The dangers of overloading

An overloaded commercial vehicle is a dangerous beast - so stay safe by using axle load indication, says Andrew Freeman

There is a lot of media hype flying around at present regarding tagging of refuse bins with the view to introducing pay-by-weight schemes in the future. But it is easy to forget that there is often a simpler solution to on-vehicle weighing - axle load indication.

In this safety conscious world where we operate stringent controls on health and safety, controlling hazards such as lifting, use of chemicals, fumes, and working at heights, it seems ridiculous that there is no requirement by law to install a simple axle load indicator in the cab of a commercial vehicle.

An overloaded commercial vehicle is surely just as dangerous as operating heavy machinery without protective guards. Overloading causes strain on the vehicle's components beyond their design parameters. This brings about side effects such as loss of vehicle stability, added strain on the tyres and increased fuel consumption, not to mention invalidating the insurance and causing excessive wear to roads and carriageways.

Just as a responsible employer must provide protective footwear and safety helmets as part of its duty of care to its workers, shouldn't the information on a vehicle's load condition also be presented to the drivers, making them aware of potential overload dangers and prosecutions?

The Vehicle & Operator Services Agency (VOSA) has made giant steps in spotting and targeting operators who potentially and continually overoad their vehicles. For example, in 2002-3 VOSA stopped and weighed 50,223 HGV vehicles and 7,006 LGVs, of which 7.51% of HGVs and almost 21% of LGVs were prohibited for overloading.

In 2005-6 VOSA stopped and weighed 34,912 HGVs and 9,033 LGVs with 14.1% of HGVs and 25% of LGVs prohibited for overloading - a big leap in the prohibition success rate. This highlights the rise in accuracy of VOSA in recognising overloaded vehicles in conjunction with the use of automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) systems.

By providing a simple axle load indicator, the driver of a vehicle has the opportunity to assess the load before driving off. Red Forge supplies an axle load indication range which includes the ability to tie in to a vehicle telematics unit, to enable monitoring of the load condition remotely from a depot or head office.

Andrew Freeman is managing director of Red Forge

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