Overloaded Van Penalties & How To Calculate Maximum Payload

June 11, 2019 at 10:00 AM

The DVSA (Driving & Vehicle Standards Agency) revealed that more than 8 in 10 vehicles they stop are overloaded. In 2014, police officers and DVSA agents stopped around 10,800 vans on UK roads and found that 89% of them were exceeding their payload.

Driving an overloaded van will negatively affect its performance and safety, putting you and other road users in danger. It's also a legal issue which can result in fines, a court appearance or even a prison sentence in extreme circumstances.

Before you get behind the wheel of a van, it's important that you know its maximum payload and the implications that come with overloading vans.

How Do You Work Out How Much Weight A Van Can Legally Carry?

In order to work out how much weight a van can legally carry, you need to know two figures: the van's unladen weight and its Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW). Usually, you can find this information in the owner's manual or on the van's chassis plate located on one of the door sills or near the door frame.

Unladen weight, also known as kerb weight is the weight of the van when it's not carrying any passengers, goods or other items. It includes all necessary operating consumables such as motor oil, transmission oil and coolant, but does not include fuel.

Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW), also known as Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM) is the van's unladen weight plus the maximum load that can be carried safely when it's being used on the road - i.e. the maximum weight it's allowed to be when fully loaded.


The calculation you need to perform to work out how much weight a van can legally carry is: GVW minus unladen weight. This will provide you with the van's payload capacity.


How To Tell If Your Van Is Overloaded

There's only one sure-fire way of knowing if your van is overloaded and that's by taking it to a weighbridge centre. Most weighbridges are operated by private businesses; before you go, you should check their operating hours and how much it costs to use.

A daily trip to your local weighbridge centre is not practical in the long run. Once you've got a good sense of what your van feels like when it's loaded near its GVW, you're going to have to use common sense and personal judgement.


PRO TIP: An overloaded van will put a real strain on the suspension, making it look unusually low to the ground. In addition, the steering will be heavier and feel askew.


What Happens If You Get Caught With An Overloaded Van?

If a police officer or DVSA agents stops you with an overloaded van, you'll be issued with a fixed penalty notice. The amount of the fine will depend on how much you've exceeded the van's payload capacity.

When a fixed penalty notice is issued for an excess weight offence, the van will also be prevented from travelling any further (immobilised) to preserve road safety for other drivers and to stop an overweight vehicle being used on the road.

To get your van released, you have to pay an £80 release charge and relieve the van of the excess weight to the satisfaction of the examiner.

Amount Over Limit


Less than 10%






More than 30%

Court summons

DVSA examiners will allow a 5% leeway before issuing a fixed penalty notice, unless the relevant weight has been exceeded by 1 tonne or more.

If the van is overloaded by more than 30%, a court summons will be issued and you'll be handed a notice of intended prosecution. Typically, if found guilty, you'll receive a fine up to £500.

However, if the van has been so severely overloaded to be considered a real hazard to other drivers, you could be charged with dangerous driving. This is a serious offence which normally carries a prison sentence.

How To Secure A Load Properly

As well as knowing the GVW of your van, you also need to be aware of the axle weights - each axle has its own weight limit which can be found on the vehicle weight plate.

Even if your van is below its GVW, it can still technically be overloaded - and illegal to drive - if you don't distribute the weight evenly across both axles. The physical size of your cargo isn't as important as how much it weighs and where it's placed.

Once your cargo has been loaded properly, it's important to secure it using appropriate securing systems which may include: 'over-the-top' lashings, webbing straps or direct lashings to specific anchor points.

The Dangers Of Driving An Overloaded Van

An overloaded van will react differently on the road compared to a vehicle within its maximum weight limit, putting you and other road users at risk.

The extra weight puts a massive strain on the tyres making the van less stable and more difficult to steer, especially around corners and roundabouts. Similarly, with more weight on board, it will take the van longer to stop, significantly increasing braking distances.

As a business, an overloaded van can be a huge expense. The increased pressure from an overweight load will cause excessive wear and tear on the van's tyres, suspension and brakes, resulting in higher maintenance costs in the long-run.

In addition, if you're caught driving an overloaded van, you'll be issued with a fixed penalty notice up to £300, not to forget the lost revenue caused by being stopped and the £80 release charge if your van is immobilised.

In the unfortunate event that you're involved in an accident, it's highly likely that your insurance policy will be invalidated if your van is found to have been over its legal weight limit.

Finally, driving an overloaded van can damage the roads, pavement and bridges, leaving the taxpayer to foot the repair bill.

Tags: Van Overload
Category: The ''Expert Advice''

Back to all Blogs