January 26, 2020

Vehicle loading: rights and wrongs

Overloading is covered under the law, within the Road Traffic Act, Health & Safety at Work Act and The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) regulations.

The road transport industry is tightly controlled by rules and regulations meaning that training is often necessary. However, this training/advice can be in conflict with what is best practice in order to comply with the law.

For example, some courses on ‘safe loading’ during CPC training advise the driver to load a vehicle from the front of the load area backward to allow the load to be restrained by the load area bulkhead under heavy braking. With some vans, doing this also places the load nearer to side loading doors for easy access.

Although this advice may be good practice in terms of restraining the load, it may not allow the full use of the payload capability of the vehicle.

With the majority of commercial vehicles, the front axle has the least payload capacity – not forgetting that the driver and any passengers are also included in the front axle payload. Comparing the vehicle to a see-saw, loading it this way means all the weight is at the one end of the see-saw creating a large load imbalance. Relating this to the vehicle, by putting the majority of the weight towards the front of the vehicle will cause a large imbalance of weight front to back.

This will have the potential effect of causing the front axle of the vehicle to become overloaded and in turn could make the vehicle unstable. It will also add excessive strain on the front brakes and possibly overload the suspension causing reduced brake performance, instability and additional wear.

In our experience the training and awareness of vehicle loading with respect to overloading is generally not covered well enough, including during training on CPC courses.

Is it not time that correct vehicle axle loading is covered more thoroughly in CPC training – after all overloading is breaking the law?

Should there be a greater emphasis on training that covers both the correct method of payload placement that would satisfy a compromise between load placement, securing and axle loading?

Fleets are required to have a transport or fleet manager (responsible person) if you need to hold an ‘O’ (operators) license. This brings with it the responsibility of ensuring that the vehicles in that fleet are used in a safe and roadworthy condition, including ensuring they are not overloaded.

Should you only be operating LCVs the chances are that you do not require an ‘O’ licence. However, you do still need supervisory control over the vehicles to ensure that drivers are trained, which includes safe loading, and that the vehicles are kept in a safe and roadworthy condition.

To encourage correct vehicle loading consider installing an on-vehicle axle load indicator. This will allow the driver of the vehicle to run the vehicle in a safe and roadworthy condition, especially if they know they are the ones responsible and will face fines if caught overloaded. Red Forge is one of a few companies that can offer a solution for this.

Contributed by Red Forge