Regulation – transport, storage and distribution sector

Legal requirements for large goods vehicles

Goods vehicles must carry either a manufacturer’s plate or a Department for Transport plate which displays the vehicle’s maximum permitted axle weight and gross vehicle weight. Weights are shown in kilograms (kg). The Road Vehicles (Authorised Weight) Regulations 2000 permitted the introduction of 44 tonne, six axle vehicles from February 2001.

Current weight limits

For rigid vehicles:

  • 7.5 -17 tonnes – two axle vehicles have a weight limit of 18 tonnes.
  • 17 – 25 tonnes – the limit for three axle vehicles with road friendly suspension and twin tyres on the drive axle is 26 tonnes and without road friendly suspension is 25 tonnes.
  • Over 25 tonnes – four axle vehicles have a weight limit of 32 tonnes.

For articulated vehicles:

  • Up to 33 tonnes – four axle vehicles have a weight limit of 36 tonnes.
  • Over 33 tonnes – five axle vehicles have a weight limit of 40 tonnes. Six axle vehicles have a limit of 44 tonnes if they have road friendly suspension, twin tyres on the drive axle and a low emission engine.

It is an offence under the Road Traffic Act 1988 to exceed the plated weight on the highway. London Trading Standards Authorities (LoTSA) is a group of all 32 Trading Standards Authorities in London. The organisation aims to help businesses comply with the law by giving them advice and assistance. Read about routine vehicle checks on the LoTSA website. You can also find out more about trailer axle weights and spacing on the Chris Hodge Trucks website.

Complying with technical standards

Specific technical standards apply to the manufacture of goods vehicles, so that only components and systems that have been tested and approved as meeting specified performance standards are used. The Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA) is the approval authority in the UK for the type approval of motor vehicles and components. Find out about the vehicle components that need approval on the VCA website.

Under the provisions of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986, goods vehicles must be maintained in a mechanically sound condition. They must be tested annually at a Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (Vosa) testing station. See information on goods vehicle testing on the Vosa website.

Goods vehicles must comply with strict EC emission standards, designed to protect the environment. Vehicles meeting certain emissions standards may be eligible to be licensed in a taxation class with lower rates of Vehicle Excise Duty (VED). The vehicle must be tested by Vosa and issued with a Reduced Pollution Certificate (RPC). For more information:

Speed limiters

All goods vehicles with a maximum mass between 7.5 and 12 tonnes are required by law to be fitted with speed limiters that restrict speed to 60 miles per hour (mph). When it is implemented – from 1 January 2005 for vehicles registered on or after 01/01/05 – EC Directive 2002/85/EC will extend this requirement to all goods vehicles with a maximum mass exceeding 3.5 tonnes. For more information read the consultation letter on speed limiters on the DfT website

This document is based on Crown Copyright © 2004-2011
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