Vehicles operating overloaded is a multi-faceted issue that creates distortions in the marketplace.

Ian Turner has been working in the field of legal metrology for over 30 years since beginning as a Trading Standards officer in 1987. Since 2009, he has worked as the Technical Officer for the United Kingdom Weighing Federation (UKWF) giving members advice in all aspects of legislative and technical compliance with weights and measures legislation. This covers all aspects of the non-automatic and automatic weighing instruments and the requirements that relate to packages.

Ian has been an active member of CECIP (the European Trade Association for manufacturers and suppliers of weighing instruments) attending their Legal Metrology Group meetings and working with colleagues to achieve the best for all CECIP members across Europe.

The UK Weighing Federation has between 70 and 80 members that manufacture and supply all types of weighing equipment. This varies from major international manufacturers down to small independent contractors.

There are significantly more overloaded vehicles operating on the UK’s roads than the prosecution figures reveal, according to Ian.

“It is certainly not uncommon. Lack of compliance in this regard is more commonly found on smaller vehicles as many of the operators are not professional hauliers. Professional hauliers tend to be at least aware of the legislation and many are compliant,” Ian said.

“Negligence is one issue, but it is also a lack of the requisite funds needed to purchase axle load indicators or other vehicle weighing systems that is holding smaller hauliers back.

“Smaller hauliers, whether it be that they only have a small fleet or are operating on their own, may not have the money to invest in the appropriate technology or to go through the proper training. It is a pervasive problem.”

Overloading impairs the steering and braking performance of a vehicle and causes instability when driving around roundabouts or corners. Furthermore, driving at 60mph with an overloaded vehicle adds around 100 yards to your stopping distance. Overloading also increases engine, brake and gearbox wear over time, which can lead to unplanned vehicle downtime as well as costly repairs. Driving a vehicle that exceeds the axle payload capacities or the overall gross vehicle weight can be problematic in a myriad of ways.

“The financial pressures on hauliers nowadays are massive,” Ian said.

“People are running businesses to very tight margins in 2019. So, there is pressure to maximise payloads and all too often, this leads to operating overloaded.”

Ian emphasises that while larger, more organised companies may invest significantly in resources to counter the issue, unscrupulous hauliers hope to fly under the radar of the authorities and do not make any such investments.

“Clearly the main risk of driving overloaded is the risk to the safety of other road users and the general public. But beyond that, overloading becomes an issue of commercial fairness; the level playing field argument,” he said.

“Companies can gain a commercial advantage if they operate overloaded – by delivering more or by cutting costs through not having to run multiple vehicles, for example.

“Major companies, for example in the quarry sector, do not tolerate any overloading, All vehicles have to be weighed before going out; if they are even 20 or 30kg overweight, they will be sent back. This 20 or 30kg will not make a difference materially but it is an issue of their commercial reputation. A large quarry owner will have their reputation torn to shreds if they are found to have incurred multiple overloads in a year.”

Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) enforcement officials are responsible for policing the issue of vehicles operating overloaded. However, Ian believes the improper or uneven enforcement of overloading legislation is leading to distortions in the marketplace.

“Major hauliers will pay huge sums of money each year to comply with the legislation to the letter,” said Ian.

“But dishonest hauliers who do not make any efforts to comply will pay nothing and they will get away with it the majority of the time. By not enforcing the law properly, the market does not operate correctly.”

For more information: UK Weighing Federation