BlogOverloaded axles – how to avoid them

Overloaded axles – how to avoid them

19 November 2019

One of the main causes of overloaded axles is an inappropriate arrangement of goods on the semi-trailer. The effects of this problem are not just high penalties, but also the need to reload the truck. Read this article to find out how to minimize the risk of overloaded axles.

An overloaded axle lowers the steering of a vehicle and extends the braking time, which poses a great danger to the driver and other road users. The permissible axle load also relates to the roads that the truck rides on. An overloaded vehicle damages the road surface and, as a result, decreases its lifespan.

Causes of overloaded axles

One of the main causes of axle overloading is improper arrangement of goods on the semi-trailer. It concerns loading, when the distribution of the force of gravity is not considered or the permissible total weight of the vehicle is exceeded.

A penalty for an overloaded axle can also be imposed when the axle load is not compliant with the permissible load resulting from the regulations of the road traffic and public roads. Manufacturing companies are often located near transport junctions which can be reached by domestic roads with some restrictions, e.g. weight up to 8 tons. Although the driving route may be a few kilometers long, the police or other authorities may impose a penalty on the driver for failure to comply with applicable regulations.

Loading irregularities can be caused not only by the shipper’s ignorance, but may also result from an error – when the weight or quantity of goods differs from that in the waybill – which the person responsible for loading may not know about. Another example of a problem can be a situation when goods for loading are arranged properly, but there are many unloading places on the route. The law of leverage, which affects the pressure, may end with a negative result of a total weight loss.

High penalties for overloaded axles throughout Europe

Penalties are imposed on vehicles which are overloaded or for which the permissible axle load is exceeded. In case of some roads the permissible axle load is lower, which should be taken into consideration when planning a route for a vehicle. If there is no alternative route, it is required to obtain a permit for a non-standard vehicle. Lack of proper certification may result in a penalty.

The amount of fines for exceeding the permissible axle load varies depending on a country – usually it is calculated based on the percentage of exceeded axles. In many countries there are some tolerance limits – in the Netherlands exceeding the axle load by 5% is subject to advice only.

The amounts of fines range from 10 Euro in Austria for overloading lower than 5% to 4,000 € with overloading over 60% in Belgium. However, not only a fine can be a problem here. A vehicle in which an axle is overloaded must be reloaded, This, in turn, generates delays and exposes the company to further costs.

Usually it is the carrier to be blamed for overloaded axles, as this person is responsible for carrying goods, though it’s not always his fault that the vehicle is overloaded. In this situation he can try to prove that the sender, shipper, or forwarder has breached the rules. One of the Polish carriers who was fined for exceeding 10 tons of the axle load when carrying out domestic transport, referred the matter to the Inspectorate of Road Transport, thus, indicating irregularities in the Polish law. According to the directive of the European Parliament and of the Council, the permissible axle load on public roads within the EU amounts to 11,5 tons. Thereby, the Court of Justice of the European Union found that Poland did not abide by the European rules, which was illegal, and the carriers could claim a refund.

How to avoid overloaded axles?

Loading activities are usually the responsibility of the shipper, unless the transport order states that the driver is responsible for loading. In situations when the driver suspects that the axles are overloaded, he should verify, if possible, that the actual weight of the load is the same as the weight mentioned in the waybill.  If the amounts are different, the driver has the right to refuse to carry out the order. Most often, however, the final decision on whether the goods should be taken or not belongs to the forwarder. It is important to note that if the forwarder agrees to take the goods despite the overloaded vehicle, the carrier should have some confirmation of this, in the form of an email, for example. However, if there was no scale at the loading place, responsibility for the overloaded vehicle (the weight of which was different in the order) falls upon the shipper.

The proper arrangement of the load on the vehicle is also crucial. It happens that the driver is the on who distributes goods. Very often he does not have sufficient knowledge and skills, especially in the case of multiple loads and their dimensions. Some newer models of trucks include systems measuring axle loads. However, if they show too much pressure on one of the axles, the shipper, usually the carrier, would have to distribute goods again to avoid a penalty. The solution for the problem can be providing the driver or shipper with the plan of loading including the axle loads. Such a project can be prepared in the Goodloading application and sent to the carrier as a link or pdf file.

Minimizing the risk of overloaded axles is quite a challenge for the carrier. He must be familiar with the legal rules, verify responsibilities in the contract between him and the shipper. And when it is him who takes the responsibility for loading, it is best that the project of the proper arrangement of goods is sent to the driver to minimize the risk of an error.