Weight limits and abnormal loads

Since February 2001 standard vehicles with gross loaded weight up to 44 tonnes have been allowed to travel freely on the roads. Loads are classed as 'abnormal' when a non-standard vehicle is used to transport loads above 44 tonnes or loads with dimensions which are excessively high, wide or long.

Obligations of the haulier

Before a haulier can move an abnormal load they must notify and gain consent from the:

  • county/borough council
  • local highway authority
  • police

In addition, the haulier must have provided an annual order of indemnity to the relevant council, highway authority and all other bridge owners (e.g. Network Rail) along the proposed route. This is required by the department for transport.

Choosing the route for an abnormal load

Once a notification has been received, the abnormal loads officer checks and agrees the proposed route. The officer takes into account the height, width, length and weight of the load to be moved and assesses clearance of any bridges or any other physical constraints along the route. Some abnormal loads may require police escort or self escort. No movements in Dorset during the hours of darkness are permitted.

All abnormal load movements within Dorset require authorisation from the abnormal loads officer within Dorset police. All notifications will be acknowledged and then authorised or refused in writing.

An abnormal load can potentially go on any road providing the haulier complies with the law. Some roads are more suitable and more extensively used, usually Class A roads or a highway authority designated route.

Providing notice of the abnormal load

Before transporting an abnormal load the law requires the Haulier to give a minimum of 2 days notice to the highway authority, bridge owners and the police.

The notice period is different for loads over 150 tonnes, 6.1 metres in width or 27.4 metres long. 

Hauliers who need to move abnormal loads can obtain more information about regulations and notification from the Department for Transport.

Page last updated: 25 February 2021
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