He Ain’t Heavy – Are You Safely Loaded?

He Ain’t Heavy – Are You Safely Loaded?

When carrying heavy materials or parcels, it can be easy to exceed the permitted gross vehicle weight of your vehicle. An overloaded van doesn’t just cause damage to roads and your vehicle, it can impact its handling and have a negative impact on the environment. With an estimated 25 percent of vans exceeding their permitted maximum weight limit, this isn’t a random occurrence. Here are some tips on how to stay within safe limits.  

If you’re a vehicle operator, your drivers may be stopped at the roadside by the police or the Driver and Vehicles Standards Agency (DVSA) under the Operator Compliance Risk Score (OCRS). The DVSA uses this score to decide which vehicles should be inspected. This includes overloaded or weight exceeded vans and trucks.

A person who is stopped roadside and found guilty could face a fine or even prosecution depending on the severity of their actions. Not only could the fines be costly for your business, the possibility of increased accidents and prosecution can also affect your van fleet insurance or courier insurance when you come to renew an individual or fleet policy.  

Overloading a vehicle can also have a detrimental effect on the environment. It has been found that increased amounts of C02 emissions are released when driving, leading to harmful air quality and pollutants.

The Roadside Checks

Together with inspecting your vehicle for roadworthiness and mechanical faults, the DVSA will check your gross vehicle weight (GVW) and the weight per axle. It’s important to note that you could be fined up to £300 per axle if each one is found over the limit.

Here are the penalties you could face:

  • Less than 10% over the limit - £100
  • 10% up to but not including 15% over the limit - £200
  • 15% and over - £300

Generally, the DVSA will not charge a penalty up to five percent over the weight limit, unless the weight has been exceeded by one tonne or more. If the vehicle is overloaded by 30 percent or more (or the excess weight is five tonnes), a court summons will be issued instead with the driver and/or the employer likely facing prosecution and a hefty fine.

The issue of an overloaded vehicle doesn’t just remain with the driver as the employer also has a duty of care. If an overloaded vehicle is involved in an accident or causes serious harm to a person or property, the employer could face prosecution for health and safety violations.

How to Avoid Overloading Your Vehicle

To understand the weight of your vehicle, you need to know some technical terms. When a vehicle is fuelled but empty of goods and people, this is referred to as the unladen or kerb weight. The Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) can be found on the VIN plate and is the maximum weight that a van is legally allowed to weigh when loaded. This includes the driver, passengers, fuel, equipment, materials, parcels, and anything else that may be in the vehicle.

To calculate your payload (the amount you are legally allowed to load onto your van), you need to subtract the kerb weight from the GVW.

Loading Your Van Safely

According to the IAM Road Smart charity, there are several things drivers can do to ensure safe loading:

  • In-vehicle systems.  Many modern vehicles now offer an in-vehicle system to calculate the load and alert the driver when the limit has been reached. Be sure to follow any warning alerts.
  • Check the handbook. If you can’t locate the VIN plate and you’re unsure about what weight limit your particular vehicle has, always consult the vehicle’s handbook for specifications and more information.
  • Avoid axle overload. Together with loading your van, you also need to consider the even distribution of goods and materials to avoid overloading the axles. It is possible for a vehicle to be under its GVW but still exceeding its permitted load on an axle (the axle weight guide is also available on the VIN plate).

For more safe loading advice, check the DVSA roadside checks: fines and financial deposits on the Gov.UK website.

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