Heavy Goods Vehicle Overloading
There can be serious consequences for overloading a Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) as it can make the vehicle unstable and dangerous to drive as well as causing damage to it and the road infrastructure. Overloading a vehicle also can void insurance and is against unfair competition rules making it an important issue to both HGV drivers and operators. You should also be aware of legal issues regarding insecure loads on heavy goods vehicles as many of the same laws apply. We are a specialist motoring solicitors and can advise guidance to HGV drivers and operators on overloading legal issues.
The vehicle categories on your driving licence depend on the weight of the vehicle. Drivers of HGVs holding Category C, C1 and C1+E driving licences may all drive vehicles weighing 3,500kgs and above when unladen. The unladen weight is that of the vehicle without any goods, passengers, drivers or fuel.
Vehicles have a Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM) which is the maximum the vehicle can weigh along with its load and be safe to drive on the road. This is also referred to as a Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW). A vehicle’s MAM will be listed in the owner’s manual and is normally shown on a plate or sticker attached to it. The plates and stickers may also show the vehicles Gross Train Weight (GTW), also referred to as Gross Combined Weight (GCW). This is the combined weight of the truck, trailer and load.
You must check the vehicle’s GVW before making a journey at a weighbridge either at site or at a third location. You are allowed to drive to a weighbridge to check your GVW and then go to a place to unload if the vehicle is overweight. Most public weighbridges are run privately and can be found using the government’s finder tool. It is advised that operators with large fleets install a fixed axle, or portable axle weighbridge.
HGV Overloading Offences & Penalties
As well as sanctions for operators there are offences for the overloading of vehicles which carry driving licence endorsement and Fixed Penalty Notice penalties. These can be issued to both the driver of the vehicle and the vehicle operator depending on the circumstances. The Road Traffic Act 1988 and the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 Act legislate for vehicle weights, and companies have a duty of care under the 1999 Health and Safety at Work Act for their employees.
The Road Traffic Act 1988 states that vehicle users must ensure vehicles are not overloaded, whereas the Construction and Use Act is more specific and states:
“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 or on the road”
The 1986 Act specifies maximum weights for vehicle types in terms of laden, wheel and axle.
Failure to comply with the law could result in a number of offences being committed:
CU50 – Causing or likely to cause danger by reason of load or passengers
The maximum penalty for this offence is three driving licence points, a £5,000 fine and disqualification.
DD40 – Dangerous driving
The maximum penalty is a minimum 12 month driving ban and a 2 year prison sentence.
HGV Overloading Offence Defences
Under the Road Traffic Act 1988 there are two possible defences in a HGV overloading case:
• The vehicle was travelling to or from a weighbridge.
• The vehicle was loaded to within its legal limits and increased by 5% whilst in transit.
The Police, Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) and Trading Standards Officers all can enforce some of the vehicle overloading laws and in addition to the offences which carry driving licence endorsements they can issue a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) for overloading offences. There are graduated FPNs which start at fines of £100 for loads 0 – 10% overweight, £200 fines for loads between 10% -20% overweight and £300 fines for loads overweight by over 15%.
The driver may be issued with a prohibition which prevents the vehicle moving until the weigh issue is addressed, by unloading, or moving weight to another axel for example. A direction to drive notice may also be issued which allows the driver to go to a specific place to off load.
The Operator of a vehicle will be sent an Operator Notification Letter if one of their drivers is issued with an FPN and they must then inform the Traffic Commissioner of the notice with 28 days. Failure to do so could result in a Traffic Commissioner Public Inquiry for breaching of operator licence conditions.
Overloading offences can have serious consequences for your business and livelihood as your drivers or operators licence could be suspended or revoked. It is advised that you seek legal advice if you have any issues regarding vehicle overloading as a driver or operator.