Tips to avoid overloading a van

If you regularly drive a van as part of your business, you will probably know that even the most heavy-duty commercial vehicles can struggle with very heavy loads. What many drivers may not realise is that overloading a van is not just a practical problem – it’s also a legal issue.

Our Guide to avoid Overloading a Van will help you keep your vehicle both safe and legal on the road.

Van Fines

According to the DVSA, 8 in 10 vehicles stopped by them are stopped because they are overloaded. It is estimated that between on-the-spot penalties and lost revenue, poorly kept vans can cost a business up to £4,000 per day. With over 6 in 10 vehicles suffering from serious mechanical defects, if a van is stopped for overloading and is also found to have these issues, it could result in a court appearance or an even larger fine.

The proportion of vans that breach these regulations are:

  • 85% of vans found to be overloaded
  • 54% of vans found with serious mechanical defects
  • 50% - failure rate for Class 7 MOTs

The penalties if your vehicle exceeds its maximum permitted axle weight are:

Vehicle overweight by
5% to 10%
10% to 15%
15% to 30%
More than 30%
Court summons

Vehicle weights explained

Vehicle categories on the driving licence let drivers know what type of vehicle they are allowed to drive. These categories are determined by the weight of the vehicle, which are explained below.

Unladen weight

Unladen weight refers to the weight of a vehicle when it is not carrying any passengers, goods or other items.

The weight it does include is the body and all parts typically used with the vehicle or trailer when it is driven on the road.

The weight it does not include is the weight of fuel or batteries (for electric vehicles).

Maximum authorised mass

Maximum authorised mass (MAM) refers to the weight of a vehicle or trailer plus the maximum load that vehicle or trailer can be carry when being driven on the road.

The MAM will be listed in the owner’s manual and should be shown on a plate in the vehicle.

MAM is also known as gross vehicle weight (GVW) or permissible maximum weight.


Down-plating refers to a vehicle that is unlikely to be used at its maximum weight. Vehicles that have been ‘down-plated’ show a lower weight on their plate.

Driving licence categories

Please find below the different vehicle categories on the driving licence for light vehicles and quad bikes.

Category B1

Motorists can drive vehicles with 4 wheels up to 400kg unladen or 550kg if they’re designed for carrying goods.


Category B

Motorists can drive vehicles up to 3,500kg Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM) with up to 8 passenger seats (with a trailer up to 750kg).

Motorists can also tow heavier trailers if the total weight of vehicle and trailer isn’t more than 3,500kg.

Motorists over 21 years of age can drive motor tricycles with a power output higher than 15kW.

Physically disabled drivers with provisional category B entitlement will also have provisional entitlement to ride category A1 or A motor tricycles.

Able-bodied motorists can no longer ride motor tricycles with a provisional category B licence.

Category B auto

Motorists can drive a category B vehicle - but only an automatic one.

Category B+E

Motorists can drive a category B vehicle with a MAM of 3,500kg with a trailer with a MAM over 750kg.

Motorists can also tow a trailer with a MAM greater than 750kg as long as the combined weight of the category B vehicle and trailer doesn’t exceed a MAM of 3,500kg.

Medium-size vehicles

Category C1

Motorists can drive vehicles weighing between 3,500 and 7,500kg (with a trailer up to 750kg).

Category C1+E

Motorists can drive C1 category vehicles with a trailer over 750kg, but the trailer - when fully loaded - can’t weigh more than the vehicle.

The combined weight of both can’t exceed 12,000kg.

Large vehicles

Category C

Motorists can drive vehicles over 3,500kg (with a trailer up to 750kg).

Category C+E

Motorists can drive category C vehicles with a trailer over 750kg.

How to load a Van properly

In 2013, DVSA issued over 2,000 prohibitions to vehicles which presented a risk to road safety due to how poorly their load was secured. In the same year the Highways Agency reported over 22,000 road incidents as a result of objects falling from vehicles.

Van loading tips

  • Vans should be loaded so that their maximum weights - including axles which are stamped on their identification plates - are not exceeded.
  • A van’s load should be secured safely using the appropriate strapping - the weight of the load is not enough to keep it secure.
  • Where possible, place the load between the axels in the van to avoid overloading the front and rear axles.

How to secure loads

Ensure the load-securing system employed is appropriate for both the loads being carried and the vehicles it’s being used for.

Securing systems may include:

  • ‘over-the-top’ lashings
  • rear kites
  • intermediate bulkheads
  • direct lashing to specific anchor points

It is also recommended that van drivers carry out daily safety checks. The government has just released a guide here detailing the daily checks that light goods vehicle (LGV) drivers should carry out to maintain safety standards for their vehicles.

Find further information here on Van Insurance to get a quote.