Load safety

Operators have an undertaking to ensure that vehicles and trailers are not overloaded and are operated within the laws (e.g. load security). This means that all operators need to ensure that the maximum permissible weights of their vehicles and maximum axle weights are not exceeded together with ensuring that the vehicle is loaded correctly and safely.

This may not sound controversial, but too many prohibitions and convictions are incurred each year by operators for offences that good training and good practice could prevent. 

The regulations on overall weight are simple enough to understand and very easy to check. The weight of the vehicle transferred to the road surface by all of its axles in total shall not exceed the maximum Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) and the weight of the vehicle and trailer combined will not exceed the gross train weight (GTW), both of which are detailed on the Ministry Plate of all vehicles above 3,500kgs GVW or on the VIN (chassis) plate of a lighter goods vehicle.

Similarly, weight must be so distributed as to ensure that the weight transferred to the road each of the axles does not exceed the weight specified on the ministry or VIN plate for that axle.

Operators also have to consider lateral distribution, the distribution between each side of the vehicle. While there are no specific objective rules about lateral distribution, loading too much weight onto one side of the vehicle would mean that the vehicle is likely to cause a danger and is unsafe, as it is more likely to fall over.

Finally, load security must be considered. Keeping the load secure is vital and loads must always be secured, never be able to move independently of the vehicle. The operator should not rely on friction, curtains or roping hooks and should consider the forces that apply to the load. The speed at which the vehicle moves, the sharpness the braking and acceleration, the type of terrain and the type of goods are all factors that affect the forces that apply to the load. The general rule is that the restraint used should be sufficient at its weakest point to secure at least 100% of the weight from moving forward and 50% from moving sideways or backwards.

VOSA have released a matrix showing their enforcement policy regarding load safety. It is intended as guidance only and is not intended to cover ever possibility and other factors will be considered when VOSA decide whether to prohibit / immobilise. The matrix can be accessed at here. It is on Page 4 of the “Moving On” Document

VOSA and HSE (The Health and Safety Executive) have issued plenty of advice concerning load safety, most of which is available to download (or on links) on the appropriate sections of this web site.

We also offer training on this issue both for operator’s office staff, loaders and as part of the Driver CPC programme. Our transport manager training (both for the CPC and post-CPC training) goes into depth on this topic as does our Operator Licence Awareness Training. You may also benefit from our compliance audits, which cover the topic.

Please contact us for more information.

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