By Mark Cartwright, FTA’s Head of Vans and Light Commercial Vehicles
If you're carrying loads of bags of shopping, just think how difficult it is to manoeuvre yourself around other shoppers on the high street. Then consider the same problem, only trying to control a moving vehicle. Do you pack the back of your van tightly until it cannot carry anything else? If so, you are probably overloaded, and an overloaded van presents a risk to yourself and other road users. And not only does it make the van more difficult to move safely from A to B, it could also land you with a fine of up to £5,000 per offence when stopped by the authorities. It's very easy for the enforcement agencies to spot an overloaded van on the road – tell-tale signs like listing from side to side, sliding around corners and failing to drive in a straight line give the overloaded driver away – so it's worth taking steps to avoid a conversation with the authorities. Here are my top tips for staying load-safe:
Firstly, it's vital to be aware of your van's maximum permitted weight overall, but also the maximum weight allowed for each axle. These limits can be found on the manufacturer's plate – check your handbook to find it if you aren't sure. It's entirely possible to overload one axle – typically the front – while the van is within the overall limit. To avoid this, make sure the load is distributed evenly and remember it may need redistributing and re-securing as the load is delivered.
If you're in any doubt, check your van's weight at a local weighbridge. But don't panic en route – if you are caught with an overloaded van while driving to a weighbridge and explain your intentions, any penalty will be waived. Once there, ensure your load is secured and properly distributed to avoid overloading an axle; don’t forget the van weight includes the fuel and the weight of the driver and any passengers.
Secondly, the load must be secure; a shifting load can damage both the interior of the van and its contents and, ultimately, could harm the driver if it shifts while driving along. Any damage to the vehicle will reduce its residual value and lead to recharge fees for rental and leased vans. An insecure load can also be dangerous for the driver; even a small package or piece of equipment can become a deadly missile in a collision. Loads falling on drivers as they open van doors can also result in injury – as they say on airplanes, take care when opening the doors! Overloading also changes the way a van handles – especially if the load is unsecured – and will increase fuel consumption. Check what you've got on board and avoid carrying any goods or requirement unnecessarily.
Stay load-safe – know your van's maximum weight, secure your loads and utilise weighbridges if you're unsure.