Skip to main content

Operators and large loader cranes on lorries – know your responsibilities

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Enforcement, Features, Guides and reports

We are encountering an increasing number of heavy goods vehicles with large loader cranes where vehicles have often been converted to accommodate cranes of 80 tonnes lifting capacity or more. 

The additional weight caused by these conversions make the vehicles very close to their maximum carrying capacity meaning they are often unable to tow a standard semi-trailer without exceeding the permitted vehicle length.  

Operators, transport managers and drivers must take note of this when transporting a load on such a vehicle and look at the regulations. Operators need to make sure they are familiar with how they transport loads and understand whether they come under STGO (Special Type General Order) regulations or fall under Construction & Use (C&U) requirements. 

The information below should help operators better understand the circumstances around transporting cargo on vehicles with large loader cranes attached. 

Can I operate under Special Type General Order regulations? 

Some manufacturers have indicated to operators they can run these larger loader crane units under STGO (Special Type General Order) regulations.  This is not the case. Operators need to make sure loader crane vehicles are working according to the correct regulations.

We have found number of issues. These include:

  • tractor units with large cranes over the permitted length and weight allowable which then make them non-compliant from a safety point of view
  • some confusion regarding the amount of allowable front or rear projection

Operators are liable where vehicles do not meet the requirements.

What have we found at the roadside?

We have seen increasing non-compliance partly due to a lack of understanding or incorrect information being shared.

Example 1

A vehicle combination seen at the roadside with maximum length of 17.8mts and the tractor unit 1,200kgs overweight (16.5mts is the maximum under C&U regs). In this case, the vehicle was carrying 2 x 20ft empty containers which do not constitute an abnormal load

In March 2021 this vehicle combination was checked by DVSA in Devon.  It was a tractor unit with a large loader crane fitted towing a semi-trailer.  After being measured by examiners, it was found to be a total length of 17.65mts.  The maximum permitted length for this type of vehicle is 16.5mts.

Initially, the court ruled against the enforcement action taken by DVSA. However, following an appeal, the judge upheld DVSA’s view as correct. It was determined that the overall length of the vehicle should include all parts of the vehicle including the parts the crane is mounted on.  Any fittings which overhang the front or rear of the vehicle combination would not be included in the overall length. It is also worth remembering that allowable vehicle lengths and overhangs differ depending on whether the vehicle is a rigid one or if it is a cab towing a trailer.

The result of this case will be used to inform future enforcement work and we will look to prosecute operators who are not keeping to the rules. This will help us support fair competition in industry and keep roads safe.

Articulated lorry with hiab loader crane

Example 2

A vehicle loaded with pontoon sections which was not an abnormal load but being transported incorrectly as STGO (Special Type General Order).

lorry with hiab type loader ceane

In this case, the vehicle was found to be overloaded at 29,460kgs (permitted 26,000kgs) on the tractor unit and measured at 18.mts (permitted 16.5mts). The operator claimed to have been told by the company which fitted the crane that it could be used legally and the dimensions of the crane could be subtracted.  However, a DVSA examiner explained that this was incorrect and the vehicle needs to meet C&U dimensions.

The vehicle was prohibited for being overloaded. The following day the overloading issue was rectified when the operator informed Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency they had replaced the existing tractor unit with a lighter tractor unit. This enabled the driver and vehicle to continue their journey.

Overhangs and weights

The diagrams below demonstrate where to measure the front and rear of the total length of the vehicle.  You can see the difference between the part of the “apparatus” that extends beyond the front or rear of the vehicle. In this instance, the length can be discounted and the loader crane can be included in the vehicle length.

Diagram showing maximum length of vehicle other than a bus for Construction & Use regulations

Diagram showing overall length of crane on lorry tractor unit Construction & Use reegulations

To help make sure your vehicle is operating at permissible length and weight:

  • consider using a shorter trailer with the cab – to keep the length down and weight lighter
  • check the total weight of a lorry and trailer combination - the maximum for a tractor unit is 26,000kgs and the weight of the crane has a significant impact on the payload

It is your responsibility as an operator to be aware of the rules before you put your vehicle on the road.

If you have any questions, please let us know using the comments box below.

