Monday, 25 November 2013

Why Weigh Axles?

Some people wonder why they should weigh their vehicles at all. The obvious is to avoid being caught for overloading. Often though we only get a call from a client after they've been caught and are facing prosecution.

Obviously avoiding getting caught for overloading is an important reason to check axle weights. The fine is often the least of the problems it causes. If a vehicle is stopped at a weight check and found to be overloaded it could well be parked up while the problem is sorted.

Can you afford to have your vehicle stuck at a weigh station for hours while your customer waits for his goods or service? Can you afford to pay the driver while he is sitting there unable to move? How are you going to correct the problem - redistribute the load, or do you need to send another vehicle and driver to take the excess load? Have you got another vehicle and driver just waiting around doing nothing to dash out to the weigh station?

Something that isn't widely known is that an offence with a light commercial vehicle could have an effect on the operators licence. Even though light vans aren't actually on the 'O' licence, offences involving these vehicles will be taken into account by the Traffic Commissioner when considering the matters of 'O' licensing for larger vehicles.

In most cases the knock-on effect of having a vehicle stopped at a weight check far outweighs the fine.
Overloaded vehicle abroad
Overloading - never a good idea!

Weighing axles is not only about avoiding overloading though and many customers find there are some definite positives. To get the most from your vehicles you need to maximise the load. More than one of our customers have found that after installing an axle weighing system that they can get more load on their vehicles than they thought.

Getting more load on your vehicles means you are getting more out of them; working your expensive assets harder.

There are many other reasons to weigh vehicles.

Overloading a vehicle effects many of the major components - brakes, steering, suspension, clutch, tyres. Can you afford to wear out all these expensive items quicker than normal?

And most importantly of all, it has been known for insurance companies to take a negative view of any accident claims which involve an overloaded vehicle. On more than one occasion we have been asked by police accident investigators to weigh vehicles which have involved in accidents.

So, overloading axles can be far more costly than you think.

Monday, 18 November 2013

A very useful exercise

Almost every enquiry we receive involves the mention of portable weighpads.

Weighpads are a terrific product but they do have limitations and can be unpleasant to use when the weather is poor. It's important to use them only for the right applications as they are not the best in every application.

There are certain applications though for which they are ideal and we got involved in one such application last week.

A customer approached us asking if we could help with a health and safety training exercise. All the vehicles to be weighed were 2-axle rigids and the weighing needed to be done at three different locations on two different days.

This is the perfect scenario for using portable weighpads but even so it's not just a case of turning up, throwing the pads on the ground and weighing vehicles. It needs to be done properly to get the best results.

Fortunately all the weighing was done in an area of the country known for being flat so the first requirement, finding a level piece of ground, was quite easy. The more level the ground is, the better the results will be. If there is a slope, then arrange to do the weighing ACROSS the slope NOT up or down it.

Having found a level piece of ground, make sure there are no stones in the area. Ideally, sweep the area to make sure it's clear. A stone under the weighpad could cause an inaccurate weighing and in some circumstances, a heavy wheel could push the stone through the bottom of the pad causing expensive damage and curtailing the weighing exercise instantly.

The weighpads we provide are very low profile which means vehicles can easily get up onto them. Even so, on a day when it's raining the pads can slip on wet ground.
Portable weighpad picture
Portable weighpads - ideal if used correctly for the right job

This is something that is often not appreciated. So many people assume that they can just place the pads on the ground and leave them there. Unfortunately not, someone needs to be there supervising the weighing to make sure the pads are positioned correctly and do not slip out of position..

Even our slim weighpads can be shifted along the ground by an axle accelerating to get onto or off them. Higher, cheaper weighpads are far worse and often getting an axle onto them is impossible.

A supervisor is also required to make sure the drivers do things gently and to make sure wheels are positioned in the middle of the pad.

Drivers being drivers will often think they need to accelerate hard to get onto the pads. Some of the 'boy racer types' will even do it deliberately despite being told by the supervisor to do it gently.

There's a health and safety issue here as well. A vehicle which accelerates hard can cause the pads to fly out from under a wheel possibly hitting anyone in the vicinity and causing a nasty injury. We've seen it happen.

We completed the weighing exercise for our client who was very pleased with the results.

We didn't find any vehicles that were overloaded but we did find one or two that were very close and it wouldn't have taken much more load to cause a problem.

It was a very useful exercise which showed up how careful they have to be to avoid overloading and got the Health & Safety advisors who were there thinking about the issue.

The customer is now in the process of buying some pads of his own so that he can do his own training on a regular basis but on this occasion we were pleased to help out.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Not a lot of people know that....

We often get calls from Transport Managers, some of them working for major names in industry, who seem to lack knowledge when it comes to axle weights. Only yesterday we were contacted by a someone who was puzzled that his gross weight limit could be less than the sum of his axle weight limits. We put him right but it's a common misunderstanding.

So for those in doubt, yes the total of your axle weight limits CAN be greater than your gross weight limit.

There are many others so hopefully we can put some people right with this blog entry.

We also get calls from people who seemed bemused that we can't influence gravity. After all, a weighing machine is only measuring the effect of gravity. We can't influence it, make it pull at an angle because the yard is on a slope or correct weight readings if the driver has one wheel up on the kerb. No axle weighing system can.

The most accurate axle weights will always be achieved if the vehicle is on flat level ground.

The flatness of the ground is  crucial for a dynamic axle weighbridge for instance. Only one axle is on the platform at a time; all the others are on the concrete either side. And the levels aren't affecting the axle weighbridge at all but the vehicle. And every vehicles suspension will react differently to changes in level.We go to great lengths to lay the approach concrete to a very high tolerance to ensure the best accuracy we can.
In-motion axle weighbridge
There's only ever one axle at a time on the axle weighbridge

Beware anyone who says you can just dig a pit anywhere, throw in a narrow plate and weigh axles.

Another question which comes up frequently is the tolerance that VOSA allow. Basically, there isn't one as any overload could attract a prosecution.

Commonly they will only issue a fixed penalty notice for an overload of 10% or more but they will look at it in context. What state is the vehicle in, are there any other faults, is the operator a regular offender, was the load dangerous for instance.

There was one haulier who, thinking the 'tolerance' was 5% regularly sent his vehicles onto the road 4% overloaded. It didn't take VOSA very long to realise what was going on and said haulier was prosecuted as a repeat offender incurring a hefty fine.

You and your vehicle don't even have to be there to be prosecuted. It has also been known for Trading Standards to visit Public Weighbridges and check back through weight tickets. One large waste haulier, now defunct, was found to have committed 133 overloading offences all of which were traced by weight tickets at Public Weighbridges. A sample of around 5 offences were taken to court and prosecuted.

As we know from the calls we get, axle weighing is often misunderstood but we're always happy to answer those questions for you. After all, our combined experience in this specialised field runs into hundreds of years now!