Over 1.2 million vans on UK roads are carrying loads in excess of national weight regulations, new research suggests.

Nearly half of the 250 fleet managers contacted revealed their company does not monitor the weights of its vehicles and of the 500 van drivers questioned 53% didn’t know their vehicle’s maximum load carrying capacity.

The study was commissioned by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles and compiled by OnePoll.

Working alongside the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), Volkswagen says it is aiming to bring to the attention of fleet managers the potential dangers to driving overloaded vehicles.

The DVSA says that of more than 10,800 vans stopped on UK roads last year 89% were found to be overloaded.

Failure to comply with the legal weight limits of vehicles can lead to fines of up to £300, penalty points being added to a driver's license, vehicle immobilisation and, in severe cases, a court summons.

Businesses can face thousands of pounds in extra maintenance costs due to the increased pressure from overloading, Volkswagen says. Overloading can impact on the van’s driving performance and lead to increased stopping distances, difficulty steering and potential overturning of a vehicle. It can also cause excessive wear and tear to tyres, suspension and brakes.

Research showed that three quarters of fleet managers do not realise their insurance could potentially be invalidated if a company vehicle is involved in a crash and found to be over the legal weight limit.

73% of the van drivers questioned were unsure of the effects of overloading their van on the vehicle’s driving performance, while nearly a quarter were unaware of the legal penalties they face if stopped on the road.

Gordon MacDonald, vehicle product manager at the DVSA, said: “The research highlights that a large proportion of van drivers could be breaking the law and posing serious safety risks to themselves and other road users. Overloading is a real issue on our roads and it is the responsibility of both the driver and the business to load vehicles correctly and keep their van within its legal weight limit.”

Trevor Hodgson-Philips, head of service and parts at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles said: “It’s important that businesses choose the right van for the job to avoid unnecessary overloading. Typical cargo volume and knowledge of gross vehicle weight should be taken into consideration before setting off to ensure the safety of the driver and other road users.”

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles has created an online guide which includes information on vehicle payloads and locations of public weighbridges. To access the guide please visit: www.volkswagen-vans.co.uk/vehicle-overloading.