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The Dangers of an Overloaded Fleet

The recent arrests of a truck driver from Cape Town, who overloaded his truck by at least 25 tons, and a taxi driver from Port Elizabeth, who overloaded his minibus with a total of 46 people, shows how prevalent vehicle overloading still is in South Africa.

Although it is against the law and punishable by a massive fine of up to R1500, these reports are evidence that overloading of vehicles still prevails at a massive scale. According to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the overload control statistics for 2014 showed that from more than 2-million vehicles weighed at South African weighbridges, 20% of them were found to have been overloaded. While this global phenomenon causes significant damage to the road network of the country, it also contributes to severe safety risks and unnecessary vehicle maintenance costs.

Fleet and Diver Safety Risks

Many fleet companies tend to overload their vehicles in an attempt to maximise payload and cut costs. However, this can have disastrous consequences. As stated by Arrive Alive, the following safety risks are posed by an overloaded vehicle:

  • Overloaded vehicles are very difficult to operate. Drivers may experience difficulties when trying to steer or stop the vehicle.
  • Overloading vehicles can overheat and wear the tyres quickly, which increases the likelihood of premature, dangerous and expensive failure.
  • The control and operating space of the driver in the overloaded vehicle is reduced and the chances of an accident are increased.
  • Compared to a normal loaded vehicle, overloaded vehicles take much longer to accelerate, making it difficult to overtake.
  • Due to the heavy loading, the brakes have to work harder. This can lead to brakes overheat, as a result, lose their effectiveness to stop in an emergency.
  • Overloading causes the entire suspension system to come under stress, and it can give way over time. 
  • By overloading your vehicle, you run the risk of incurring higher maintenance costs to replace worn tires, brakes, shock absorbers.
  • An overloaded vehicle uses more fuel than a vehicle with a standard load. Due to excess weight, your engine works harder, thus burning more fuel in the process.

Ways to Determine that a Vehicle is Overloaded

Getting a weighbridge is the most accurate way to tell the load of your vehicle. But if your company cannot afford one, there are signs that can help you identify and avoid the risks. Though these signs may not give an accurate account, they will help you to stay clear of risks associated with overloading.

  • The first clear and most obvious sign that your load is above the legal limit is when your cargo is stacked over the top of the vehicle or is bulging over the sides. 
  • The heavier the load, the more difficult it is to slow down. If your drivers are struggling to slow down, then your vehicle must be carrying too much weight.
  • Due to the heavy load, the steering capabilities of an overloaded vehicle are often jeopardized. If drivers struggle to maintain a straight path and regain control after avoiding an obstacle on the road, chance is your vehicle is struggling to support the load.
  • According to Harris Law Firm, a vehicle that is within its weight restriction bounces when it’s carrying a load. But if the suspension springs on the wheel are compressed, then it has been overloaded.
  • Although the core function of telematics is not to show your vehicle’s loaded weight, like a weighbridge, it can help identify signs that your vehicle has exceeded its load. Using Geotab’s web-based fleet management software you can monitor your vehicle’s tire pressure to see if the tires support the weight of the vehicle and its load. If not, the chances are that your vehicle is overloaded.


Author: The Geotab Africa Team

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