5 tips to safely load an LCV
Load safety means road safety' as the saying goes. Over the years, great strides have been made in safety technology in the light commercial vehicle (LCV) industry to minimise the number of traffic accidents. But amidst all the technological advancements, one key aspect has often been ignored: the risk of serious injury caused by the load.
A seemingly innocuous item lying loose in the cab of a truck or van – such as a laptop computer or a mobile phone – can cause harm when a vehicle comes to a sudden, unexpected stop, and may actually become a lethal weapon in the event of an impact. Perversely, even a first-aid box could cause more harm than good in an accident if it is not properly secured. From a legal perspective, the driver is responsible for the secure carriage of any item within or on top of the vehicle, and also for ensuring that the vehicle does not exceed its maximum authorised mass (MAM) or permissible gross vehicle weight (GVW).
To ensure that you shoulder this responsibility as a driver and maintain the highest safety standards, below we outline some useful tips and best practices for the correct loading and unloading of your vehicle. These will help to keep you, your vehicle and your load as safe as possible at all times.
1. Manual handling
- Adhere to a maximum weight limit of 25kg for manual handling by one person.
- Don’t lift any significant weight above waist height; e.g. to put on a roof rack.
- Seek help to assist with loading/unloading all items exceeding this weight limit, or use a sack barrow or hand truck.
2. Gross vehicle weight rating
The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) indicates the maximum operating weight of any vehicle (car/LCV/truck) including the chassis, engine, driver, passengers, fuel and cargo. The figure is stated on the vehicle ID plate and in the manufacturer’s handbook. Ensure that the vehicle does not exceed this limit when loaded.
4. Secure the load
- Before loading items into the vehicle, ensure that the outer packaging is intact, e.g. the bag or box hasn’t split and there are no signs of damage.
- Ensure the weight of the items is safely distributed across the cargo area to keep the vehicle safely balanced and stay within axle weight limits. Place heavier objects closer to the floor to keep the centre of gravity as low as possible.
- To minimise damage to the vehicle, its occupants and the cargo during transit and when stopping, ensure that all loaded items are secured to prevent them from shifting during the journey. Do not place unsecured objects in the cab of the vehicle or directly behind occupants. Use appropriate restraints, lashings and netting. Stow tools and equipment in racking systems if provided.
- Take the positioning of the load and the weight of the cargo into account when driving. Needless to say, a more heavily loaded vehicle is slower to accelerate and requires a longer braking distance than a vehicle carrying a lighter load.
- Monitor the load regularly throughout the day. Double-check restraints and lashings shortly after setting off or after any heavy braking. Reposition items as the load increases or diminishes to keep the vehicle evenly balanced.
5. Roof & ladder racks
- If your vehicle is fitted with roof bars or a roof rack, take extra care to load and secure items carefully. To avoid risk of falling, do not climb onto the roof to secure items.
- Do not overload the roof rack. Check the manufacturer’s handbook for the maximum weight limit, but remember that this includes the weight of the roof rack itself and that the weight must also be evenly distributed. Ideally, the weight on the roof should be kept to a minimum for reasons of safety, security and convenience; it is therefore preferable to load items inside the vehicle if at all possible.
- Before setting off, ensure that all items are securely attached to the roof (e.g. using ladder clamps or straps). Double-check the restraints regularly (and especially if the vehicle has been left overnight) to make sure that they have not come loose or been tampered with. The restraints themselves should also be checked regularly for wear and tear and replaced if necessary.