New research suggests that almost half of the vans driving on the UK’s roads are overloaded, with potentially dangerous consequences.

The survey, commissioned by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, concludes that more than 1.2 million vehicles could be exceeding their maximum weight limits.

Overloading can impact on the van’s driving performance and lead to increased stopping distances, difficulty in steering and even the vehicle potentially tipping over.

Apart from the safety concerns, businesses could be racking up thousands in increased costs due to overloading, which causes excessive wear and tear to the van affecting tyres, suspension and brakes. This results in higher maintenance costs.

The research, which surveyed both fleet managers and van drivers, found that nearly half of UK businesses don’t monitor the weights of their company vehicles, and 53 per cent of drivers don’t know their vehicle’s maximum load carrying capacity.

Three quarters of fleet managers surveyed were also unaware that their insurance could potentially be invalidated if a company vehicle is involved in a crash and found to be over the legal weight limit.

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles is working alongside the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) to highlight to fleet managers the potential dangers to driving overloaded vehicles.

Last year, the DVSA stopped more than 10,800 vans on UK roads and found 89 per cent of them to be driving overloaded.

According to the DVSA’s vehicle product manager Gordon MacDonald, 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,” MacDonald says.

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles head of service and parts Trevor Hodgson-Philips adds that it is 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 – by investing in the right size van in the first place, businesses can save thousands by avoiding unnecessary fines and repair costs,” Hodgson-Philips says.

To help businesses avoid overloading Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles has created an online guide, which includes information on vehicle payloads and locations of public weigh-bridges.

Andrew Charman
Andrew is the News and Road Test Editor for The Van Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.