If you are running a logistics or transport company then you are committed to ensuring efficient and on-time deliveries and shipments. Whether you oversee a large fleet of heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) or a single vehicle for delivery purposes, your profitability hinges on your drivers’ ability to make reliable, punctual drops.
However, time pressures and ever-increasing workloads can often put employers and drivers alike under pressure to overload vehicles, resulting in overburdened vehicles and drivers. Overloading is not only a breach of regulations, putting the business at risk of potential fines, it can also invalidate your Motor Fleet Insurance policy.
Why It Doesn’t Pay to Overload
The risk / reward equation for overloading is never worth it as the risks far outweigh the potential benefits. Drivers could damage the load and the vehicle, or incur prosecution and fines for which you, as the business owner, could be responsible.
Overloading also even presents a significant danger to other road users—if your business does not have any strategies in place for eliminating overloading, you could be liable for any injuries or death caused by your drivers’ overloading. Fulfil your legal obligation to your employees and members of the public by implementing policies that help prevent overloading vehicles. If cargo falls from a vehicle and hits a third party, or damages a person or another vehicle, claims will follow, leading to long-term increases in your fleet insurance premiums.
Overloading and The Law
Various pieces of legislation are in place to manage vehicle overloading to ensure the safety of commercial drivers and other road users. Failure to obey the legislation can result in fines and prosecution and may even prohibit drivers from completing their deliveries.
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’. Additionally, the Road Traffic Act 1988 states that vehicle users must ensure that vehicles are not overloaded.
These two regulations 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.
Yet, under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1999, all companies have a duty of care to ensure the safety of their employees while at work. For employers, this means they must do whatever they can to ensure the safety of the drivers, such as enforcing policies to prevent vehicle overloading and conducting regular risk assessments. Therefore, employers and drivers alike are responsible for ensuring their vehicles are not overloaded.
The Consequence of Overloading
Bizarrely, the overall consequence of overloading can actually slow down your shipment processing and actually threaten your business, in addition to other people. Some of the biggest consequences of overloading a vehicle include:
#1 Vehicle Handling
A less stable vehicle that is difficult to steer and takes longer to stop – When a vehicle’s maximum weight is exceeded, the vehicle reacts differently as it was not designed to carry a larger weight. Not only can this cause increases to accident frequency and net increases in Fleet Insurance rating, and at its worst fatal injury to your driver or a third party.
#2 Tyre Wear
Overloading also places a huge strain on tyres that can cause overheating and rapid wear, increasing the chances of a premature, expensive and dangerous failure such as a tyre blow-out.
Your Fleet Insurance cover can be deemed as void if an overloaded vehicle is involved in an accident. Because overloading a vehicle is illegal, your insurance company may impose a policy condition that cover is invalidated in the event of an incident involving an overloaded vehicle.
#4 Damage to Highways
Excessive loads will also cause long-term damage and wear to pavements, bridges and roads. While this may not be seen as having an immediate impact on your own costs, the widespread activity will lead to increased repair costs which need to be funded through taxes and levies.
#5 Fuel Consumption
The burden of carrying an extra-large load can significantly increase fuel economy, potentially making your business’ deliveries more expensive.
How To Prevent Vehicle Overloading
Preventing vehicle overloading in your logistics business requires careful business planning and strict internal processes. Ad-hoc checks and comments will not be robust enough to improve standards as it requires serious, organisation-wide change and cooperation.
Communicate the following actions to your drivers, which can help prevent a vehicle from overloading:
- Know the weights of the load and vehicle. Weigh the vehicle to establish individual axle weights, if possible.
- Find the vehicle’s maximum permitted axle weight and gross vehicle weight (GVW), which should be on the manufacturer’s plate or a Department for Transport plate. These are usually located in the vehicle cabin, on the chassis of trailers or under the bonnet. If the vehicle has plated weights from both sources, use the Department for Transport limits, as these are the legal limits.
- Understand the difference between the GVW and the gross train weight (GTW). The GTW is the maximum permitted weight of the vehicle and any trailer being towed, while the GVW is only the maximum permitted weight of the vehicle and any load it is carrying. Both include the weight of the driver, any passengers and the weights of any pallets or packing cases.
- Check the GVW before beginning a journey using either the company’s weighbridge or one nearby. Drivers can travel to the nearest available weighbridge, check the load and remove any goods if the vehicle is overloaded.
- Redistribute the load appropriately after a drop-off to avoid overloading the axles.
- Be wary of declared weights, delivery notes or invoices received from customers. The responsibility for overloading is held by the driver, not the customer, so drivers should always use their own information.
- Ensure that the tag/lift axle is used correctly. Neglecting to use this axle when the vehicle is loaded could cause axles or gross weights to exceed the allowed limits.
Weighbridges Are Key To Accurate Monitoring
To ensure accurate monitoring, all drivers should have easy access to weighbridges to determine whether vehicles are overloaded. The government recommends that companies with a fleet of HGV’s install a fixed axle weighbridge or portable axle weighing system. If your company does not have one, you can find the nearest weighbridge at www.gov.uk/find-weighbridge.
It is important to remember that installing or ensuring frequent weighbridge use for your vehicles is not enough to prevent overloading. You must communicate to your employees the laws and consequences of overloading as well as implementing business strategies for preventing it.
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