Freight and weight: load cells keeping truckloads legal and safe

Published On: November 19 2019


How much weight is that truck ahead of you on the motorway actually carrying? Do you know? Does the driver even know?

Legal load limits in the UK

All goods vehicles have a weight limit, known as the Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW). However, because its based on plated (maximum) weights for each individual axle, if the load on the truck isn’t balanced properly. Therefore a load might be illegal because it’s in the wrong position rather than over the GVW.

Furthermore, while a truck might start off on its trip with a evenly distributed load inside the legal limit, if that load shifts during transit, one axle can become overloaded. So if the truck is pulled over by the police or by the The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) for a roadside inspection, it can be over the axle weight limit.

Overloading is an offence carrying a fine depending on how overloaded the truck is, up to £15,000 per offence and the truck will not be able to continue its journey until the issue is resolved. The driver could also ben fined £100 and receive 3 points on their licence.


Spring deflection and load cell

Most trucks have a basic overload protection system based on spring deflection. Whilst perfectly within the DVSA guidelines, these systems are nowhere near as accurate as one based on load cells. The linear output is more accurate that spring deflection Load cells can also measure weight and strain in different directions too.

Load cells can also compensate for changes in temperature, and their data can be sent direct to a digital display unit in the driver’s cab. It’s a more accurate and more indicative system that’s also remarkably low maintenance, with the load cells often built right into the sub frame of a truck/trailer. With these load cells positioned between the body and the chassis of the truck, businesses can simply ‘fit and forget’, albeit with the proviso of scheduled load cell calibration to ensure accuracy.


Class III and IV Certified system

If the items carried result in a charge by weight invoice, a Class III and IV Certified system is required. This ensures accurate weighing and charging within the Certified ‘Charge-by-Weight’ Regulations. These particularly apply for waste removal, both here in the UK and in Europe. Load cell based system ensure accurate weighing at all stages of collection or delivery, and can be bespoke to the particular vehicle. This enables businesses to comply with regulations more easily, and also assess each load in terms of profitability.


Don’t forget the driver/s

According to an article in FACTS magazine:

“One of the areas operators tend to forget it found to be running overloaded is that their insurance could be void. If, for instance, an overloaded vehicle is involved in a road traffic accident and is subsequently found to be overloaded there could be a view taken that the vehicle was in an unroadworthy condition by an insurance company. It is doubtful that an insurance company would pay out if this was the case.”

The article also reminds businesses to take into consideration all the non-payload weight, including the driver/s, fuel, tools and equipment, and even “The driver’s lunchbox”!


Load cell expertise just a phone call away

If your business faces particular challenges in the weighing of loads prior to and during transportation, talk to us. We design, manufacture and distribute our own load cells across the UK, and have devised load cell based solutions for a wide variety of requirements, from motor racing to trampoline research!