Over 80% of vans are dangerously overloaded. Is yours?

Over 80% of vans are dangerously overloaded. Is yours?

We all know that feeling - if you’ve got a large pile of household stuff to move upstairs, there’s always the temptation to try and gather it all up in one go, rather than go to the effort of making several trips. No harm done if you drop a few, is there? But while that logic might sometimes pan out when moving our household Christmas decorations around, it doesn’t hold weight when it comes to transporting much heavier loads with commercial vans.

According to the DVLA and SMMT (Society for Motor Manuf­ac­turers and Traders), more than 80% of vans stopped by the roadside each year are judged to be ‘dangerously overloaded’, which means they pose a tangible hazard to their drivers and fellow road users alike. That can result in serious financial and legal implications for drivers and fleet managers. Take it from us: if you regularly use van hire to bolster your existing commercial fleet, it’s worth taking the time to double check each van’s Gross Vehicle Weight. Here are just a few reasons why!

The dangers posed by an overloaded van

According to UK regulations, only HGVs are subject to the strict requirements for loading, whereas vans under 3.5 tonnes are generally less stringently monitored. You probably don’t need us to tell you that the latter group amounts to most of the commercial vehicles in the UK! With the number of vans caught over the weight limit, though, there are increasing numbers of people calling for stricter requirements to be placed on van drivers and operators, too.

It’s not hard to see why. Poor loading (and overloading) is a safety-critical issue. Here are some of the most serious conse­qu­ences:

  • Increases fuel consumption.
  • Affects the handling, making it more difficult to manoeuvre the van.
  • Strains the tyres, increasing the chances of a blowout.
  • Causes excessive wear and damage to public road surfaces (to the tax payer’s cost).
  • Contravenes the terms of the insurance, so the driver is not covered in the event of a crash.
  • Extends the van’s braking distance, potentially making all the difference as to whether or not the vehicle crashes.

In extreme cases, the brakes can even overheat, leading to their total failure and making a crash nigh-on inevitable.

The consequences of having your van overloaded

With all the above dangers in mind, it’s little wonder that the consequences for overloading vans are so severe. If a van is stopped and found to be too heavy, at the very least the driver will be fined, and likely stopped from going any further until the excess weight is removed. This is usually done by physically immobilising it, and getting it released means paying an £80 fine.

This is on top of the main on-the-spot penalty, which are imposed propor­ti­onally to the excess weight:

  • Being between 5% and 10% over the limit results in a £100 fine.
  • Being between 10% and 15% over the limit results in a £200 fine.
  • Being between 15% and 30% over the limit results in a £300 fine.
  • Being over 30% results in a court summons.

Drivers are given 28 days from the moment of the fine to pay it, and as you’d expect, the DVLA are very hot on following it up! Being summoned to court in any capacity could result in being charged with offences under the Road Traffic Act 1988, so it’s a nightmare scenario for employers and fleet managers.

Thankfully, it’s reasonably easy to avoid all this hassle - all you need to do is make sure all your vehicles stay under their maximum Gross Vehicle Weight. (Gross Vehicle Weight is the maximum permitted weight of a loaded van - kit, cargo, passengers and all. It differs from kerb weight, which is the weight of a van empty of any cargo or passengers.) Both the kerb weight and GVW of any individual van can be found in its vehicle manual.

If you’re unsure about GVWs of the vans for hire on our website, one of our staff will be happy to provide the details! Just give us a quick call on 01254 57811, or even pop into our Blackburn premises to ask in person. And if you’re working to an unpre­dic­table schedule, or aren’t sure exactly how long you’ll need the van for, it’s worth asking about our flexi van hire service too. We’ll always be happy to see you!

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