When transporting goods and stock, it seems to make sense to load the vehicle a little more than usual. After all, many people reason, What difference can it really make? If I squeeze some more stuff onto the truck, I’ll maximise the benefit from the trip? Indeed, many people think that this approach will optimise productivity, reduce operational costs and improve profit – all very important to any business.

The exact opposite is the case. Overloading vehicles has many negative consequences from both a safety and financial angle. One should also bear in mind that overloaded vehicles are responsible for R400 million of unnecessary road damage per annum[1]—money that has to come from the taxes we all pay.

If one drills down a little deeper into the real costs of overloading, a bleak picture starts to emerge. The truth is that vehicles that are overloaded or improperly loaded are more likely to have an accident. An overloaded vehicle’s cargo is usually not positioned carefully with road-handling and vehicle wear and tear in mind—the only consideration is getting as much as possible on board.

7 reasons why you should never overload your vehicle:

  • Excess weight can cause tyres to bulge and overheat, increasing the risk of a blowout.
  • Overloading makes it more difficult to steer safely, especially around corners. It is also much harder to correct the vehicle if it hits a pothole or other obstruction.
  • The vehicle’s suspension/ traction control will not be able to function properly when the vehicle is driving at the 120 km/ph, the speed limit on our highways.
  • An off-balance vehicle is very difficult to control. For example, if the bulk of the weight is carried at the back of the vehicle, it may drag. Goods should be distributed evenly, with about 60% of the total weight in front of the axle.
  • Brakes are less effective.
  • Fuel costs rise significantly when carrying excess weight.
  • Insurance will not cover any damages if an accident is caused by overloading.

Overloading is thus a safety issue, an operating cost issue, and a risk management issue. According to Arrive Alive, tell-tale signs of overloading include a sagging rear-end; premature brake wear, irregular tyre wear; and loose, unresponsive steering and suspension. Vehicle and fleet owners should be proactive in ensuring their vehicles are not overloaded in order to get the best long-term use from their vehicles, reduce their risk and protect the interests of drivers, clients and other road users.

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MiWay Insurance Limited (‘MiWay’) is a direct short-term insurer and a financial services company, offering customers a range of short-term insurance products including motor, household, homeowners, business insurance as well as liability cover. MiWay is wholly owned by Santam, a blue-chip JSE-listed company.

[1] CSIR, Roads and Transport Technology, The damaging effects of overloaded heavy vehicles on roads, available at http://www.loadtech.co.za/docs/damaging-effects-of-overloading-on-roads.pdf.