It is a offence to exceed a vehicle’s maximum permissible weight limit by overloading. The impact of doing so not only carries penalties for you as the fleet or transport manager, but also for the driver responsible for the vehicle. Both yourself and the driver could be cautioned, incur penalty points or be prosecuted for an overloaded vehicle, In serious cases, a prosecution could be brought for Dangerous Driving under the Road Traffic Act 1988.
Overloading is not only seriously risky, it puts additional stress on the vehicle’s tyres and suspension components, and this combined, creates a vehicle that is exponentially more dangerous than a responsibly loaded vehicle.
If your organisation operates with a fleet solely consisting of Light Commercial Vehicles (LCVs) not above 3.5 tonnes, you will be exempt from certain legal requirements such as the need to install and use tachographs or to posses an operator’s licence to carry goods as part of your business, but your van fleet is still subject to other important rules that must be complied with.
Your van fleet must be roadworthy, operate within permissible weights and speeds as well as be driven by properly licensed drivers, complying with drivers hours and working time rules at all times.
It is your responsibility as the fleet or transport manager to enforce policies that prevent vehicle overloading and conduct regular risk assessments. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1999 states that, ‘all companies have a duty of care to ensure the safety of their employees while at work.’
Many fleet or transport managers are also unaware that if any of your vehicles are involved in a collision on the road and they are found to be overloaded, your insurance will be void. This means that by overloading, you could be operating a commercial vehicle without insurance – a legal requirement for all vehicles, this could also leave your organisation with very high repair costs.
It is vital that both yourself and your drivers understand the weight limits of each vehicle operating within your fleet. The manufacturer’s plate which will clearly state these limits including both laden and unladen can usually be found inside the engine bay, doors or windscreen. The plate also lists the VIN and other important vehicle information.
Ensuring drivers are legally permitted to drive the type of vehicle they are required to within your fleet, is vitally important. Weight limits of commercial vehicles will vary depending on the kind of vehicle and so will their licence requirements. In general terms, a driver with a standard UK Driving Licence can drive a van up to 3,500kg.
The key terms a fleet or transport manager as well as a driver needs to be aware of are explained below:
The unladen weight of any vehicle is the weight of the vehicle when it’s not carrying any passengers, goods or other items.
It includes the body and all parts normally used with the vehicle or trailer when it’s used on a road.
It doesn’t include the weight of:
• batteries in an electric vehicle
• Maximum authorised mass
• Maximum authorised mass (MAM) means the weight of a vehicle or trailer including the maximum load that can be carried safely when it’s being used on the road. This is also known as gross vehicle weight (GVW) or permissible maximum weight. The manufacturer’s plate or sticker may also show a gross train weight (GTW), also sometimes called gross combination weight (GCW). This is the total weight of the tractor unit plus trailer plus load.
How loading weight and capacity differs in Electric Vans
In general terms the added weight of a battery isn’t really an issue for smaller vans. But an unladen electric van will weight more than its petrol or diesel equivalent due to the weight of the batteries. This means that an electric van’s maximum payload is also generally less.
Adding extra weight to any van either electric or diesel will negatively effect its fuel consumption and with an electric van this impacts the range, as you are using more power to move the vehicle.
Further Legislation relating to overloading
Two regulations that also enforce the idea that drivers are responsible for the safety of their vehicles and loads as well as any danger they may pose to themselves and other drivers are:
• The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 require drivers to ensure that ‘all parts and accessories and the weight distribution, packing and adjustment of their loads shall be such that no danger is likely to be caused to any person in or on the vehicle or trailer on the road’.
• The Road Traffic Act 1988 states that ‘vehicle users must ensure that vehicles are not overloaded’
In summary as a fleet or transport manager with any size van fleet, you must look at overloading as a serious issue and put checks in place to ensure it doesn’t impact your organisation.
Staying compliant is key to making sure your drivers as well as the wider public, stay safe out on the road.