Who determines what load can be carried safely?

Submitted: Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 13:50
ThreadID: 98308 Views:4764 Replies:9 FollowUps:16
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We purchased an off road caravan. It had 200 mm chassis rails. It had full off road suspension. It had a compliance plate that said we could carry only 300 kgs in it which included the gas and water.
We had 9 kg gas and three 70 liter water tanks which add up to 210 kgs of water.
That leaves me with 81 Kgs of stuff of my own to carry.
Now how much food can I carry?
How much can I fit into a full length pantry provided?
How much can I fit into a 150 liter fridge provided?
How much clothes can I fit into the two large draws provided for clothes?
What about my fishing gear? What about some bed linen? Not to mention the toiletries, towing accessories and tools.
Is there any wonder that I was already close to 300 kg's over before any water was put in the water tanks?
My caravan maker suggests I was at fault overloading the van.
I have seen a 6 X 4 trailer with ordinary brakes and suspension and a chassis no more than 100 mm deep carrying loads that would be more than 500 kg payload.
Why can a 6 X 4 trailer carry loads under 750 kg's without electric brakes when a Off road caravan with the best suspension and strongest chassis and electric brakes is only allowed to carry 300 kg's?
The manufacturer states a single wheel van can carry 300 kg's and a duel wheel can carry 400 kg's. There is no reference to the strength of the chassis or the beefier suspension.
The funny thing about it is when I complained to the manufacturer they said that they would change the readings on my compliance plate to read whatever I needed.
Why then isn't there an engineer recommendation report stating to every manufacturer that different body/suspensions strengths can carry differing payloads?
Why buy a strong body when a weak one can carry as much?
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Reply By: Peter_n_Margaret - Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 14:45

Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 14:45
ATMs of vans are typically set to 300 kg more than tare for a single axle van and 400kg over tare for a twin axle van in the mistaken belief that the ATM determined the tug required to tow it.
That is crap.
There is nothing stopping a tug with a towing capacity of 2 tonns from towing a trailer with an ATM of 4 tonns PROVIDED the actual weight of the trailer does not exceed 2 tonns.

The ATM can be set according to the engineering of the trailer by the manufacturer or an engineer. The maximum ATM will be determined by the brakes, the A frame, the wheels and tyres, the chassis etc, etc. The weakest of all of those will be the one which is the decider.

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Reply By: blown4by - Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 14:59

Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 14:59
Problem is that the van manufacturers make the van so heavy with all the equipment they cram in to them so when you deduct the Tare weight from the ATM there is very little margin left for any decent sort of payload to be carried. Also the van makers want to keep the ATM as low as possible so Joe average does have to go out and spend big bucks to by an F350 to legally pull the van because if they told the customer the truth they would go and purchase a lower weight van.
AnswerID: 495877

Reply By: bluefella - Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 17:51

Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 17:51
g'day Alan & Dale
the chassis is manufactured to carry a maximum weight, ie: 2t that includeds the weight chassis, finished caravan on top tare weight 1700kg's, 300kg's left for gear,some makers weigh em' before aircon or fridge is installed,if i was buying a new van i would insist on weighbridge dockett with ever thing installed.
all in all it's b#%*@y dissapointing.
AnswerID: 495884

Reply By: olcoolone - Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 18:42

Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 18:42
Weight carrying is set by axle capacity..... there is no point in using a 2000kg axle for a van weighing 1200kg.
AnswerID: 495892

Follow Up By: Life Member - Doug T (NT) - Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 06:43

Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 06:43
I don't agree with your comment, I have always gone one better when doing things through my life, if you need a battery for the car, get bigger than what was in it when new, if you need a 12 inch ruler, get a 24 inch ruler, so the same would apply to an axle in my opinion, then you know it won't fail.

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Follow Up By: pop2jocem - Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 15:00

Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 15:00
Hey Doug,

You forgot the most important one of all

If you think you need a 30' long shed build one at least 40' long (maybe bigger) especially if you are a hoarder like me (;-))

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Follow Up By: olcoolone - Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 18:38

Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 18:38
Well thats great Doug but your not the avearge consumer who only needs something in X capacity and doesn't want to pay more for some thing bigger they think they don't need.

In your way of thinking; if you have a wife and two kids you should not buy a five seater vehicle...... you should buy a 45 seater bus.... bigger is better!

Or a caravan that sleeps eight even that there is only two of yous using it
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Follow Up By: Life Member - Doug T (NT) - Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 18:53

Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 18:53
Hey mate...if I had a caravan to sleep 8 , 7 of the beds would have blondes in 'em, but at my age I'd probably have a heart attack.

