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Securing loads and maintaining safe roads

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Enforcement, Safe driving

Road users will often concentrate on the hazards in front of them.  But for vehicles pulling heavy loads, it’s often the hazard behind that’s the greatest threat.

Ensuring loads are secure is vital for road user safety and it’s really important that you, as operators and drivers follow the guidance.

Pulling a load over 40 tons, combined with an unsecured load with considerable height and the permitted speed on the UK’s road network, can create an incredibly dangerous combination.

Hauling heavy goods is a serious responsibility and if it goes wrong, it can have serious consequences, that can and has ended in the loss of life.

While we know the vast majority of you know this and take the issue seriously, there’s still a significant threat caused by the small portion of drivers who don’t. Our enforcement teams prohibited just shy of 1,000 vehicles that were clearly insecurely loaded between April 2018 and April 2019. If we could see that, so could those drivers.

Think about an average road journey, and the countless vehicles you pass to put that figure into horrifying context. Especially when you consider the consequences…

Guidance for drivers and operators on load security

In 2013, there were 22,000 road collisions in England due to objects falling from vehicles. We responded to this, by creating a video and guide to support vehicle operators and drivers transport loads securely. We updated our online guidance as recently as November 2020.

But, it’s not only on the roads that load issues can cause problems. Items falling out of vehicles during unloading are a serious risk. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that workplace transport accounts for over half of all death or injury incidents reported. A risk that isn’t worth taking.

While the guidance is clear and our enforcement teams are patrolling to keep Britain’s roads safe, we are still seeing incidents with devastating consequences.

Please take time to watch our video on safe loading practices below.

Check your load is secured before setting off

As the video shows, when you load a vehicle, you should ask yourself whether the load can:

  • slide forwards, backwards or sideways
  • topple over/fall or make it unstable
  • become loose in transit

If any of the above could happen, you’ll need to use load restraints. Relying on friction to secure a load is not enough.

Damage control

While the chief concern is for the safety of other road users, there is also the question of cost. Any load that is damaged in transit will come with a cost to the consumer hoping to use your load, the supplier, and an operator who may well have to foot the bill. This will cause disruption to people’s everyday lives.

Devastating consequences

Consider the impact an accident will have on you as the operator or driver. There is a possibility of prosecution, damaged reputation, and lost contracts. Above all, the weight of feeling responsible for injuries or in the very worst cases, someone’s life, can be devastating.

Taking those extra moments to make sure your load is secure will keep your cargo and other road users safe whilst also reducing the risk of being stopped by enforcement officers.

What we’re doing

We’re working with industry stakeholders on load security to make sure that their input and experience feeds into the guidance we create. They provide us with information on the latest solutions on safely securing loads and highlight problems as they become aware of them. This helps us maintain our focus firmly on the latest in load security safety.

We encourage you to be a leader in your industry and promote safe practices in the interests of all road users.


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  1. Comment by Jeff posted on

    No guidance on structural steel above the headboard.?

    • Replies to Jeff>

      Comment by Josh (DVSA) posted on

      The load should not be loaded above the height of the headboard unless precautions have been taken to stop it sliding forward. Chain lashings for example, are a very effective method of securing steel. It is also very important to load steel so that your load is stable on the vehicle without solely relying on these lashings, this may mean using chocks or blocking. You can read the full DVSA guidance here: For more detailed guidance, you can read section 8 of DfT's guidance which covers metal loads here:

      • Replies to Josh (DVSA)>

        Comment by John posted on

        Hi Josh, could you please explain to me how putting an empty pallet between headboard and load (steel) will stop it from moving? 25T load, 11m long columns, load height is 1,5m , pallet height is 4 inches? headboard cant stop it so not sure if a wooden pallet can...

        If same load would be loaded from the headboard would it overweight axles? unit rear axle 11,5T lifting capacity , lift axle 7T , Trailer axels 3x 8T, trailer is 13,5m long

        • Replies to John>

          Comment by Josh (DVSA) posted on

          As with any load, we would recommend that steel should be loaded against the headboard, so that the headboard will prevent any movement forward under braking. If there is a gap between the load and headboard and it starts moving, then it's unlikely that the headboard will stop the load. However, this does depend on other factors such as the load type, friction between the load and the trailer, and how big the gap is. Where a gap exists, we recommend that it is blocked with some dunnage. This could be a stack of pallets or something more substantial. The best product for the dunnage will depend on what the load is.