Sharing and comments

Share this page


  1. Comment by Hi Lift Cranes posted on

    Understanding the regulations and guidelines surrounding crane operations is crucial to ensure safety and compliance, as discussed in the article that sheds light on the responsibilities of operators and large loader cranes on lorries.

  2. Comment by Liam posted on

    It’s good to see some clarity and dialogue between DVSA and operators when it comes to things like this. Far too many areas for operators/bodybuilders that are open to interpretation.

  3. Comment by Glen Davies posted on

    In example 1 - dimensions only not weight.

    If the vehicle combination was 16.5m and the load had a 'clearly visible' rear overhang of 1.3m - it would take the overall length to 17.8m. However, this would be legal under C&U normal operating procedures.

    • Replies to Glen Davies>

      Comment by Julia (DVSA) posted on

      Hi Glen The vehicle in the article does not have an overhang. You are correct in thinking it could have an overhang of 1-2m but there may be issues with load security.

  4. Comment by Hiab operator posted on

    Good morning.
    I run a number of hiab rigids, that also moves containers, similar to example 1.
    Is there any permitted overhang / rear projection on divisible loads under C&U regulations?
    Also, can you explain the 1.83m maximum overhang detailed in C&U and whether it's referring to the load, and if that's for divisible or indivisible?

    • Replies to Hiab operator>

      Comment by Julia (DVSA) posted on

      Hi I'm not quite sure what you mean by the 1.83, overhang here. This link to GOV.UK may help. Thanks

      • Replies to Julia (DVSA)>

        Comment by Gav med posted on

        Hi Julie can I just ask I move 10.5ft w 32ft cabins on a 45ft flat bed under movement order am I correct to say should be loaded directly to headboard marker boards and orange beacon on back of trailer plus red warning lights to widest point rear of cabin and white warning lights to widest point at front as I have someone telling me to put side pins in as a false headboard which sits back about 7ft from headboard ? Iv always been told maximum distance from load to headboard is 300mm and the gap must be filled also the side pins are not stress tested either are they ?

        • Replies to Gav med>

          Comment by Julia (DVSA) posted on

          Hi Loads which are 2.9m to 3.5m wide require marker boards and 2 days' Police notification. A gap of more than 30cm is allowed only if additional/adequate security is used to prevent forward or rear movement of the load and the gap is filled with timbers or similar to create a false headboard.

  5. Comment by Steven posted on

    If I then have a artic hiab is fitted with a 85ton meter crane behind the cab .it is then connected to a 36 feet extendable trailer .this would then make it under legal length of 16 mtrs .so then if I am asked to move a 40 ft would suggest it is safer to have it overhang the rear of the trailer rather than extend the trailer .i can't see how dvsa thinks that would constitute less risk .omg.

    • Replies to Steven>

      Comment by Julia (DVSA) posted on

      Hi Steven. We suggest the safest method of transporting a 40ft container would be on a vehicle complying with C&U regs and not exceeding 16.5metres.

  6. Comment by . posted on

    How would you suggest transporting at 40ft container? 2 trucks? 1 lorry loader and 1 standard artic?

    • Replies to .>

      Comment by Julia (DVSA) posted on

      Hi 40ft containers are moved on a daily basis within the current regulations using skeletal or flat-bed trailers.

  7. Comment by martin shepherd posted on

    For the people who say there is no Hiabs with over 8o tonnes capacity here, Maybe but I know there are lorry loaders on tractor units in the UK with close to 100 tonnes capacity.

  8. Comment by Stu posted on

    Hi, so am I right in thinking that maximum length on wagon n drag is 18.75m total length as I was told by a manufacturer that I can add loss of load space ie from back of cab to head board onto my total length which in my old case would have been an extra 1.4m on top of my 18.75m making it 20.15m is this right and if so why can it not be the same for artic combinations?

    • Replies to Stu>

      Comment by Julia (DVSA) posted on

      Hi Stu That is not correct. The maximum length of a drawbar combination is 18.75mts.

  9. Comment by Matt posted on

    Please can you confirm that if we have a urban extender trailer with a large hiab vehicle required to transport 2 X 20ft units and we had to extend the trailer to fit both these units on as long as we stay within C&U regs for overall length and weight of vehicle are we legal?

