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Your van is key to your business, and, depending on your trade, you will need it for transporting heavy tools and equipment or perhaps a large number of deliveries. To protect your business, you will of course need the best van insurance you can find at a cost-effective price, which, if you're an employer with many drivers working for you, may well be an any driver van insurance policy. And to help your business get the best price on a policy, you need to ensure you and your employees practise safe driving at all times, which means ensuring no vehicles are overloaded.

When your business revolves around transporting the contents of your van, you may be tempted to fit everything you can into the back of your vehicle. However, all van drivers need to be aware of the weight limits and not to push these limits – it could be putting their life in danger and get them into trouble with the law.

Even heavy-duty vans, ones that are built for business owners with large haulage needs, can struggle on the road if they're overloaded.

What is the penalty for having an overloaded van?

According to the Road Traffic Act 1988, driving an overloaded vehicle is illegal. If a van is stopped, weighed and found to be in violation, both the driver and operator could be prosecuted.

The initial fixed penalty is based on how much the vehicle is overloaded. They are as follows:

  • 5%-10% over the limit – £100 Fine
  • 10%-15% over the limit – £200 Fine
  • 15%-30% over the limit – £300 Fine
  • More than 30% – Court summons

However, keep in mind that this is just the initial fine. Those responsible for using an overloaded vehicle may receive a £5,000 penalty fine for each offence. If the van is found to be overloaded, it will be immobilised until the excess weight is removed. Furthermore, overloading can invalidate insurance; even if a business has commercial van insurance – florists van insurance, for instance, or another form of vehicle cover – their insurer may refuse to pay repair costs if it was overloaded at the time of a traffic accident.

The dangers of overloading

Driving an overloaded van is a dangerous idea for many reasons. If a van is too heavy, it can cause wear and tear on the vehicle, putting unnecessary strain on the tyres, brakes, and suspension and leading to increased repair costs. Not only that, but it can also cause the van to become unstable and difficult to control with longer braking distances, putting your driver, their vehicle, and other road users at risk.

While some companies may feel moving more goods might lead to faster profits, overloaded vehicles are more likely to suffer mechanical failure and could consume more petrol than with a regular loads. As well as making it harder to find cheap van insurance in the future, companies who overload their vehicles may also be accused of encouraging unfair competition.

It's also important to understand that improper loading can also make a van unsafe to drive, even if it doesn’t exceed the weight limit. This is because improper loading could cause extra stress on one axel as well as shifting loads, leading to balance issues that will affect the vehicle's control.

It's therefore absolutely essential to ensure you and any drivers under your employment are always adhering to the legal weight limits and that all vans are loaded correctly.

And yet many drivers continue to overload their van. Between April 2002 and March 2003, the Vehicle Operators Services Agency (VOSA) weighed more than 7,000 light goods vehicles and found approximately 20% were overweight. According to the DVSA, eight out of ten vehicles it stops are overloaded, and research by Volkswagen found that over 50% of the UK's 3 million vans are exceeding their payload.

How to prevent vehicles from being overloaded

To ensure vans are not overloaded, companies should consult the individual vehicle's handbook for the maximum permitted axle weight (the weight limit per each axel), the gross vehicle weight (GVW) as well as the gross train weight (GTW) and ensure these limits are adhered to.

The GVW is the maximum weight the vehicle is allowed to carry. This includes cargo, occupants, and any materials inside. Alternatively, the GTW represents the combined weight of the GVW plus any materials being towed inside a trailer.

As overloaded vehicles may prevent employers from obtaining cheap van insurance, duty-holders should check these limits are adhered to and ensure loads are distributed evenly and properly secured to prevent anything from shifting around when driving.

To know for certain whether the van is overloaded, you can go to a weighbridge to check whether it exceeds the GVW. Furthermore, managers may wish to invest in weigh-in-motion technology or overload detection systems to accurately determine when a vehicle is carrying too much.

Compare van insurance with iVan

Making sure you don't overload your van is one way to help improve your safety on the road, and safe and responsible drivers are more likely to get the best deals on their any driver van insurance.

Whether searching for florists van insurance, butchers van insurance, or another type of commercial vehicle cover, obtaining a van insurance quote from iVan is easy. We don't have a high street presence and we don't advertise, which means we can pass on our savings to the person who matters most: you. To see if we can find you the best deal on your van insurance, see how much your policy could be, simply click the get a quote button to see how much you could save.