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

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

Vehicle overweight by
0 up to but not including 10%
10% up to but not including 15%
15% and over

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 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 – if you passed your test before 1 January 1997

You’re usually allowed to drive a vehicle and trailer combination up to 8,250kg maximum authorised mass (MAM). View your driving licence information to check.

You’re also allowed to drive a minibus with a trailer over 750kg MAM.

Category B – if you passed your test on or after 1 January 1997

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 MAM of the 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.

Non-disabled drivers 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 BE

You can drive a vehicle with a MAM of 3,500kg with a trailer.
The size of the trailer depends on the BE ‘valid from’ date shown on your licence. If the date is:
  • before 19 January 2013, you can tow any size trailer within the towing limits of the vehicle
  • on or after 19 January 2013, you can tow a trailer with a MAM of up to 3,500kg within the towing limits of the vehicle

Medium-size vehicles

Category C1

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

Category C1E

Motorists can drive C1 category vehicles with a trailer over 750kg.

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

Large vehicles

Category C

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

Category CE

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

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.

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