    • Replies to Matt>

      Comment by Julia (DVSA) posted on

      Hi Matt The maximum length of the semi-trailer combination is 16.5mts under C&U Regs

  10. Comment by Lorry loader Op posted on

    Also what constitutes a low loader trailer? Does it have to have fixed ramps?
    Can it be 17m and be extended up to the 18m limit for low loaders?
    If it doesn't have fixed ramps do you have to carry the ramps at all times?

    • Replies to Lorry loader Op>

      Comment by Julia (DVSA) posted on

      Hi A “low loader” is a semi-trailer which is constructed and normally used for carrying engineering equipment, constructed that the major part of the load platform does not extend over or between the wheels and the upper surface - which is below the height of the top most point of the tyres of those wheels, measured on level ground. It can be operated at 18mts. There is no reference to ramps. Also it should not be confused with a “step frame low loader” which cannot be operated over 16.5mts under C&U.

  11. Comment by Lorry loader Op posted on

    In regards to the wording in C&U regs what constitutes a load of exceptional length?
    Does a 40ft container or some 12 metre pipes count?
    If you were carrying 10 pipes but only one of them was 12-14 metres in length would you still be able to stretch the trailer and run up the 18.65m allowed under C&U for an artic and semi trailer?

  12. Comment by Wayne Hartley posted on

    In the example above, surely it’s safer to to have the container sat on twist locks,rather than have overhang and relying on ratchet straps, make no wonder nobody is interested in coming into the industry,absolute joke.

    • Replies to Wayne Hartley>

      Comment by Julia (DVSA) posted on

      Hi Wayne You are correct - the safest and preferred method of moving a container is on an appropriate C&U Vehicle/trailer with twist locks not exceeding the maximum 16.5mts for a semi-trailer or 18.75mts for a draw bar. In most cases the combination is not over length because of the load but because the tractor unit is too long.

      Although an overhang may be possible in some circumstances, carrying a container just secured with straps is unlikely to comply with the requirement for safe and secure loading.

  13. Comment by Lexi posted on

    Can I just clarify something if I have a 36ft extendable trailer don’t open it and put a 40ft container on secure it with twist locks at front straps at the back that being in between 1 and 2 metres over hang but being over 16.5 total length are you saying that this falls in the realms of being legal because the trailer and unit would be under 16.5 but the load would be over the 16.5 length and under 18.75 also with overhang no notice to police or movement order

    • Replies to Lexi>

      Comment by Julia (DVSA) posted on

      Hi Lexi As stated above overhang may be possible in some circumstances. Carrying a container just secured with straps is unlikely to comply with the requirement for safe and secure loading.

  14. Comment by HIab Operator 2 posted on

    I think the issue here is certain companies trying to circumvent the rules. Each item is mot'd as an individual vehicle, so they never appear together highlighting the issue. Everybody has taken the chance on this running the vehicles, everybody knows the rules or has the opportunity to seek clarification on the rules, but chooses to ignore them. I have seen numerous vehicle son the road, with these cranes on carrying 2 x 20' containers or other equipment which the haulier knows isn't right. If people choose to run the correct trailer, most times this will be a maximum length of 10.6m which isn't economical for most jobs. Could the length of artic vehicles not be extended to 18.75m making it the same as rigid and trailer??

    • Replies to HIab Operator 2>

      Comment by Julia (DVSA) posted on

      Hi Any changes to the length of trailers would need legislative change and the current regulations specify the rules in use at present.

  15. Comment by Stephen Harris posted on

    I don’t believe there are any lorry loader vehicles on Uk roads with a lifting capacity of 80 tonnes. A 85 tonne/metre lorry loader would have a safe working load of under 30 tonnes
    Would an answer to the overlengh problem be to shorten your standard trailer to a length that suits the extended wheelbase of a tractor unit with lorry loader then have the load on your trailer overhang at the rear of the trailer?

    • Replies to Stephen Harris>

      Comment by Julia (DVSA) posted on

      Hi Stephen. Yes, you are correct using a shorter trailer is the answer if the load can overhang at the rear. As long as the C&U exemption requirements are met. The other issue with large cranes could be the reduction in carrying capacity which is also a consideration for operators.

      • Replies to Julia (DVSA)>

        Comment by Steve posted on

        It makes no sense that you could have a 16.5m Artic hiab with 3m overhang(correctly marked but no notification needed) totalling 19.5m but if you have a 17.5m artic hiab with no overhang you will be prosecuted. I believe there are acceptations for low loader trailers to 18m would it not make sense to deduct the length of the lifting equipment from the combination length? at least then standard trailers could be pulled?
        With regard to safety am i right in thinking that the trialling of 15m trailers is going well with less than average safety issues encountered?

