For a Heavy Goods Vehicle to drive legally on a road, the vehicle has to comply with permitted weights and dimensions.
There are different set limits for roads within the UK and the EU, which must be adhered to if a journey involves travel within and across borders. National governments can set their own limits for domestic journeys.
Whilst we’re not able to provide specific advice on vehicle weight plates, all the information you need has been collated in the following article. Be sure to check out the download and resources section for more info,. If you have any enquiries we recommend that you contact DVSA or your vehicle manufacturer in the first instance.
In the UK, all HGVs must display a permanently fixed Department for Transport (DfT) and/or Ministry plate that shows both the permitted axle and gross weights for that vehicle. A plating certificate is a document required by HGVs above 3500kg gross weight, that accompanies the plate and stays with a vehicle or trailer for life – it should be available for inspection at all times.
The DVSA website has internet accessible versions of application forms for recording the details of a new HGV which can be found here. A vehicle must be registered with the DVLA by either the dealer who sold the vehicle or the new owner, before it is registered with the DVSA in order to obtain a ministry plate (and plating certificate if needed) and so that it can be booked for an MOT test.
DfT plates are fitted on a vehicle when it is first registered but must be amended if a vehicle is modified. They will be fitted to a trailer when it has gone through its first annual DfT test. There is no fee required when first recording a vehicle’s details with the DVSA however a scale of fees is applicable when a vehicle’s weight plate details change. This fee varies according to the number of axles and the type of test required. A full list of fees can be found here.
In the UK there are 2 types of plating that are acceptable on HGVs – ‘manufacturers’ plating and ‘ministry’ plating.
Except in a very few cases, all goods vehicles must be equipped with a ‘manufacturers plate’ which, along with other details, must display the name of the manufacturer and the maximum axle, gross and train weights at which the vehicle is designed to operate.
The ministry plate or plating certificate can be issued by DVSA to goods vehicles above 3500kg gross weight. It denotes the potential maximum legal weight of the vehicle. In GB the ‘plate’ is usually carried in the cab of heavy goods vehicles or attached to the trailer chassis in the case of heavy trailers.
In any case, the maximum weights specified on either the vehicle’s manufacturers plate’ or ‘ministry plate’ must not be exceeded. If you are unsure which weights on either of these plates must not be exceeded, the vehicle manufacturer or DVSA are likely to be best placed to provide advice.
Goods vehicles over 3,500kg gross weight must have a plate fitted to the cab showing the vehicle manufacturer, vehicle type, engine type, power, VIN number, number of axles, maximum design weight and the plated weight.
Goods vehicles below 3,500kg gross weight are not required to be fitted with a plate.
Trailers over 1,020kg unladen weight must have a fitted plate showing the trailer manufacturer, chassis number, number of axles, the maximum load imposed on the towing vehicle, year of manufacturer, the maximum design weight and maximum plated weight.
It should be noted that the VOSA plating certificate was superseded by the DVSA plating certificate in late 2013 when the Vehicle and Operators Service Agency (VOSA) was merged with the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) and became known as the DVSA.
There are a number of different weights and dimensions that apply to HGVs:
The weight limits displayed on an HGV weight plate (either the manufacturers’ plate or ministry plate) are defined by the technical specification of the vehicle. The set limits exist to protect roads and bridges from excessive wear. In exceptional cases vehicles can be permitted to operate at weights over 44 tonnes (such as when moving abnormal indivisible loads). However special provisions are in place to deal with such situations, and these can be found in the Road Vehicles (Authorisation of Special Types) (General) Order 2003.
A vehicle is overloaded if it exceeds the weight limits displayed on either the manufacturers’ or ministry plates. A vehicle could be overloaded on its axle(s), gross and train weight. Each of these would be classed as separate offences, making both the vehicle operator and the driver liable for each offence.
e.g. a 3-axle articulated vehicle exceeding the plated weights on the 1st axle, 2nd axle and gross weight would make both the vehicle operator and driver liable to three separate offences.
The consequences of overloading a vehicle are many fold. Should a vehicle exceed its design weight it will have longer stopping distances which has implications for road safety, excess weight will have a disproportionately increased impact on road wear, and an operator who is overloading vehicles will gain an unfair advantage over their competitors who are not carrying excess loads.
