Defining what are reasonable and practical measures regarding the way loads are managed on board commercial vehicles takes many businesses into uncharted waters. However, understanding is in place from Government and enforcement agencies, encouraging companies, and other organisations, to implement structured methodology. Thus ensuring duty of care and compliance where the safe loading of vehicles is concerned.

Current UK Health and Safety at work regulations place a ‘duty of care’ upon employers to ensure practical steps are taken to assess and manage the risks to their employees and others that may be affected by their work activities in the workplace. Perhaps what many people may not realise is that under this legislation vehicles that are used for business purposes are also considered to be part of the ‘workplace’.

Employers should take steps to ensure their drivers are familiar with the maximum plated axle and gross vehicle weights of the vehicle or vehicles that they regularly drive. They should also understand the need to redistribute loads, particularly where vehicles are subjected to either diminishing or accumulating loads during a typical working cycle. Drivers should learn never to trust delivery notes or invoices that contain details of declared weights as such details can be inaccurate. Drivers should also be reminded that they hold the responsibility for not overloading a vehicle, not the customer.

A vehicle can be subjected to significant effects as a result of overloading. For example, an overloaded vehicle becomes less stable, and as a result more difficult to steer and can take longer to stop. It would be fair to say that vehicles will react differently when the maximum weight carrying limits are exceeded, the results of such overloading can, given a combination of the right circumstances, prove fatal. For example massive strain can be put on tyres causing them to wear rapidly and overheat; this increases the chance of premature and catastrophic failure such as a blow out.

Should a vehicle that is involved in an accident be deemed to be overloaded this can result in insurance cover being declared void as a result of the vehicle being operated in an unroadworthy condition. Overloaded vehicles also cause excessive wear in road surfaces at considerable expense to the tax payer.

Running vehicles in an illegally overloaded state gives the operators that do so a potential commercial advantage (although fuel consumption increases when carrying extra load) and is unfair to operators that do their utmost to ensure vehicles are in compliance so far as axle weights and overall gross vehicle weight is concerned.

Overloading Can Increase Your OCRS Score

The DVSA have a commitment to uphold and check the safety of commercial vehicles used on our roads. To do this it operates the now familiar OCRS (Operator Compliance Risk Score) system which allocates a score rating system to commercial vehicle operators as to their history of vehicle compliance. Should an operator’s vehicle be stopped and checked for safety and found to be non-compliant (ie not roadworthy, which includes loading, overloading offences and traffic offences etc), then this will affect their compliance score rating by gaining points. There is a simple score system whereby an operator starts off with a ‘grey’ rating, meaning that no score rating has yet been given due to lack of history. Should an operator’s vehicle be stopped and checked and everything is fine, then the score rating will be updated to ‘green’ status. However if non-compliances are found then points will be added to the OCRS and the operator could become either ‘amber’ or even ‘red’ rated depending upon the severity of the non-compliance. This means that the operator could potentially lose the ability to legally operate vehicles on UK roads, or at least until it can be shown that non-compliance issues have been addressed and controlled.

Further details on this subject is available on the Government website via the link https://www.gov.uk/operator-compliance-risk-score/overview or if you want to check the online OCRS score for your organisation, go to https://www.gov.uk/manage-commercial-vehicle-compliance-online and follow the instructions.

Products Available to help prevent overloading.

In order to meet the ever increasing market demand in the commercial vehicle and light commercial vehicle (LCV) sector for practical driver aids, Red Forge has been offering a solution to the ever increasing problem of vehicle overloading for well over 30 years. Celebrating its 40th year of trading this year, Red Forge Ltd develops, manufactures, installs and maintains a range of simple and reliable products to allow the driver of a van, LCV or an HGV to monitor the loading status of their vehicle.

If you are interested in a reliable simple way to allow the driver to monitor axle and gross vehicle weights please go to our website at www.redforge.co.uk where you will not only find our product information but some good advice on how to prevent overloading.

It is important to remember that the final responsibility for meeting legal limits lies with the driver of the vehicle being used.

Andrew Freeman – Managing Director, Red Forge Ltd