        • Replies to Steve>

          Comment by Julia (DVSA) posted on

          Hi Steve. The current regulations specify the rules in use at present. The definition for a low loader is very specific including the load platform not extending over or between the wheels. It does not include trailers such as “step frame low loaders”.

          The longer semi-trailer trial has concluded and is currently being reviewed by the Department for Transport (DfT).

  16. Comment by Adrian posted on

    You talk about 26000kg maximum weight. What if the tractor unit has 4 axles

    • Replies to Adrian>

      Comment by Julia (DVSA) posted on

      Hi Adrian. The maximum weight for a 3-axle tractor unit under C&U regs is 26,0000 kgs. Articulated vehicles satisfying certain conditions within the Authorised Weight Regulations with 6 or more axles can have a maximum train weight of 44,000kgs.

      • Replies to Julia (DVSA)>

        Comment by Adrian Hamill posted on

        So the 4 axle unit is allowed to run 32000kg and 44000kg with 3 axle trailer. Is this correct?

        • Replies to Adrian Hamill>

          Comment by Julia (DVSA) posted on

          Hi Adrian A 4 axle tractor unit towing a semi-trailer cannot exceed 26,000kgs GVW within C&U Regs. If the vehicle is plated at 32,000kgs it is likely to be incorrectly plated as a rigid vehicle.

          • Replies to Julia (DVSA)>

            Comment by Richard Ogg posted on

            Why can't a 32 ton tractor unit be allowed?
            Surely that would solve the easily overloaded issues .
            Cant see why a few extra feet of length makes any difference to safety. 16.5mtr artic crane vs 18.35 mtr wagon an drag crane ,can carry same load but drag nearly 2 metres longer Dosnt make sense !
            Also the rigids with there lights extended further back nearer the end of the over hang would be much safer than retracted lights with an over hang .
            We are so far behind dutch Danish Swedish finnish in weights ,lengths etc its pathetically embarrassing in comparison almost like cutting your nose off to spite your face .

          • Replies to Richard Ogg>

            Comment by Julia (DVSA) posted on

            Hi Richard Any changes to the length of trailers would need legislative change and the current regulations specify the rules in use at present.

  17. Comment by John posted on

    Grandfather law

    • Replies to John>

      Comment by Julia (DVSA) posted on

      Hi John. Grandfather rights do not have any relevance in this context. The rules are set down in the Construction and Use regulations, Authorised Weight Regulations.

  18. Comment by Henry patterson posted on

    Hi so at 16.5m is that the maximum you can extend the trailer to if the truck is under the 16.5m

    • Replies to Henry patterson>

      Comment by Julia (DVSA) posted on

      Hi Henry. 16.5 metres is the maximum length for an articulated combination including the tractor unit and semi-trailer. Under C&U exemptions, vehicles may exceed this if carrying a load of exceptional length provided the required conditions are met.

      • Replies to Julia (DVSA)>

        Comment by Henry patterson posted on

        Thanks you just for record what is the penalty one could receive for being over the 16.5m rule

        • Replies to Henry patterson>

          Comment by Julia (DVSA) posted on

          Hi Henry The current penalty for a driver at the roadside would be a £50 fixed penalty. Follow up enquiries would be carried out for an operator which may result in court/public inquiry.

          • Replies to Julia (DVSA)>

            Comment by david posted on

            Hi Julie
            great document
            can you inform me when "Vehicles may exceed this if carrying a load of exceptional length provided the required conditions are met."
            what are the conditions?
            is this C & U only ? or is this the same for STGo Cat 1, 2 or 3 vehicles?
            i am aware that c and u vehicles dont have to notify under 18.65m and STGO is 18.75m
            where do you measure from? the front of the cab to the back of the trailer excluding the projections to the front and rear?

          • Replies to david>

            Comment by Julia (DVSA) posted on

            Hi David C&U vehicle combinations or trailers normally used for conveyance of indivisible loads of exceptional length, means that 25.9mts for the total combination or 18.65mts for a trailer can move without conditions.

