cost more. Now those units do have restrooms/showers etc. Just like an R.V.

A reefer trailer will weigh more than a dry van. Remember, there's an engine mounted on the nose of the trailer which cools the trailer.. That adds weight to the trailer as well as the metal flooring, and insulation in the walls. It is much like your fridge in your kitchen. And a flatbed trailer will weigh a little less since there are no sides and roof. Heavy haul low boys, trailers that haul heavy equipment, can weigh a lot, but i'll just keep it simple for you. A newbie isn't going to to be turned loose with heavy haul by himself.

Now, lets get to it. GENERALLY, a 3 axle condo will weigh in the neighboehood of 18,000 lbs. An empty dry van, about 13-14000 lbs. So we're talking 31-32,000lbs empty weight. A reefer, figure about 1800 lbs more. A flat bed, figure 10,000 lbs. Now notice I said GENERALLY, different manufacturers, different weights. All equipment can be special ordered, such as 1 fuel tank vs 2, or 3 axle trailer vs 2, or trailers hauling light weight merchandise vs trailers doing heavy duty hauling.

All states allow GROSS weights of 80,000 lbs on 5 axles without any permits necessary. You want to haul more weight, no probelm. Get more axles and buy permits. We've all seen O.D. loads coming down the highway, with escort vehicles warning the driving public. (O.D. is the official name, stands for over dimensional) Most folks say 'long load' or 'oversized'.
They've all got permits to be on the road, or they should.

So, if you can gross 80,000 lbs and you weigh about 32,000 lbs empty, you should be able to put a payload of 48,000 lbs on your wagon, right? Well, kinda, sorta, but not really. You see, that weight has to be evenly distributed.You cannot have more than 34,000 lbs on the trailer tandems, same with tractor tandems, and 12000lbs on the tractor steer axle. All modern trailers have the capability to 'slide' the tandems, to adjust the weight if needed. Not all power units can 'slide' the fifth wheel.

Let me backup a little re: empty weight. It will vary depending on how much fuel you have (diesel fuel weighs approximately 8 lbs per gallon) your personal stuff has to be taken into account and the weight of the driver/drivers. If you load a heavy load and weigh it and are legal, but only have 1/2 fuel on board, you have to take that into account when you put fuel on board. If you loaded, but were over a little on the drive axle ( the 2nd/3rd axle on the power unit) and there were no state scales anytime soon, you could 'burn off' some fuel and be ok by the time you did get to a state scale.

If your load is on pallets, figure 50 lbs per pallet. Normally, the pallet weight is not on the BOL. (bill of lading) Most but not all shippers will load, if it's a heavy load, around 44-45000lbs. That way you can have some wiggle room and you'll be grossing 76-77,000 lbs. YOU are responsible for the weight. Cover yourself and WEIGH it. The company pays for the weight ticket. If you don't, you will want to crawl under a rock and hide if you get 'busted' at the scales and have to remove the overweight. You do not want to have to call dispatch and try to explain.

When you get some experience under your belt, you will be able to figure out what loads do not need to be weighed. Until then,WEIGH IT,everytime. Ask for help if you need to 'slide' it. You may have to look hard for a scale, some shippers have scales, or ask them if there is a local farmer that has a scale. If it's a heavy load, DO NOT believe the loader when he says he's never had one comeback. It is your responsibility. Period. Do you think you can tell the cop at the scalehouse to send the ticket to the loader where you picked up the load? Not quite, my friend.

The following is basic info re: sliding the axles to get legal. All states have a 'bridge law', that is the distance between the kingpin and the last axle of the trailer. (the center of the last axle) It is around 40'. Depends on the state you are in. Look under the trailer and you'll see 'holes' in a rail directly under the flooring , within the last 12 ft of the trailer. When you 'slide' it, each hole accounts for about 250-300lbs of weight distribution. Slide it forward,you increase the weight on that tandem. Backwards, you decrease the weight. Keep in mind the weight doesn't disappear, it moves to the other tandems, that being the tractor tandems and vice versa. If you were 'over' 800lbs for instance on the trailer, you could slide it 3-4 holes. But, again, keep in mind the bridge law when doing so.

There will be times when you will have to return to the dock, and they will have to unload and reload or possibly take off the excess weight. All the sliding in the world won't help. Be firm but polite with the dock personnel, because they do not want to to have to unload and reload. Remember, you are 100% responsible for your weight. Call dispatch if need be.

Most shippers have it down. They will get it right everytime, but remember, they are fork lift drivers, not truck drivers. If they ask you how much weight can you haul, give youself some wiggle room and say 44,000 lbs. If they say can you take more, advise them you will have to be legal before you leave their warehouse and are they willing to adjust if necessary. Stand your ground. Don't be intimidated by anyone while you are in this business.

Just one last thing, weigh your equipment when empty as you are just starting out in the biz. As you get more experienced, you won't have to. You'll pretty much know these things. Hope this helps.....Jimmy

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