          In some cases, a trailer loaded with steel might have a gap between the headboard to ensure that the load is positioned in a way to prevent any overloading. If the load is too far forward or backward, then it could overload the front or rear axles. If the load is positioned away from the headboard, and straps or chains are relied upon to prevent forward, backward or sideways movement then we would expect to see more security. The number of extra straps or chains used would depend on the weight of the load. Ideally, in these circumstances we would want to see both the gap being blocked and extra security added.

          In answer to your second question, if the trailer/vehicle combination can carry the loads stated weight then it should be okay as long as it is loaded correctly to avoid front or rear axle overloads.

          You can read our load security guidance on steel here:

  2. Comment by James whewell posted on

    I use an ox rated trailer , if I carry doubled up pallets loaded by an other driver, crisps may I add , with the back 4 pallets crossed is this allowed by the dvsa the total weight is approximately 8to 10 tonne . Thanks

    • Replies to James whewell>

      Comment by Josh (DVSA) posted on

      The key questions to ask yourself when loading your trailer securely are, is the load stable? Can it slide, move forwards or backwards? Is there anything loose that might fall off and does the vehicle present an immediate likelihood of causing danger or injury due to its load security and stability?

      Whatever method you choose to secure your load, the load restraint system needs to secure the load to prevent movement.

  3. Comment by Alan MacDonald posted on

    Further to my earlier comment I would like to add that when transporting loads that are likely to "Roll" on the back of a vehicle should be scutched both front and back with the scotches which are usually wooden wedges these should be secured to the trailer or vehicle body floor using nails or any other securing measures which are appropriate for use on the load in question. Safety First. Always.

  4. Comment by AlanMacDonald posted on

    Safety comes first when loading and unloading vehicles of all and any description. Safety IS Paramount. Take no risks whatsoever.

  5. Comment by Alan MacDonald posted on

    Abso correct. All loads SHOULD be secured on to the trailer using either ratchet straps or chains and dwangs, whichever the load requires to. Secure it on to the trailer. Loads should be secured from front to rear using ratchet straps and should also for loads of height should be secured using the crossover method both at the front and rear of the trailer or if on a rigid flatbed vehicle the same method be used. Even in curtain sided vehicles loads should be restrained in the same way in the event of a vehicle / trailer over turning.

  6. Comment by Andy Mason posted on

    Drivers cpc should involve a load securing module, from securing topped trailers, to pipes, the amount of loads incorrectly secured is frightening, I would gladly attend a workshop to discuss load security

    • Replies to Andy Mason>

      Comment by Stephen Bowe posted on

      Hi Andy,

      On initial driver CPC a new driver has to learn about correct load restraints this is all theory based, the driver must understand this though as the driver CPC theory test is based around case studies not simple questions, they have to apply what they know to scenarios. However practical training is rarely given and training companies get people to a point that they can pass a test (mod 4). This does make sense as people want to get their license as quickly and cheaply as possible.

      It is then left up to the companies to train new and experienced drivers to the way they expect loads to be restrained. Certain companies will follow the guidance issued and some will go above and beyond to ensure load safety. I would always say it is up to the company to induct and train any drivers anyway regardless of experience. You can certainly tell if a driver has experience and bad habits within the first few minutes of loading and securing any load.

      You are right though there should be an expectation that if drivers are in an industry where load restraints are in regular use a CPC module regarding that subject should be attended. I believe the course should be practical in nature too so they can practice the correct methods.

      We do loader and securer courses which are accredited. All of our new drivers will go through the process. Everyone comes away learning something new. New or experienced. It shows how big the shortfall in knowledge actually is within this important part of what we do.

  7. Comment by J foster posted on

    A hard job for your staff to monitor, without eyes in the back of there heads

  8. Comment by frederick barry lycett posted on

    Never lost anything in 60 years, all manner of goods and machines, mainly ropes and sheets, chains and sylvesters, load it right, drive it right

    never lost anything in 60 years, all types of load, national and international, mainly ropes and sheets, chains and Sylvesters, load it right, drive it right !!

  9. Comment by chris donovan posted on

    What you should be concentrating on is all the driving agencies that are teaching people to pass their test not to drive an HGV but just to pass the test and there is a difference once they’ve passed their test they should also pass tests on securing loads