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Follow Up By: Robert H2 - Monday, Oct 01, 2012 at 11:54

Monday, Oct 01, 2012 at 11:54
olcoolone, your assessment that a vans carrying capacity is determined by axle size alone is way to simple.

A vehicles structural components are (or should be) engineered to cope with a whole range of forces that are applied to them in operation. Off road vans have higher dynamic forces applied than road based vans and thus requires a different design. The van components that need specific design consideration include, but are not limited to; wheels, suspension, chassis and drawer bar, and the vans floor, walls and roof.

When the manufacturer can come up with a way of building the van which is light but strong enough to cope with all the load applied, then the saving in weight will increase the weight carrying capacity of the vehicle.

The savings in weight can be made in a number of ways, with the most common being the selection of lightweight material such as high tensile steel or even lightweight aluminum alloys. I recently saw carbon fiber components in a caravan.

This is the approach taken by car manufactures with Range Rover just announcing that the next model will be 400Kg lighter essentially due to the increased use of aluminum.

The approach of making it stronger by making it heavier is self defeating.
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Reply By: pop2jocem - Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 18:53

Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 18:53
Alan & Dale,

I posted a thread on The Caravan forum almost word for word as you have here including the analogy about the 6'x4' trailer. Yeah my 6'x4' has a Tare of 200kg and as it has no brakes 750kg GTM. Clearly a pay load of 550kg. My 22'x8' caravan has a tare of 2050kg and a payload according to the compliance plate of 450kg. With 2x 80lt water tanks full a couple of gas bottles and before I add food, clothing, crockery, cutlery and all the other bits and bobs that us and most others like to carry it doesn't take long to exceed the total legal payload. It appears from the replies that I got the main problem is a lack of any regulatory body to control that particular industry. And don't think the Recreational Vehicle Manufacturers Association has any control. AFAIK it is made up of the main van industry members.
It looks like this industry is pretty much a law unto itself. Now that is not to say all of them are driven only by the almighty dollar but there doesn't appear to be anyone to enforce a legally binding set of rules that make common sense.

Just my personal opinion.
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Follow Up By: blown4by - Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 13:32

Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 13:32
Spot on! Hear hear.
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Reply By: nutwood - Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 20:04

Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 20:04
My feeling is that one can get too hung up on the weights specified on compliance plates.
There's plenty of vehicles out there that are rated to carry the magic ton, but have you seen what they look (and drive!) like if someone actually drops a genuine 1000kg's in the back?
My work ute is a Jeep J20, GCM (yep, that's combined mass, vehicle and trailer) is rated at 3700kg. With tools and full tanks of fuel it tips the scales at 3500kg, and that's without a driver! I regularly carry a cubic metre of gravel on the back and often tow a large trailer. It handles it quite comfortably, which wouldn't be any surprise to anyone familiar with this model. With the trailer on I've gone over a weighbridge at over 7000kg, and yet the plate says 3700kg?
I'd suggest you load your caravan to what feels comfortable and safe. How you load any trailer counts for a lot more than the actual mass. A 6 x 4 trailer with 500kg of sand sitting at the back is going to be far more dangerous than your caravan with a 1000kg's well distributed down low. Just make sure that whatever you tow it with is heavier than what it's towing and the load in the van is well forward so it can't start to throw the back of the vehicle about. If not I can guarantee some white knuckle moments if you go down hill at over about 80km/h!
AnswerID: 495897

Follow Up By: pop2jocem - Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 00:21

Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 00:21
While I agree with you about distributing your load as you have said and having a tow vehicle that is not out weighed by the trailer I think what all this is about is either getting pinged for overloading by the scalees because what your van or trailer weighs exceeds what the compliance plate says or in the unfortunate situation where you are involved in a serious accident your insurance does not want to pay out because you have exceeded the manufacturers specs.

FollowupID: 771514

Follow Up By: Member - Josh - Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 00:27

Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 00:27
You beat me to it Pop. I was going to ask Nutwood if your going to pay for any accidents he has cause his insurance won't if he is over loaded. Also if some one dies as a result of the accident and your over loaded then charges will be laid. Regardless of what you think it can handle, ignoring compliance plates makes you responsible for everything.

