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Staggering number of UK van drivers exceeding their payload

Research by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles has revealed that nearly 50% of the UK’s 3 million vans are exceeding their payload.

The white van is a British icon, with the Ford Transit this year celebrating 50 years on the road, the popular commercial vehicle has become a symbol of the UK economy. Businesses in the UK operate over 3 million light commercial vehicles on the roads each year, but research by Volkswagen has revealed that 1.2 million of those vehicles are potentially being driven overloaded at some time.

Commercial vehicle drivers have worked hard to shake the traditional stereotype of the ‘white van man’ – and a recent study by AXA Business Insurance found that 56% of van drivers regularly use their vehicle to benefit others, while 90% said they would stop to assist a stranger in need. In fact, in another similar study, van drivers emerge as safer drivers across several key areas.

Every van on the road is operated with a maximum gross vehicle weight (GVW) which is made up of the van itself, driver, any passengers, and finally the remainder which is known as the payload. Exceeding this weight limit can cause major problems, not only in terms of the damage it can do to the vehicle, but it is also illegal in the eyes of the law.

The research conducted in association with the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, which stops around 10,000 vans each year as part of targeted checks, also found that 53% of drivers surveyed don’t know their vehicle’s maximum load carrying capacity and that 73% of van drivers are unsure of the effects of overloading their van.

In the event of a crash, a van found to be overloaded can have its insurance invalidated. On top of that, if the GVW exceeds 3.5 tonnes due to overloading then most standard driving licenses aren’t authorised to drive it, which could mean a hefty fine for the driver.

In fact companies face steep penalties for failing to comply with the legal weight limits of their vehicles including immobilisation of the vehicle in question and in severe cases a court summons.

The payload of a van can be calculated with the GVW and the kerb weight. The kerb weight refers to how much the van weighs on its own, and can normally be found in the vehicle handbook. To work out a vans payload simply subtract the kerb weight from the GVW. For example, if you have a van with a GVW of 2,200kg and a kerb weight of 1,600kg, then the payload of the vehicle is 600kg. Volkswagen have produced a useful guide as part of their awareness campaign.

Gordon MacDonald, vehicle product manager at the DVSA, commented: “The research highlights that a large proportion of van drivers could be breaking the law and posing serious safety risks to themselves and other road users. Overloading is a real issue on our roads and it is the responsibility of both the driver and the business to load vehicles correctly and keep their van within its legal weight limit.”

Trevor Hodgson-Philips, head of service and parts at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, added: “It’s important that businesses choose the right van for the job to avoid unnecessary overloading. Typical cargo volume and knowledge of gross vehicle weight should be taken into consideration before setting off to ensure the safety of the driver and other road users.

“An overloaded vehicle can cause huge costs to businesses. Consistently driving with too much weight in a vehicle will put increased pressure on tyres and suspension causing them to wear out more quickly. By investing in the right size van in the first place, businesses can save thousands by avoiding unnecessary fines and repair costs.”


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