The table below is a summary of GB maximum gross weights for goods vehicles set out in the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 as amended (C&U), and the Road Vehicles (Authorised Weight) Regulations 1998 as amended (AWR). The table highlights some of the principal criteria that must be met for operation at such weights. Please note that other criteria may apply and for full details, the regulations should be consulted.


Rigid motor vehicles

2 17000 18000
3 25000 (26000 with road friendly suspension) 25000 (26000 with road friendly suspension)
4 or more 30000 (32000 with road friendly suspension) 30000 (32000 with road friendly suspension)

Articulated vehicles

3 25000 (26000 with road friendly suspension) 26000
4 32520 (35000 with road friendly suspension) 36000 (38000)1
5 38000 (440002) 40000)
6 44000 2 44000 3

Drawbar combinations

4 32520 (35000 with road friendly suspension) 36000 4
5 32520 (38000 with road friendly suspension) 40000 4
6 44000 2 440003 34


‘Road friendly suspension’ is defined in the AWR as a suspension system whereby at least 75% of the spring effect is produced by air or other compressible fluid under pressure or suspension recognised as being equivalent within the community as defined in Annex II of Council Directive 96/53/EC.

‘Combined transport operation’ — details of the exemptions relating to combined transport operations can be found in schedule 11A of the C&U Regulations.

Detailed information

For more detailed information, the regulations themselves should be consulted. Maximum weights can be found in sections 7579A and Schedule 11 and 11A of the Road Vehicle (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 as amended (C&U), Statutory Instrument number 1078.

In addition to these regulations, from 1 January 1999 the maximum weight limits contained within EU Directive 96/53/EC were adopted by GB as part of the Road Vehicle (Authorised Weight) Regulations 1998 as amended (AWR), statutory instrument number 3111. The Authorised Weight Regulations operate in parallel to the Construction and Use Regulations but vehicles may only comply with one of the regulations – individual parts of the 2 regulations cannot be combined. Details of how to obtain copies of both C&U and AWR can be found in sections 4 and 5.

International Transport Operations – European Directive 96/53/EC

European Directive 96/53/EC lays down for certain vehicles circulating within the European Community, the maximum authorised dimensions in national and international traffic and the maximum authorised weights in international traffic.

The Road Vehicle (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986

These regulations are not available on the internet and have been amended many times which makes it very onerous to piece together the latest form of the regulations. However these regulations are available in a consolidated format in most city reference libraries, from companies who publish law. One example is Sweet and Maxwell who publish the ‘The encyclopaedia of road traffic law and practice’. This publication is continually updated and Volume 4 contains a full version of the abovementioned regulations in consolidated format. Other possible suppliers include InterRegs, who charge around £160 for a fully consolidated version of the Construction and Use Regulations:

Alternatively, it is possible to purchase printed copies of the Statutory Instruments that comprise the regulations from the TSO:

The Stationery Office
TSO Orders/Post Cash Dept
PO Box 29

Tel: 0870 600 5522
Fax: 0870 600 5533
e-mail: [email protected]
Online ordering:
Customer service:

The Road Vehicles(Authorised Weight) Regulations 1998

These regulations are available from the sources listed above for the Construction and Use Regulations and

These regulations have been amended by:

a) The Road Vehicles (Authorised weight) (Amendment) Regulations 2000 Statutory Instrument 2000 No. 3224
b) The Road Vehicles (Authorised weight) (Amendment) Regulations 2001 Statutory Instrument 2001 No. 1125

Plated weights

There are 2 types of plating – ‘manufacturers’ plating and ‘ministry’ plating.

‘Manufacturers’ plating. With limited exceptions, all goods vehicles must be equipped with a ‘manufacturers plate’ which, along with other details, must display the name of the manufacturer and the maximum axle, gross and train weights at which the vehicle is designed to operate.

‘Ministry’ plating. The ministry plate or plating certificate is issued by DVSA to goods vehicles above 3500kg gross weight and denotes the potential maximum legal weight of the vehicle. In GB the ‘plate’ is usually carried in the cab of heavy goods vehicles or attached to the trailer chassis in the case of heavy trailers.

In any case, the maximum weights specified on either the vehicle’s manufacturers plate’ or ‘ministry plate’ must not be exceeded. If you are unsure which weights on either of these plates must not be exceeded, the vehicle manufacturer or DVSA are likely to be best placed to provide advice.


The weight limits displayed on either the manufacturers’ plate or ministry plate are determined by the technical specification of the vehicle and the need to protect GB roads and bridges from excessive wear. Vehicles are permitted to operate at weights above 44 tonnes in exceptional circumstances (such as when moving abnormal indivisible loads) but special provisions are in place to deal with such occasions, which can be found in the Road Vehicles (Authorisation of Special Types) (General) Order 2003.

A vehicle is overloaded if it exceeds the weight limits displayed on either the manufacturers’ or ministry plates. A vehicle could be overloaded on its axle(s), gross and train weight. Each of these would be separate offences, for example a 3 axle articulated vehicle exceeding the plated weights on the 1st axle, 2nd axle and gross weight would make both the vehicle operator and driver liable to three separate offences.

It is important that vehicles are not overloaded, given that the effects are likely to be:

  • road safety: vehicles that are loaded beyond their design weight are likely to be less stable and will take longer to stop, particularly in an emergency
  • road wear: the structural road wear attributable to vehicles is normally assumed to be proportional to the fourth power of the axle weight — this means for example that a 10% increase in the weight imposed on a road by an axle is assumed to increase structural road wear by 46%, and a vehicle with 2 times the axle weight of another vehicle will cause 16 times the wear
  • competition – overloading provides illegal operators with an unfair advantage over those operating within the legal limits

If a vehicles’ gross or axle weight limits are found to have been exceeded when weighed by either DVSA, the police or trading standards officers, the company and/or driver risk prosecution. In addition to this, an overloading conviction is one of the factors that could lead to a Traffic Commissioner taking disciplinary action against the operator’s licence. Further information on the effects and possible consequences of overloading is available on GOV.UK.

Further information

If you have any further queries, contact the International Vehicle Standards Team at:

International Vehicle Standards
Department for Transport
Zone 1/34, Great Minster House
33 Horseferry Road, London, SW1P 4DR

Email: [email protected]

The information in this document is a summary of the departments understanding of what the law requires. However, ultimately the interpretation of the law is a matter for the courts based on individual facts of any particular case. You are therefore advised to consult the relevant legislation and, if necessary, seek independent advice

  1. 38000kg if the combination consists of a 2 axle tractor unit and 2 axle semi trailer where the gross weight of the tractor unit does not exceed 18000kg and the gross weight of the semi trailer does not exceed 20000kg. The drive axle must be fitted with twin tyres and road friendly suspension and the trailer axle spacing February 2010 must be at least 1.8m. 

  2. Operation at over 38000kg under the C&U regulations is restricted to combined transport operations. 2 3

  3. For operation above 40000kg, the drive axle(s) must not exceed 10500kg and have road friendly suspension OR have a maximum axle weight not exceeding 8500kg. Each part of the combination must have 3 axles and the trailer must have road friendly suspension. Additionally, an engine complying with at least Euro 2 specification (or gas) is needed for operation over 41000kg2

  4. Distance of not less than 3m is required between the rear axle of the motor vehicle and the front axle of the trailer. 2 3

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