So what should a conscientious fleet operator do to improve loading safety?
The rules are pretty straightforward (see loading tips on page 20) but in addition to making them available to all drivers and assistants, it is important to make sure that they read them – and that they sign a document certifying that fact.
Overloading is another growing problem.
Some operators have downsized from vehicles of 7.5 tonnes gross vehicle weight to 3.5 tonnes gvw,
in order to avoid having an O-licence and tachographs.
But 3.5-tonne vans have cargo areas of anything up to 25 cubic metres, so the temptation can be there be to overfill them.
Of the vans stopped by the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) last year, 75% were found to be overloaded and given a prohibition order.
One VOSA chief told Fleet Van that his officers stopped a 3.5-tonne Mercedes-Benz Sprinter recently that was found to weigh 10.5 tonnes. Nonplussed as to why he was in trouble, the driver told VOSA officers: “There is still room for more inside.”
Peter Hearn, VOSA’s scheme management and internal relations director, warned LCV operators that his officers would be stopping more vans in the near future in an attempt to stop overloading.
“Ministers have asked us to increase LCV examinations and we are about to target well-known areas of non-compliance such as overloading,” he said.
“But it is not only going to be a big stick we are wielding. We would much rather engage with operators, educate them and in turn get some feedback.
“If this doesn’t work, we have powers to impound vehicles, fine drivers and take people to court and we won’t
hesitate to do that if we think it necessary.”
Before and after: a stark lesson in loading
Fleet Van got a stark reminder of the dangers of bad loading at a test where two vans were crashed at 30mph.
The first of the crashes, conducted at the TRL laboratory in Berkshire, involved what we probably think of as a typical builder’s van, like those we see every day on the roads and don’t think twice about.
In the back was a pallet of bricks, a generator, some road cones and tools, and some DIY racking that looked OK to start with.
On the roof, a plastic tube carrier was filled with copper piping. The whole load weighed 515kg, about half the van’s official payload.
When the vehicle was crashed at 30mph, the racking virtually disintegrated.