Insurers may not cover overloaded vehicles
According to the Road Traffic Act 1988, driving an overloaded vehicle is illegal. If a van is stopped, weighed and found to be in violation, both the driver and operator could be prosecuted.
Those responsible for using an overloaded vehicle may receive a £5,000 penalty fine for each offence. Furthermore, even if a business has florists van insurance, commercial van insurance or another form of vehicle cover, their insurer may refuse to pay repair costs if it was overloaded at the time of a traffic accident.
The dangers of overloading
Between April 2002 and March 2003, the Vehicle Operators Services Agency (VOSA) weighed more than 7,000 light goods vehicles and found approximately 20% were overweight.
While some companies may feel moving more goods might lead to faster profits, overloaded vehicles are more likely to suffer mechanical failure and could consume more petrol than with a regular loads.
Overloading a vehicle is dangerous as it puts unnecessary strain on its tyres and degrades road surfaces. In addition, the extra weight may make a vehicle less stable, harder to steer and it might take longer to stop.
As well as making it harder to find cheap van insurance in the future, companies who overload their vehicles may also be accused of encouraging unfair competition.
How to prevent vehicles from being overloaded
To ensure vans are not overloaded, companies should consult the individual vehicle's handbook for the maximum permitted axle weight, the gross vehicle weight (GVW) as well as the gross train weight (GTW) and ensure these limits are adhered to.
The GVW is the maximum weight the vehicle is allowed to carry. This includes cargo, occupants, and any materials inside. Alternatively, the GTW represents the combined weight of the GVW plus any materials being towed inside a trailer.
As overloaded vehicles may prevent employers from obtaining cheap van insurance, duty-holders should check these limits are adhered to and ensure loads are distributed evenly.
Furthermore, managers may wish to invest in weigh-in-motion technology or overload detection systems to accurately determine when a vehicle is carrying too much.
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