Before you start out on your exciting adventure, it’s vitally important that you get to grips with the weight of your motorhome, and understand why this is so important.
Overloading your motorhome is both dangerous and illegal. As a motorhome owner you have a legal responsibility to ensure that you are driving your motorhome safely and in a manner that won’t cause an accident, and this includes correct loading of your vehicle.
Why is an overloaded motorhome dangerous?
On one occasion in 2010, every single motorhome that was stopped at a police/Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) random check was overweight, so it is very easy to do. So, what do you need to know, and what do you need to do, to ensure that you enjoy a safe, hassle-free trip?
You and the law
If you passed your driving test before 1st January 1997, are under the age of 70, and have no medical conditions restricting your licence, you can drive a motorhome up to 7500kg Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM), or 8250kg with a trailer. This covers all British and European motorhomes, and some American ones too.
If you passed your driving test after 1st January 1997, you are allowed to drive up to 3500kg MAM, or 4250kg with a trailer (the trailer must not exceed 750kg). This will still enable you to drive the majority of motorhomes available on the market. To drive vehicles of an increased weight an additional driving test is required.
The 3500kg rule also applies when you reach 70 years of age, unless you apply to the DVLA to retain your 7500kg entitlement. You will usually have to undergo a medical.
If your vehicle handbook does not list a towing limit, have a look at the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) plate. This should give the Gross Train Weight (GTW) – the largest figure – followed by the Maximum Gross Weight (MGW). Deduct the MGW from the GTW, and the difference is normally your maximum towing limit. It is an offence to tow a trailer that exceeds the Maximum Towing Weight (MTW).
It is vitally important to avoid overloading your motorhome, and to ensure this you will need to know the payload of the vehicle. The payload is the difference between the maximum allowable weight of the vehicle and its weight as it left the factory. This figure will tell you the maximum weight you can add to your motorhome for personal items. To give you an idea, a set of saucepans can weigh up to 2kg and folding camp chairs can weigh in at 1kg each. Add clothing, food and bedding to the mix and you can discover that you have exceeded your weight limit very quickly.
The best advice is to pack up your motorhome as if you were actually going away with everything you would normally take on board, including all passengers, and then take it to your local weighbridge (check with your local council for locations) to find out its loaded weight. If you find that you are carrying more weight than is legal, then you may be able to re-plate the vehicle to an increased weight. Depending on the chassis, this could simply be a paperwork exercise. However, it could also involve chassis, suspension and brake upgrades which might be very costly.
Make sure that you store heavy items low and forward, and lightweight items high. Ensure heavy items can’t slide into any fixed equipment, and try to balance the load between the two sides of the motorhome. By doing this, you can minimise swing, sway or wobble on the road by keeping the vehicle’s centre of gravity low, and also ensure that braking and steering remain stable.
It is an offence if your motorhome has a weight on either axle that exceeds the individual axle limit. The Gross Axle Weight (GAW) is the actual weight placed on a single axle. In a well balanced vehicle, the GAW should be evenly distributed to all tyres on that axle improving the safety of the vehicle.
Top five motorhome weight tips
Whether purchasing an old or new motorhome, ask for a weighbridge certificate and confirmation in writing of the payload figure. Ensure you find out exactly what has been weighed to produce this figure.
Weigh your fully loaded motorhome (including passengers, fuel, water, luggage, etc) to ensure that you are fully road legal. Your local council will be able to tell you the location of your nearest weighbridge, and a certificate should cost you less than £10.
Check your vehicle for unsecured loads. Identify any heavy items that may be stored in an overhead locker which could dislodge in transit and compromise road safety.
Ensure that you distribute payload weight as equally as you can between the two sides of the motorhome.
Evenly distribute the motorhome’s weight over each axle, taking care never to exceed the Gross Axle Weight.
Remember, if you are stopped by police and your motorhome is found to be overweight, you can be prevented from continuing with your journey until the excess weight has been removed. You may also be fined or prosecuted.
In the event that you are involved in an incident and you are deemed to be overloaded and in breach of the statutory weight limitations for the motorhome, your insurance could be invalidated. If you have any doubt, call your insurance company for advice; if you are insured with Club Care then call our help team on 01277 243060. If you aren’t insured with Club Care then get an online quote today and see how much you could save or call the number above!
A little bit of time spent making sure everything is right, will ensure that you arrive at your chosen destination happily and safely.