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Follow Up By: blown4by - Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 13:16

Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 13:16
or if you get sued civilly because the fact you were overloaded and that caused or contributed to the crash. Ppl are being awarded sums around A$9M these days for being TPI from road trauma.
Why not spend another $10 or $20K and buy the correct size vehicle to carry or tow the load of your choice.
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Follow Up By: nutwood - Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 17:55

Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 17:55
Predictable responses. I understand where you are coming from but the point I'm making is that the compliance plate rating on smaller vehicles has little to do with reality in many cases.
I'm an ex truck driver and I take the load ratings on trucks very seriously. They are designed as load carrying vehicles and the figures reflect properly engineered conclusions.
When we come to the smaller vehicles it's a lot more haphazard. My J20 has the same GVM as GCM. This is because Jeep didn't specify a GCM. In WA, where it was previously registered, they automatically add 1000kg to the GVM and call it the GCM when there's nothing specified. Tasmania has a different policy. They don't add anything. No engineering there!
I've been told that the 3700kg comes from the US designation of vehicles. A traditional Jeep is a 1/4 ton, a F100 is a 1/2 ton, a F250 a 3/4 ton and a F350 a 1 ton. It goes back to the military designations and reflects the load a vehicle can carry over any terrain.
My J20 is a 3/4 ton, so is allowed 750kg over tare. No engineering there!
With regard to the hazards involved in using your common sense and simply ignoring the plate, that's your call. I've never seen a light vehicle pulled over and put over the scales, unless it's an obvious problem. We've all seen them. The commodore with a big van behind, swaying up the road at 70km/h, with the safety chains sending up sparks. Ironically, when weighed, they probably transgress less than my Jeep but I know which I'd rather be driving!
Insurance wise, if I'm involved in an accident caused by my over loading, I'll wear it. I would expect that it would have to be proven that the overloading caused the accident. I'm sensible, I've been driving the same vehicle since 1995. It was purchased to do a job and it's been doing it very well for many years.
I've seen some ridiculously high figures stamped on trailers and I've seen some ridiculously low figures. I prefer to look at the tyre ratings, the chassis, the springs, the brakes and also the weight of the tow vehicle, before making judgement on what's safe
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Follow Up By: blown4by - Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 19:41

Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 19:41
nutwood, in WA they don't just 'add 1000kg' to the GVM to calculate the GCM if none is quoted. Light vehicles generally do not have a GCM quoted on the compliance plate apart from NA category vehicles which are designated light commercial and are therefore primarily for load carrying. In WA, if the towing capacity is not in their database the DoT would check the Owners manual to see if a towing capacity is quoted or failing that would ask the owner to obtain a letter from the manufacturer specifying the towing capacity or GCM. With some vehicles the GVM and GCM are the same because the manufacturer did not intend that a trailer should be towed at all whether it has brakes or not..
Military designations has nothing to do with the GVM/GCM. It is calculated by the manufacturer on an engineering basis taking in to account vehicle safety, it strength (so it won't break) and what they are prepared to warrant the vehicle to carry/tow. Australian compliance plates are fitted in Australia and the load ratings have nothing to do with overseas markets.
I am not sure what you mean by 'predictable responses'. If you mean those of us who take responsibility for their safety and that of other road users seriously are less sensible than yourself who by your own admission seem to load your vehicle to whatever weigh you think is OK, well good luck to you.......you will probably need it. I would not like to be in your position as a witness in court when you try to convince the judge that you know more about safe the loading of a vehicle than those who designed it.
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Follow Up By: nutwood - Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 20:32

Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 20:32
Sorry mate. I lived and worked in WA for 32 years. I drove heavy vehicles for a living. The "1000kg added to GVM" quote came from the Department of Transport when I queried the figures for my J20. Basically they reckoned that any light commercial should be OK towing 1000kg so, in the absence of manufacturer information, they were prepared to concede that. If an owner could mount a case for a higher figure they'd look at it. Things undoubtedly have changed now but that was how it was done.
I'm trying to make the point that whilst persons like yourself have the fond belief that the numbers stamped on plates are based on solid engineering reality, the truth is not so simple. I quoted my own J20 in a caravan discussion because it's a classic case. The load figures are completely different in WA to Tasmania. My Jeep has a 6.2 litre V8, 12" discs, Dana 60 diffs, 8 stud wheels, spring packs one man can't pick up, and you reckon it can't tow any trailer at all?
A lot of times these figures come out of a little book in someone's office. Single axle; 300kg capacity, dual axle; 400kg capacity. The manufacturers could probably dispute these figures but don't bother because of the cost.
I take a lot of responsibility for safety, probably more than those who slavishly follow the numbers. I'll load a vehicle to what's safe and that's often a lot less than the rated load. What a load is, along with where and how it's carried, counts for a lot more than total mass.

