WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU'RE OVERLOADED
If you've noticed an error in this article please click here to report it so we can fix it.
• Overloading a goods vehicle is an absolute offence. In other words the vehicle is, or isn't operating within its plated legal gross weight.
• Even the most conscientious driver can get it wrong. Consignors can land often do) incorrectly state the weight of a load. So where possible get the consignor to confirm the cargo weight in writing and make sure the weight is noted on the waybill/consignment note. It could be used in mitigation if you were then found to be overloaded.
• The prosecuting authorities can prosecute on any offence of overloading. However, they do not normally prosecute where a detected overload is less than 5% or onetonne whichever is smaller. If this is the case the driver will still be cautioned before being allowed to proceed.
• Where a vehicle has a minor axle overload but is within its gross weight, a driver may be allowed to redistribute the load and continue after a verbal warning. If a driver is on his way to weigh a vehicle he must tell the enforcement authorities.
• Where a serious overload occurs the Vehicle Examiner or Police will prevent the vehicle from moving until the excess weight has been removed. It is the driver's responsibility to organise the removal of that excess and cover the cost.
• Once the vehicle is within its plated legal weight the driver will be allowed to continue his journey—but it is also likely that he will receive either a written or verbal notice of an intention to prosecute for overloading offences from the VI, Police or Trading Standards officer.
• Initially the company may
receive a letter from the prosecuting authority asking for confirmation: that the operator employs the driver; owns the vehicle; and that the vehicle was being used on the operator's business on the day of the alleged offence. It will also request mitigating circumstances. There is no legal obligation to return this letter—but supplying such information may result in a caution rather than a prosecution.
• The driver or operator then receives a summons to appear in a magistrates court to answer the charge of overloading a commercial vehicle in breach of the Road Traffic Act. The summons will be sent to both the vehicle operator and the driver. However, if a company or driver can prove they have done everything in their power to prevent the offence they may be given an absolute discharge. This is where the court considers an offence has been committed—but where the company or the driver are "morally" blameless.