Vehicle weight limits – stay on top or face penalty.

HGV and under 3500 kg vehicle weight limits explained.

Knowing your maximum vehicle weight and not exceeding it is one of the undertakings of  an Operator’s Licence and breaching the rules can cost you severely. Sticking to weight limits is not limited to heavy goods operators and anyone can face a penalty whilst driving or operating overloaded vehicles on the public roads. It is important to remember that all the limits must be adhered to and that includes:

  • Gross plated weight of the vehicle – this is simply the maximum permissible weight of the vehicle including its fittings, load, the passengers, the driver and fuel.
  • Gross combination weight is the maximum weight of the combination of the vehicle and its trailer. In general the safest way to work out the vehicle towing limit is to deduct gross plated weight of the vehicle from its gross combination weight. This calculation allows to stay on the safe side in terms of staying within the weight limits when pulling a trailer. However depending on the towing capacity of your vehicle which should be specified by a manufacturer, it may be possible to pull a heavier trailer than the result of the above calculation. Providing that the actual gross combination weight, actual trailer weight, towing vehicle gross plated weight is not exceeded and the vehicle is designed to be capable of towing heavier trailer, then it may still be legal to tow. The example of this is some 4 x 4 vehicles capable of towing up to 3500 kg like Isuzu D max. In any case it is better to check with DVSA before towing as it is very easy to make a costly mistake.
  • It is important not to confuse the trailer plated weight and the actual trailer weight, as even though you may be staying within the vehicle weight limits you may breach the law by driving without a correct entitlement on your licence. You need to remember that when working out what you can tow with your licence you need to take plated weight into account, not the actual weight.
  • Maximum axle weights. Providing you’ve met all the above requirements you may still be in breach of the rules when you put to much load on the axle. The only way to avoid it is to position the load correctly so the weight is evenly distributed.

The vehicle weight limits can be found on the vehicle plate which can be found under the bonnet or inside the vehicle door. The trailer plates are attached to the trailer body. Heavy goods vehicles in addition to the vehicle plate are issued with a ministry plates which are located in the cab.
It is worth to remember that you may be required to meet further regulations when your vehicle or the combination weight exceeds 3500 kg. If using a vehicle or combination of vehicles heavier than 3,5 ton in connection with business or trade you fall within the scope of operator licensing and may need to obtain an operator licence and/or be required to use a tachograph.

Every road user is required to meet the vehicle weight limit regulations, but the real pressure is on operators of HGVs as they fall under operator licensing and took on an undertaking to have effective system in place to prevent overloading. This requirement is non negotiable and non compliance can lead to revocation or curtailment of the licence. The effective way of demonstrating the correct system is to show that you know your maximum weight limits and that you know the weights of the goods you carry. The use of a weigh bridges is highly recommended and a record of this kept on file will improve your image as a compliant operator. Driving to weigh bridges may not be the optimum option as it takes a valuable time and may not be easily accessible therefore it may be a good idea to purchase or hire vehicle weighing pads capable of producing effective control over vehicle weights.

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