What’s the difference between gross weight and kerb weight?

Overloaded vans are still a serious problem here in the UK. That’s according to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, which stops around 10,000 vans each year. As recently as 2015, it found that a staggering 89% of the vans it stopped were overloaded, often dangerously so. That equates to about 9000 vans. Don’t forget, these were just random spot checks, which means that the true number of overloaded vans on our roads is likely to be much higher.

Now, while many of those drivers may have been being knowingly negligent, there were also a significant number of them who probably simply weren’t sure about the specifics of legal weight limits for their van. This is one of the many reasons why it’s important to check each van’s payload and gross vehicle weight when you’re looking for the best van deals, so you can stop yourself or your drivers from falling afoul of the same thing. If you need a few pointers, we’ve explained the key points about van weights here.

Why is it important to know about van weights?

The main reason why the weight of your van is so important is that it’s about more than purely practical considerations like fuel efficiency – it’s also a key legal and safety issue. Vans and light commercial vehicles have very clearly defined upper weight limits because the manufacturers have determined that exceeding these limits means the function of certain critical components might be affected – such as the steering, suspension, axles and brakes.

That means if the van is too heavy, then it might not be able to manoeuvre properly, or stop in good time for approaching hazards. All of which can be incredibly dangerous for other road users, and a solid reason why the police and DVSA take overloaded vans so seriously.

The authorities have the power to stop, weigh and restrict any vehicle on the road, and as we’ve touched on above, the DVSA do it with thousands of vehicles a year. If a van is found to be overweight, the driver will most likely be served with a fixed penalty notice. The size of the fine involved depends on exactly how much the van in question has exceeded the legal weight limit.

If the van’s weight is found to be in excess of 30% over the legal limit, that will involve an automatic court summons. And if it’s judged to be a hazard to other road users (which is extremely likely at that stage), the driver could even be hit with a dangerous driving charge.

Thankfully, it’s be easy enough to stop yourself or your drivers from having to deal with these sorts of situations. Sometimes, it might simply be a matter of common sense – if a particularly large or heavy bit of cargo looks like it might put the van over its legal weight limit, chances are that it will. But even going over the limit in relatively small increments can still be enough to land you with a triple figure fine, so if in doubt it’s always worth paying a visit to the local weigh station before the van begins the journey proper to its destination.


Key terminology to know about van weights

The weight of each van can be defined in several different ways, as outlined below.

Gross vehicle weight

Gross vehicle weight is defined as the maximum weight of the van including the driver, any and all passengers, the fuel, and the load itself. Most vans are Light Commercial Vehicles, which means that their gross weight must stay under 3.5 tonnes (3500kg) for them to remain road legal.

Gross vehicle weight is sometimes referred to as Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM), or gross plated weight. Each individual van’s gross vehicle weight is listed in its owners manual, and it’s also displayed as a plate or sticker fitted to the vehicle – normally inside the front door panel. This plate or sticker might also list the Gross Train Weight (GTW), also known as the Gross Combination Wight (GCW). The Gross Train Weight is what you get when you add up the weight of the vehicle itself, plus the unit, plus the trailer, plus the load.

Kerb weight

The kerb weight is what a van weighs when empty – in other words, without its driver, passenger or load. However, the kerb weight does include the fuel, and the van’s standard equipment. Knowing the gross vehicle weight and kerb weight of a van are both instrumental to working out its payload – all you need to do is remove the kerb weight away from the gross vehicle weight.

Axle weight

Axle weight sometimes isn’t discussed quite as much as the gross vehicle weight or kerb weight, but it’s definitely something that you need to bear in mind when loading the van. After all, it’s not just the sheer weight of your cargo that matters, but also how it’s loaded.

Basically, each individual axle has an upper weight limit, so you need to ensure that the weight of the load is distributed roughly evenly across all of them. If heavy loads are placed too far forward, too far back, or too far to either side, it could cause the van to end up disproportionately leaning on its axles, which can potentially affect the steering and braking. That can lead to some serious penalties for the driver, even if the van hasn’t technically exceeded its gross vehicle weight.

It’s worth reiterating that if you’re ever in doubt, it’s never a bad idea to take a quick trip to a weigh station. It might be a little extra hassle, but it’s nothing compared to the hassle that getting stopped will involve – especially since overloaded vans aren’t permitted to resume their journeys until they’re down to an appropriate legal limit!

If you find that you’re routinely moving heavy loads that might take you dangerously close to the upper weight limit, it might be time to invest in a replacement or additional new van – and that’s exactly where we can help here at Van Discount. We routinely save our customers 40% off the price of a brand new van – which can be the equivalent of thousands of pounds – and we have a huge range of cheap van deals to explore on our site, including light commercial vehicles from the likes of Vauxhall, Citroen and Ford. Why not take a look around our site, and see what you can find?