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How Do You Weigh a Lorry?

How Do You Weigh a Lorry?

With the number of Weigh in Motion Sensors (WiMS) and random checks on the rise, it’s more important than ever to know the weight of your vehicles. Not adhering to the legal limits can result in large fines.

Luckily there are a number of options available for your business. We’ll cover them all in this blog post, as well as listing the pros and cons of each.

The Issues With Overloaded Lorries

Overloaded trucks actually cause more issues than you might think. Trucks with a higher than recommended weight increase the risk of accidents, cause a quicker deterioration of the road and infrastructure, and even cause unfair distinctions between transportation modes and operators. The IATSS produced an in depth report about the effects of overloaded trucks, which we’ve summarised here.

Increased Risk to Road Users

Due to their centre of gravity shifting and making them unstable, overloaded trucks actually increase the possibility of accidents. The more weight a vehicle has, the longer it needs to stop, and, in the event of a crash, the more damage it can do. This is because an overloaded vehicle can become unstable, especially when weight is not equally-dispersed. This can lead to longer braking distances, overspeeding when driving downhill and increased congestion due to slower speeds.

An overloaded truck also reduces tyre tread quicker. It can even result in tyres overheating, which increases the risk of Tyre Blowout.

Damage to Infrastructure

Overloaded trucks increase the possibility of pavement wear, cracks and rutting, all of which reduce the longevity of the road. Philippa Edmunds of better transport, actually reports that a 44-tonne truck is over 138,000 times more damaging than a typical, 1 tonne car (such as a Ford Fiesta). Bridges also fall victim to overloaded trucks when their capacity is exceeded due to the overweight truck.

The Impact of Overloaded Lorries on the Economy

Competition between transportation modes and companies becomes rife as a result of overloading lorries. Overloading is especially unfair to the majority of law-abiding operators, who adhere to the weight restrictions set by the law.

If they’re carrying more weight than they’re supposed to, lorries can also offset the demand for rail and boats because they’ll be seen as the “better” transportation. This also violates taxation rules, such as tolls and vehicle registration fees.

How to Weigh a Lorry

There are currently only two ways of directly weighing a lorry: Weighbridges and Axle Weigh Pads. However, weighing goods before they are loaded is also an option, which extends the range to pallet truck scales, platform scales and weigh beams/U-Frame scales.

A vehicle can be overloaded on all its axles, its gross weight or its trail weight, all of which would be considered separate offences. So if a lorry was overloaded on two axles and its gross weight, this would result in 3 separate fines. Weight limits are given on the manufacturer’s plate or the Department’s plate on each vehicle. They are determined by the technical specification of the vehicle and the need to protect U.K. roads and bridges from excessive wear and tear.


Weighbridges are used to calculate the load carried by a vehicle, by weighing the vehicle when empty and when loaded. This can be done either with your own personal on-site weighbridge or using one of the private weighbridges located around the country.

Having a weighbridge on the site is one of the easiest ways to ensure you’re complying to legal regulations. By weighing your vehicles before they leave the site, you will be able to avoid any financial or legal fines from overloading.

However, with a total cost in the region of £16k and above they’re not the most common answer. There’s also an additional limitation, as weighbridges need significant space, which is not always available.

Axle Weigh Pads

Axle Weigh Pads are used to determine the individual axle weights and total gross weight of a vehicle. One of the added benefits of them is that they’re designed to be lightweight and portable. This means that they can actually be transported with a lorry and, therefore, can be used throughout the journey, as required.

Axle Weigh Pads are also a fraction of the cost of installing a weighbridge, and in some ways, more accurate. Weighbridges can only determine the gross weight of a vehicle, whereas Axle Weigh Pads can calculate the total weight of each axle. This means that they will also highlight uneven loading, which can reduce wear and tear on your vehicles.

Our AP-200 Axle Weigh Pads are ideal for weighing all types of vehicles, whether static or in motion. Each pad has a capacity of 10 tonnes - so upto 20 tonnes per axle can be weighed.

Marsden AP-200 Axle Weigher
Marsden AP-200 Axle Weigher

How to Weigh Goods Before They Are Loaded

Pallet Truck Scales

Pallet truck scales are one of the best options for pre-weighing your goods. With a portable pallet truck scale, you can weigh your load, while loading it onto the lorry. This increases efficiency as it takes less time to weigh the load and pallet truck scales cost significantly less than both Axle Weigh Pads and Weighbridges. However, it’s important that you know the weight of your lorry when empty (the tare weight), as it’s not actually possible to weigh the lorry itself with these scales.

We have a wide range of pallet truck scales available, including waterproof pallet truck scales.

Platform Scales

Whilst not providing the speed and flexibility of pallet truck scales, which allow you to weigh and move the goods at the same time, platform scales are in most cases more accurate that pallet truck scales and, if required, can weigh up to a higher capacity. We have a wide range of platform scales, with capacities ranging from 600kg to 5000kg, depending on your need.

A few years ago we compared the speed of weighing goods using a pallet truck and using a platform scale. Watch the video.

If you want to weigh palletised goods and you use a fork truck, consider a pit mounted platform scale, which simply allows you to drive over the scale to get a weight. You'll need to know the weight of the fork truck, though, in order to remove it from the scale's weight reading.

Weighbeams and U-Frame Scales

Weighbeams and U frame scales are a portable alternative to platform scales. They have wheels and handles, which means they can be taken to the item to weigh them, rather than the other way around. Weighbeams and U frames can also be stored away when not in use.

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Further Reading

Weight distribution can also have a big effect on the handling of your vehicle. Read all about it in this blog post.If you’re transporting goods in the UK, it’s important to know the law on vehicle weights. Find out about capacities and the fines associated with overloading on this post.Improving efficiency should always be a business target. Our blog post covers 5 ways freight companies can improve efficiency.