            Over these lengths C&U vehicles up to 27.4mts long or 4.3mts wide would require markings on overhangs, attendant accompanying the vehicle and 2 days’ notice to the Police.

            The overall length is the distance between transverse planes passing through the extreme forward and rearward projecting points of the vehicle inclusive of all parts of the vehicle, of any receptacle which is of a permanent character ( Sec 3 C&U Regs). Projections over the front and rear of the vehicle as part of special apparatus or appliance (crane) do not from part of the overall length.

            This information may help clarify the situation.

  19. Comment by Steve Coombe posted on

    Hi interesting article, that I totally agree with. But just out of interest, if you used a shorter trailer within the legal length but had say 3m rear overhang. Notified the rear overhang to the Police and correctly marked it would this then be a legal way to get over the length limit?

    • Replies to Steve Coombe>

      Comment by Julia (DVSA) posted on

      Hi Steve. C&U regulations provide exemption for front or rear projections provided certain conditions are met relating to notifications and marking. The maximum rear overhang under C&U Regs would be 1-2 metres provided it is clearly visible, 2-3 metres with end marker boards and over 3metres with end and side markers, 2 days police notification and attendant/escort. There is no C&U exemption relating to weight.

  20. Comment by paul wood posted on

    Hi Julia,

    I assume the court case in example one was used to establish a clear interpretation of the rules regarding special appliances and apparatus as Lorry Loader cranes were I believe previously placed under this heading regardless of their position on the vehicle/combination?

    • Replies to paul wood>

      Comment by Julia (DVSA) posted on

      Hi Paul. The guidance on GOV.UK (12 October 2017) is that only a part of special appliance or apparatus that extends beyond the extreme front or rear of the vehicle combination should be discounted when determining the vehicles overall length not the section of the vehicle where a crane mounted behind the cab of the tractor unit. There appears to some confusion within the industry. We are are hoping this blog will further clarify the position for operators.

      • Replies to Julia (DVSA)>

        Comment by paul wood posted on

        Thank you for the reply.
        I don't recall seeing the drawings shown when i last looked at this information, so how recent are these additions? It's crystal clear now with the drawings what the requirements are; so I'm curious as to how the haulier in case 1 actual got a ruling in his favour as recent as only last year if you are saying the wording and drawings as is now, have been like that for the last 5 years?
        Can I also enquiry as to why you did not approach ALLMI and consult with them on behalf of their members like the HSE and other bodies do when looking at rules, regulations and requirements?
        Thank you in advance

        • Replies to paul wood>

          Comment by Julia (DVSA) posted on

          Hi Paul. You are correct the regulations and guidance have not changed. We aren't able to comment on the case referred to other than the information in the blog post. The Department for Transport is responsible for all legislation concerning the operation of heavy gooods vehicles. We are in contact with the ALLMI and have ongoing discussions with them.

  21. Comment by Matt Hunt posted on

    About time too. I can't count how many times I have lost work to companies running illegally overlength or overweight but doing it cheaper because they do it on one vehicle when the job needs to be seperate lifting and transport.

    • Replies to Matt Hunt>

      Comment by Steve posted on

      This puts artic lorry loaders at a disadvantage over a lorry and drag lorry loader that can easily carry 2x 20' container and run at 18.75m

      • Replies to Steve>

        Comment by Julia (DVSA) posted on

        Hi Steve Many companies operate within the regulations and feel at a commercial disadvantage because of vehicles and trailers operated over length overweight.

  22. Comment by Dlift posted on

    So will this affect operators running artic hiabs and low loaders on STGO?
    Or just lighter divisible loads on 13m trailers?

    • Replies to Dlift>

      Comment by Julia (DVSA) posted on

      Hi. It is the load which is moved under STGO, the vehicle or trailer cannot be the reason for operating under STGO regulations.

  23. Comment by A hiab operator posted on

    The 80 tonnes Liftimg capacity is also wrong
    There no hiabs that can lift that much weight

    I think this is a farse pure, money making behaviour
    Where is the safety issue ?
    Detail the safety issues !
    These trucks are not only essential to the UK construction industry but also contribute massively to many sectors of the economy.
    there will be thousands of artic hiabs on the uk roads that now won’t comply to this rule which can only be described as a moving of the goal posts !!
    It has always been known that the length of the hiab is not to be included in the overall length of the vehicle and Companies like MV commercial and Mac trucks even build the trucks with that in mind
    So what are the operators to do with their £350,000 vehicles that will now not be fit for purpose ??