For these reasons, the DVSA, police and trading standards work hard to enforce HGV weights and limits, with frequent weighing (planned and roadside spot checks) taking place. Where a breach of the regulations is identified, both the operator and driver risk prosecution. In addition, where a conviction of overloading is made it could also lead to disciplinary action from the Traffic Commissioner against the operator’s licence.
Goods vehicles in the UK must adhere to certain criteria with regard to the weight and limits they fall within as dictated by the Road Vehicles (Construction & Use) Regulations 1986 as amended (C&U) and the Road Vehicles (Authorised Weight) Regulations 1998 as amended (AWR).
The table below sets out a summary of the weights and limits enforceable by law within the UK. It can be found in full (with footnotes) here HGV maximum weights – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
|Vehicle type||Number of axles||C&U max weight limits (kg)||AWR max weight limits (kg)|
|Rigid motor vehicles|
|3||25000 (26000 with road friendly suspension)||25000 (26000 with road friendly suspension)|
|4 or more||30000 (32000 with road friendly suspension)||30000 (32000 with road friendly suspension)|
|3||25000 (26000 with road friendly suspension)||26000|
|4||32520 (35000 with road friendly suspension)||36000 (38000) [footnote 1]|
|5||38000 (44000) [footnote 2]||40000|
|6||44000 [footnote 2]||44000 [footnote 3]|
|4||32520 (35000 with road friendly suspension)||36000 [footnote 4]|
|5||32520 (38000 with road friendly suspension)||40000 [footnote 4]|
|6||44000 [footnote 2]||44000 [footnote 3] [footnote 4]|
|Footnote 1||38000kg if the combination consists of a 2 axle tractor unit and 2 axle semi trailer where the gross weight of the tractor unit does not exceed 18000kg and the gross weight of the semi trailer does not exceed 20000kg. The drive axle must be fitted with twin tyres and road friendly suspension and the trailer axle spacing February 2010 must be at least 1.8m.|
|Footnote 2||Operation at over 38000kg under the C&U regulations is restricted to combined transport operations.|
|Footnote 3||For operation above 40000kg, the drive axle(s) must not exceed 10500kg and have road friendly suspension OR have a maximum axle weight not exceeding 8500kg. Each part of the combination must have 3 axles and the trailer must have road friendly suspension. Additionally, an engine complying with at least Euro 2 specification (or gas) is needed for operation over 41000kg.|
|Footnote 4||Distance of not less than 3m is required between the rear axle of the motor vehicle and the front axle of the trailer.|
The UK Government website also contains a useful guide to lorry types and weights, which is available here
In the EU, vehicles must comply with Directive (EU) 2015/719 which supersedes Directive 96/53/EC. Details including other directives that complement this can be found at EUR-Lex – 32015L0719 – EN – EUR-Lex (europa.eu)
Further details about permissible weights and dimensions on roads within the EU can be found at Weights and dimensions | Mobility and Transport (europa.eu)
Where a vehicle is unlikely to carry its potential maximum weight, an owner can apply to reduce the weight that the vehicle is allowed to carry. This is known as downplating and can reduce the tax or vehicle excise duty (VED) owed. There may not be a need for any mechanical alterations to be made but it is essential that an application is made to the DVSA via form VTG10 Notifiable Alterations along with the appropriate fee. Form VTG10 can be obtained from APPLICATION FOR PSV ACCESSIBILITY CERTIFICATE PSVA 1 (publishing.service.gov.uk) or from a goods vehicle testing station.
Should circumstances change and the vehicle is needed to carry its original maximum weight once again, downplating can be reversed. This would result in the vehicle being uprated. A situation where this might happen could be where a vehicle has been bought by a new owner who wishes to use it at its original permitted weight.
In some instances a vehicle may require mechanical alterations in order to be downplated. This is called Downrating as it physically changes the design capacity of a vehicle.
At MHF our team of skilled mechanics is highly experienced at adapting vehicles and is well used to uprating and downrating capacity requirements. If you are considering making changes to your vehicle/s then contact us or call us now on 01386 792354.
A Notifiable Alteration is notification of a change of vehicle specification, or plating details, i.e. changes to: vehicle registration (cherished transfer), vehicle body, tyre sizes, brake systems, fixed equipment, weight changes etc.
Detailed information and guidance about HGV plates, downrating, uprating and notifiable alterations can be found by contacting the DVSA helpline on 0300 123 9000. Additional information will also be available from the relevant vehicle manufacturer if you have a query that relates to a specific vehicle.
The websites that have been referred to in this document can also be found here for ease of reference: