Van overloading

Most people believe van overloading is just the result of putting too much weight into your vehicle, but there’s a bit more to it than that. Van overloading can occur even if it contains only a fraction of the payload allowance quoted in the manufacturers brochures or specification sheets, but before we go on to explain this phenomenon, lets go through the basics.

Van overloading basics

When your van carries more than what its designed to, it can have serious implications on its safety as both stopping distances are longer and it becomes harder control. It also leads to increased strain on components such as the engine, transmission and brakes. A recent survey by the DVSA found that 85% of vans stopped during a routine inspection were overloaded, compromising the safety of the occupants and motorists around them.

How to prevent van overloading

Firstly, when you look at a manufacturers specification sheet, there’s usually a ‘weights and dimensions’ section and this is where the fun begins. The vans Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) – sometimes called Maximum Permissible (Authorised) Weight (Mass) – is the maximum weight the empty van (kerbweight) and all of its contents (payload; the load that pays for the van) is allowed to weigh combined.

The kerbweight generally includes the weight of the chassis, the driver (a nominal weight of 75kg), oils and lubricants and a 90% full fuel tank. The payload, for weight purposes, relates to everything else.

If we want to work out how much weight we can put in the back of a hypothetical 3.5t van (i.e. a gross vehicle weight of 3,500kg) with a kerbweight of 1,900kg, the first thing we have to think about the optional extras not included on the Certificate of Conformity (CoC) or Mass in Service on the V5C, like van racking, a tow bar and ply lining. On our van, this weighs 50kg.

The next thing we have to think about is the cab area. Our driver, for example, could weigh 95kg (20kg more than the manufacturers have compensated for in the design weight), there’s two passengers weighing 85kg, and there’s a host of other items (laptops, tools, sat nav) with a combined weight of 20kg. This eats into the payload by 210kg.

In essence, we have ‘lost’ over 10% of our available payload and we still haven’t put any goods into it. Therefore, if you loaded your van with 1,600kg worth of goods, it would be overloaded.

Van overloading axles

There’s also the less known issue of the axles plated weights, which are basically, the GVW for each axle and these have not to be exceeded under any circumstances and the fine is just as great for the plated weights as the whole vehicle weights.

In a typical 3.5t front wheel drive, for example, the front axle usually has a plated weight of around 1700-1900kgs and the rear around 2100-2300kgs. Of course, even without anyone in the van there’s a weight already on the axles, we call this the ‘kerbweight’ or ‘unladen weight’.

As most of the weight is on the front axle (engine, clutch, gearbox, etc.), the combined weight of adding a driver and two passengers means the driver has to be careful about where they places their cargo in the load area; too close to be the bulkhead could mean they overload on the front axle.

That’s why manufacturers install load hooks or tie downs in the load area because they recognise distributing the payload around the van correctly is the key to not overloading your certain axles, so use them as they may save you a big fine and prosecution someday.

Van overloading fines

Speaking of fines, they start at £100 (although no penalty points on your licence) if you are found to be overloading between 0 and 10% over the plated weights. This increases to £200 for between 10 and 15% and £300 for over 15%. However, if the DVSA also find a defect with your vehicle at the same time (i.e. bald tyres or worn brakes), then you could find yourself in much bigger trouble; your van could be taken off the road and you could end up in front of a judge!