New research shows van drivers often underestimate heavy loads

Considerations about payload have always been an essential step in the process of buying process, whether you’re looking for a brand new vans, or browsing cheap van deals. However, payload considerations aren’t just a stepping stone – they’re still a vital concern for drivers long after the agreement has been signed, and the van is out on the road. Recent research conducted and published by Volkswagen has shown that owners and drivers can often underestimate just how much of an effect payload and extra weight can have on a van – specifically, on its stopping distance.

What does the research say?

In total, Volkswagen’s survey covered around 500 van drivers, and of those, more than half the drivers concerned weren’t able to work out how much longer it would take to brake when driving a loaded van. In fact, less than a fifth of the respondents (17%, to be precise) could correctly judge the average stopping distance of a van once it’s reached 30mph – it’s 23 metres, according to the Highway Code.

What makes this concerning is that the vast majority of van drivers in the UK travel with a significant amount of weight in their van, whatever their trade; this applies to builders, construction specialists, plumbers, electricians and landscape gardeners. On average, most drivers carry about half a tonne of equipment on a daily basis when travelling in their vans; equivalent to about 500kg of extra weight. To put that in perspective, the average weight of a British man is about 84kg, so it’s essentially the same as driving around with six men packed into the back of the van.

The real effect of weight on stopping distances

The statistics say that braking distances increase by an average of 33% where vans are carrying half a tonne of weight – even when they’re travelling at lower speeds. For vans travelling at 60mph, braking distances increase by an average of 20%, which works out to about an extra five metres.


In some cases, this can make all the difference between whether or not a collision occurs, so it’s key for drivers to have this awareness. It’s part of the reason why maximum payload (sometimes known as Maximum Authorised Mass, or Gross Vehicle Weight) limits exist in the first place – they’re meant to serve as a guideline as to what loads will make a vehicle objectively unsafe to drive. But even if a vehicle’s load is nowhere near this maximum limit, that’s not to say that drivers shouldn’t still be keenly aware of – and compensating for – the cargo they’re carrying.

Most people will understandably look to the Highway Code for guidance. However, the Highway Code is based on an advised standard, which means there’s a lot of allowance for variation. Their guidelines might not necessarily take varied or increased loads into account, so the ultimate responsibility lies with drivers to be aware of them.

A few more solid reasons to consider your van’s payload

Whatever your trade, it’s worth thinking about the weight of your own equipment, and how it might be affecting your driving. What’s more, there are plenty of other reasons why it’s worth re-examining the weight in your van, and what you’re carrying around. As well as the safety implications, half a tonne of extra weight has a significant knock-on effect on your van’s fuel efficiency, and therefore running costs. Depending on your trade, you may also start to find that a smaller van is no longer practical for carrying around your daily equipment, making it a good time to scale up to a larger van.

Here at Van Discount, we’ve got a huge range of vans in stock, and we’ve made it our mission to get you the ultimate in cheap and new van deals. You can browse our website for models from the likes of Citroen, Peugeot and Ford. If you’re looking for something specific, you can always give us a call on 01282 872 530, and we’ll be happy to provide any help or advice we can!