As you are more than likely aware, commercial vehicles in the UK are subject to strict weight limitations on the roads. In 2014/15, the DVSA stopped over 10,800 vans for roadside vehicle weight checks; 89% of the vehicles checked were found to be overloaded. All those found liable were handed vehicle overloading penalties.
The weight limit for your commercial vehicle naturally varies depending on the kind of vehicle that you are driving. Your commercial vehicle will be fitted with a manufacturer’s plate. The plate will clearly state the maximum gross weight of the vehicle. The location of the manufacturer’s plate varies from vehicle to vehicle and can be found inside the engine bay, doors or windscreen. The plate also lists the VIN and other important vehicle information.
The manufacturers plate will list the unladen weight of the vehicle and the maximum weight of the vehicle. You can use this to work out the approximate weight that is safe to add to vehicle. However, manufacturers will also specify axle weights which cannot be exceeded. Exceeding the manufacturer plate weigh restrictions is calculated on a per-offence basis. A 3 axle articulated lorry exceeding its plated weight restrictions on the 1st axle, 2nd axle and gross weight would leave you liable to three separate road offenses. Each individual offence can incur a fine of up to £5,000, issued by a DVSA or police officer, during a roadside check using portable axle weigh pads.
Why does vehicle weight matter?
There are obvious potential business and career damaging repercussions when overloading a commercial vehicle, many of which are laid out in the highway code and theory test respectively. But why?
The weight of the vehicle when loaded (or overloaded) has a huge effect on the handling characteristics of the vehicle. Once you begin to exceed a manufacturer’s weight limit, you begin to change how the vehicle is designed to handle. The lorry’s centre of gravity may rise too high and make it unstable during cornering. The extra weight will endanger the vehicle in front, not to mention those in surrounding traffic. Moreover it will increase stopping distances in all weather conditions and put additional stress on tyres and suspension components.
All of this combined creates a vehicle that is exponentially more dangerous than a responsibly loaded vehicle. By extension, those behind the wheel are automatically guilty of dangerous driving.
However, it’s not just safety reasons that make’s overloading one of the DVSA’s top priorities.
Road Wear and Tear
It’s estimated that in the UK, overloading commercial vehicles costs the country over £50 million a year in additional wear and tear on our roads and bridges. Overloaded axles cause greater wear and tear on road surfaces than correctly loaded vehicles.
An overloaded vehicle carries more goods and potential profit than when compared to a vehicle that is loaded within compliance with the law. An operator that responsibly loads their vehicle and remains compliant with loading regulations should not fall behind in business simply because they are legal.
Unbeknownst to the majority of commercial drivers and businesses, if your vehicle has a collision on the road and it is found to be overloaded, your insurance will be void. This means that by overloading your vehicle, you could be driving and operating a commercial vehicle without insurance – a crime in itself and leaving your business with a hefty bill of repair.
How to maintain compliance
We have written extensively about how to ensure that your business’s vehicles remain compliant with weight regulations. Your business needs to ensure that it has the correct procedures in place to ensure that no commercial vehicles are driven without first being weighed for compliance. Turning a blind eye to excess weight will result in a fixed penalty notice, at the very least.
The simplest and most cost effective method of implementing these procedures is to purchase axle weigh pads. They are small, easily stored or transported and give you the ability to accurately weigh your vehicles for compliance. They can be taken with the vehicle, so even if loading the vehicle off-site, you can remain compliant.