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What’s the Law on Overhanging Loads?

If you want to attach timber or other cargo to your car roof, you must know the law. Any load attached to the roof must be securely fastened. What’s more, any load must not exceed the maximum weight the car is designed to carry. Vehicles that are overloaded can pose dangers to the driver, passenger and other road users. Additionally, if the weight limit is exceeded, the driver risks prosecution.

There are various ways to safely attach a load to the roof of your car. For example, you can use straps, nets, ropes or specialised clamps that are designed for the purpose. Whichever method you choose, it’s important to make sure that the load is evenly distributed. And securely fastened so it doesn’t move around while you’re driving.

It’s also important to keep the following in mind when transporting items on your car roof:

  • The load must not obscure your vision or the view of any of your car’s lights
  • Make sure you can see out of all your mirrors, including your rear-view mirror, and that nothing is obscuring your view ahead.
  • The load must not protrude more than 50cm from the side or rear of the car
  • The load must not exceed the car’s kerb weight
  • The load must not extend more than 2 metres from the front of the car
  • If you’re carrying a ladder, it must be no longer than 3.5 metres

What is the law on overhanging loads?

Loads overhanging the front or rear of a vehicle:

If your object sticks out less than 1 metre either to the front or back, there are no specific requirements. However, the Highway Code states that you should take extra care when driving with an overhanging load. And be aware of the effects of wind on your car.

For objects that protrude more than 1 metre and no more than 2 meters eat the back of the vehicle, you must ensure that end is marked with a red flag, high vis jacket or any other bright material or strap. If your objects stick out more than 2 meters, without exceeding 3.05 meters, you need to use special Overhanging Load markers and have an attendant for loads projecting forwards. However, if your items exceed 3.05 meters, you must give 2 working days’ notice to the local police, use Overhanging Load markers and have an attendant.

Loads overhanging the rear of a vehicle:

If you are carrying a load that overhangs the rear of your car, there are specific requirements you must follow.

If your load’s overall width is between 305mm and 3.5 metres, you need to give two clear working days’ notice to Police. Use marker boards front and rear and use additional lights during hours of darkness or poor visibility. If the width is more than 3.5 meters, not exceeding 4.3 meters overall, you must give two working days’ notice to the Police. Use an attendant, use marker boards front and rear and use additional lights during hours of darkness or poor visibility.

Transporting load on the roof:

Roof racks and boxes are perfect for carrying large items. We recommend you check your car or van’s manual to make sure you stay within the maximum permitted roof load for your vehicle. You must ensure you attach and secure everything to your roof properly.

If you need to stop in an emergency, remember that anything on the roof could become dislodged and fall off. So make sure you take extra care. It’s also worth noting that overhanging loads can increase your car’s fuel consumption and produce more emissions.

Final thoughts

When transporting any kind of cargo, safety should always be your number one priority. By following the law and taking extra care, you can avoid a fine. And help keep yourself, your passengers and other road users safe.

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