Red Forge Ltd has been designing, manufacturing, installing and servicing axle load indication equipment since the early 1980’s.

It has been noticed that there is an ever increasing popularity in the use of the LCV (Light Commercial Vehicle 3.5tonne GVW and below). This has unfortunately highlighted a problem in vehicle overloading within this category of vehicle. There are a few reasons why downsizing is happening, some of which are as follows: Firstly, organisations trying to use LCVs in place of higher capacity vehicles to avoid the added costs and inconvenience of driver training and CPC licence costs. Secondly, the addition of added weight in the manufacture of Euro 6 specification engines reduces available payload. Thirdly, the lack of meaningful payload information given by vehicle manufacturers and body shops, especially with respect to axle payloads. Lastly, purchase cost.

We are finding that many organisations, because of this, are purchasing axle load indication equipment, then realising they have a serious overloading problem. Strangely, subsequently purchased vehicles are then not specified with an axle load indication system, make of this what you will? Consequences of this action that come to mind are: lack of duty of care to employees, lack of vehicle stability, lack of braking, lack of insurance, added licence points, fines, public liability, employee liability, added vehicle wear and tear and inconvenience etc.

If a customer specifies an LCV with a crew cab, pick up body and tail lift, due to the added ancillary weight you can guarantee that the limited remaining vehicle payload will render the vehicle practically unusable. One of the biggest issues within this weight category is the front axle loading and the lack of payload capability on the axle. Most crew cabs cannot be used to carry the number of passengers that the cab is designed for due to front axle payload. Many cannot carry more than 2-3 people before front axle overload occurs. Here at Red Forge, we have even witnessed vehicles that are already up to weight on the front axle before any payload has been added!

Careful consideration by organisations during vehicle specification can avoid these issues to a certain extent, and being realistic about the payload capabilities also needs much consideration. If the vehicle is having extras added, ask the body shops/supplier to provide predicted axle payloads of the completed vehicle to ensure the vehicle can be use safely and within legal limits for the job the vehicle is being used for. Use body shops to advise you on vehicle configuration, for instance, simply altering a vehicle wheel base can make a lot of difference to axle loadings. Try and use light weight bodies for tipping vehicles, only install accessories on the vehicle that are needed, look at the weight of tail lifts, any cranes, tipping gear, bodies etc that may be required and specify ratings correctly, do not over specify. Choose makes and models of vehicle that offer the best axle payloads for the application, as these can vary considerably. This combined with a fully functioning axle load indicator should provide an organisation with a suitable compromise. Companies that supply axle load indicators such as Red Forge Ltd have many years of experience in advising as to what vehicle body combinations tend to work for an LCV and which do not. Take advice at the vehicle specification stage, not when the vehicles have been ordered. Use of an axle load indicator allows you to make full use of the limited payload available without overloading.

Are vehicle operators trying to bury their head in the sand and avoid the dangerous issue of overloading? I would suggest this is not the path to follow.

Andy Freeman – MD, Red Forge Ltd

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