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Reply By: Life Member - Doug T (NT) - Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 06:36

Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 06:36
In the USA all vehicles towing a trailer must pull into the Checking Stations, that includes box trailers, Trailer Homes/Caravans, boats etc, the same should apply here, I have seen box trailers with so many bricks or soil the axle has bent or a wheel has come off due to excess stress.
So my answer to your question is ....the Scaleys.

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Reply By: Lyn W3 - Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 06:52

Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 06:52
Looking at your profile photos of the van it looks to be a "Little Joey" , it appears that the weight carrying capacity, as others have said, is determined by the rated capacity of the suspension, wheels and tyres. As your van is a two wheel ("single axle") setup check on the specification of the suspension and the rating of the tyres (stamped on the sidewalls) It doesn't matter what fancy 200mm chassis the van has the carrying capacity is determined by these factors.

It appears by the photos that the wheels on the van are 15" diameter, most 15" tyres used on trailers (205/75/15) have a weight capacity of around 8-900kg so maximum Aggregate weight would be 1600-1800 kg.

Also your photos show you carrying three spare wheels and tyres, two on the back and one on the front. That's 100kg or so right there.

AnswerID: 495909

Follow Up By: Member - alandale - Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 12:40

Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 12:40
Not quite a correct observation, you are looking at the Little Joey that I down traded to. My present caravan. It is more like a highway vehicle. The article is writiten about my previous caravan, the Off Road vehicle called the New Age Barra, this vehicle is included in my profile. You will notice the larger Off Road tyres and wheels that the Barra has. They both are allowed to carry only 300 kgs, even as you state one has car tyres and the other has stronger Off Road tyres.
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Follow Up By: Member - alandale - Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 12:49

Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 12:49
Another thing, you may have looked at the New Age Barra photo and have seen the two spare wheels on the back of it and then looked at the New Age Little Joey and saw the spare wheel on the front of it counting three spares in all, it doesn't matter any way the spare wheels are accounted for in the tare weight from the factory, not in the payload.
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Follow Up By: blown4by - Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 13:25

Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 13:25
If the extra two spare wheels are optional accessories I doubt they would be included in the original Tare especilly if they are Dealer or Owner fitted after the van had left the factory. Many manufacturers use 'generic' weighbridge dockets that are 'years' old and are for vans that are of different design and equipment specs possibly than yours. A current docket from a registered weighbridge for your own van is the only way to be sure of the Tare.
FollowupID: 771539

Follow Up By: Member - alandale - Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 14:14

Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 14:14
No, the two spares were not optional extras they are on every one of that model, we traded the New Age Barra in on a New Age Little Joey but we stipulated that we would not take ownership until it was weighed empty and we had a stat deck from the dealer that it weighed the weight written on the compliance plate.
The New Age Barra had more weight distribution problems than they could fix, more than 250 kgs heavier on one side than the other.
Look at my blog on Straight out of the factory.
FollowupID: 771541

Reply By: Robert H2 - Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 17:33

Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 17:33
As has been stated by a number of replies here the manufacturer fixes to each caravan they build a compliance plate that stated amongst other requirements, the Aggregate Total Mass (ATM) for that van. This is the legal total mass for the loaded van and as such if exceeded you (the owner) are breaking the law. This may also mean that you are not covered by insurance.
A reputable manufactured will usually select the approximate ATM for a new van of a specific size and requirements, during the initial concept stage. Most manufactures use computer programs to generate the detailed design to specific loadings, construction method, van configuration, material selection and many other considerations (including build costs). The more prudent manufactures (and their may not be many) will have their design reviewed by independent specialist engineering firms.
This approach would optimize the design and give the manufacture some validation to the ATM figure for his van.
In your case I don't think the manufacture has taken this approach. This is indicated by his willingness to increase the ATM on the compliance plate (what would be the basis for this rerating).
Unfortunately we have manufacturers who use the old approach of "make it big and heavy, so it does not break". This approach is usually seen in lots of heavy mild steel sections in the chassis. It is strong in areas not subject to high loads, thus being heavier than necessary.
I note that for your van (Little Joey) the manufacture nominates a Tare of 1720Kg. Your'e right to get a weight bridge certificate to confirm it meets this weight, and if not get your money back.
Although of no comfort to you, and only for the purposes of comparison, I have recently purchased an off road caravan of a similar size to yours. External length 4.9M vs yours of 5.26M. Tare is 1700KG vs yours of 1720Kg but ATM is 2200Kg vs yours of 2020Kg.
Good luck with trying to get a resolution.

AnswerID: 495947

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