All vans and light commercial vehicles are assigned a Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) which is the maximum allowable weight of the vehicle. This includes the weight of the driver, any passengers, personal possessions, tools, fuel and the load being carried. If there is uncertainty of a van’s load weight the driver is allowed to take their vehicle to the nearest available weighbridge to check the load and then go to a safe place where they can take off some of the load if the vehicle is found to be overloaded.
Roadside checks are carried out all over the country and a van can be stopped by a police officer or a Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) enforcement support officer at any time and taken to the nearest weighbridge for checking the GVW. If the vehicle is found to exceed its GVW then both the driver and the drivers company run the risk of receiving a maximum overloading fine of £5,000.
Aside from the worry of a fine a vans tyres and braking system is only designed to perform correctly within its safe working load parameters. Outside of this the vehicle may not react as expected and may become unstable in an emergency situation should the need arise to stop suddenly.
In situations where a van is towing the Gross Train Weight (GTW) needs to be taken into account the GTW is the maximum permitted weight of the van + the trailer being towed (this includes any loads being carried in the van/vehicle or trailer). If the trailer has a braking system installed this will effect the load it is able to carry as the trailer is then not relying on the vans brakes.
Just to make things more confusing there are a further 2 weight restrictions that need to be observed. Each vehicle will have a maximum axle load for the front and rear axles of the van. A van can be below the GVW but still break the law for exceeding the maximum axle weight, which is why it’s important to make sure the load is evenly distributed. A vans load weight distribution can sometimes shift when the vehicle is in transit so it’s vitally important that the load is secured to prevent such an occurrence.