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Exceeding Maximum Weight Offences

The commercial gain from overloading vehicles is considerable as are the risks to public safety and condition of the roads, and so the Courts and Police take offences relating to overloading very seriously.

Prosecutors will draw the Court’s attention to the advantages over overloading and courts will take that into account when imposing penalties, and generally will deal with offenders more harshly.

The Law

Maximum weights for vehicles are provided in regulations 75-80 of the Road Vehicle (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986. A helpful table can be found at the official government website. The Construction and Use (C&U) Regulations are the general regulations and certain further restrictions are provided in the Road Vehicles (Authorised Weight) Regulations 1998. To confirm which vehicle is classed in which category, it’s safe to check with the DVSA.

Vehicle Type No. of Axles C&U max weight limits (kg) AWR max weight limits (kg)
Rigid Motor Vehicles
2 17,000 18,000
3 25,000 (26,000 with road friendly suspension) 25,000 (26,000 with road friendly suspension)
4 or more 30,000 (32,000 with road friendly suspension) 30,000 (32,000 with road friendly suspension)
Articulated Vehicles
3 25,000 (26,000 with road friendly suspension) 26,000
4 32,520 (35,000 with road friendly suspension) 36,000
5 38,000 40,000
6 44,000 44,000
Drawbar Combinations
4 32,520 (35,000 with road friendly suspension) 36,000
5 32,520 (38,000 with road friendly suspension) 40,000
6 44,000 44,000

‘Road friendly suspension’ is defined in the AWR as a suspension system whereby at least 75% of the spring effect is produced by air or other compressible fluid under pressure or suspension recognised as being equivalent within the community as defined in Annex II of Council Directive 96/53/EC.


 The defences are contained in Section 41B(2) of the 1988 Act which states that it shall be a defence to prove either:

(a)that at the time when the vehicle was being used on the road—

(i)it was proceeding to a weighbridge which was the nearest available one to the place where the loading of the vehicle was completed for the purpose of being weighed, or

(ii)it was proceeding from a weighbridge after being weighed to the nearest point at which it was reasonably practicable to reduce the weight to the relevant limit, without causing an obstruction on any road, or

(b)in a case where the limit of that weight was not exceeded by more than 5%.—

(i)that that limit was not exceeded at the time when the loading of the vehicle was originally completed, and

(ii)that since that time no person has made any addition to the load.

The burden of proving the defence is on the defence, on the balance of probabilities.

Whilst evidence may be needed from the weighbridge itself, there is no requirement that evidence of a weight obtained from a weighbridge should be supported by certificates of accuracy relating to that weighbridge.

The 5% defence was originally to deal with cases where snow or petrol have increased the weight, but the words of the defence do not limit it to those issues.


Offences relating to weight are usually summonsed to Court.

They are punishable with an unlimited fine, but do not carry penalty points or disqualification.