    DVSA at their finest
    Just a bunch of ill Informed government tax collectors
    Last month low loaders
    This month hiabs
    What’s next month ??
    You may as well give us a heads up !

    • Replies to A hiab operator>

      Comment by Julia (DVSA) posted on

      Hi. There has been no change to the regulations - we are simply raising awareness that these tractor units with large cranes fitted are potentially not fit for purpose reducing the length of trailer towed and weight capacity.

  24. Comment by Richard posted on

    Mistake was using standard 13.6m trailers. If they’d had the correct shorter trailers, so compliant length unladen, they could have just had the load overhang at the rear with projection markers etc as required.
    Although the containers aren’t indivisible it seems so widely ignored, where loads like this, vehicles and machinery are concerned, so presumably not enforced.

    • Replies to Richard>

      Comment by Julia (DVSA) posted on

      Hi Richard. You are correct - containers are not indivisible loads and should be moved under C&U Regs. If they are moved outside C&U requirements enforcement action will be taken where identified. The article does reference the movement of 2 containers as not being indivisible.

  25. Comment by Neill posted on

    26000kg? The combination should be 44000kg?
    The unit running solo shouldn't weigh more than 26000kg?

    • Replies to Neill>

      Comment by Julia (DVSA) posted on

      Hi Neil. That is correct the maximum train weight for the combination is 44,000kgs and 26,000kgs for the tractor unit.

  26. Comment by Fern posted on

    The maximum C&U length on a wagon and drag is 18.75 meters .
    Can it legally have a 1 meter overhang on the the rear of the trailer ?

    • Replies to Fern>

      Comment by Julia (DVSA) posted on

      Hi Fern. The maximum rear overhang under C&U Regs would be 1-2 metres provided it is clearly visible, 2-3 metres with end marker boards and over 3metres with end and side markers, 2 days police notification and attendant/escort.

  27. Comment by Colin posted on

    If the 2 20ft containers had been a 40ft would this then be legal at 17.65m?

    • Replies to Colin>

      Comment by Julia (DVSA) posted on

      Hi Colin. The maximum permitted length for an articulated combination is 16.5metres. The containers are not an indivisible load so need to comply with C&U requirements. In this instance the issue was created by the length of the tractor unit.

      • Replies to Julia (DVSA)>

        Comment by Colin posted on

        So you are saying that it can't cary a 40ft as a singe load cos it will be 17.5m long
        And the goverment talks about the enviroment
        Putting it on a separate truck with a crane at each end is worse stop working in the 60S

        • Replies to Colin>

          Comment by Julia (DVSA) posted on

          Hi Colin. The legislation specifies 16.5 metres for a trailer. DVSA's role is to ensure companies operate within the regulations. Companies which work within the rules could be commercially disadvantaged if others operate outside these regulations in terms of trailer weight or length.

  28. Comment by Hazdriver posted on

    Not before time, crane ballast weights are not indivisable

    • Replies to Hazdriver>

      Comment by Rob Price posted on

      Special dispensation for crane ballast in the regs.
      Order of the Secretary of State under section 44 road traffic act 1988

      • Replies to Rob Price>

        Comment by Julia (DVSA) posted on

        Hi Rob In certain circumstances some types of crane ballast vehicles and trailers can be operated under a Vehicle Special Order issued by the VCA.

  29. Comment by ALAN LIVINGSTONE posted on

    • Replies to ALAN LIVINGSTONE>

      Comment by Julia (DVSA) posted on

      Hi Alan - this has now been amended to say '80 tonnes lifting capacity or more'. Thanks

      • Replies to Julia (DVSA)>

        Comment by Ron posted on

        It made me laugh when I read that in the email, glad to see it got rectified in the article quickly.

        We have a four axle 32T rigid that we maintain for a customer, it has a large crane. I was surprised at just how heavy it was - I had to keep taking our weights off until I got it right for the brake test the first time we did it! Even putting a 1T weight at the front of the bed made it overweight on axle two, it can barely carry 8T!

        • Replies to Ron>

          Comment by Julia (DVSA) posted on

          Hi Ron. You are right this is exactly the issue we are trying to highlight.