I know this statement might have a few of you fired up, but take a deep breathe and hear me out. Yes, you might be under GVM, and you might be under GCM, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you are legal, does it?
In actual fact, there’s a couple of other weights that you need to comply with, which are incredibly easy to go over in a normal 4WD. If you have a Yank Tank, or an actual truck you’ll probably be just fine, but for those of you in normal vehicles (especially without GVM/GCM upgrades) it can be a slippery slope.
So, how might you be over weight?
Front axle weight
If you are running a bull bar, winch, or bash plates, it would pay to get your vehicle weighed on the front axles both when hooked up to your trailer, and when not. A lot of 4WD’s are over their maximum front axle capacity with a few bolt on modifications, as these are heavy items far forward, and the front axle does not generally have a huge amount of lee-way for weight increase.
Ironically, when you tow a trailer often the front axle weight will comply, as the leverage of the tow ball weight takes weight off the front axles. Do you know what your maximum front axle weight is, and what your vehicle currently weighs on the front wheels?
Rear axle weight
The next, and easiest weight to exceed is your rear axle weight. On top of your GVM, you need to comply with the maximum axle weights, and if you have a lot of weight on the rear of your 4WD (like a heavy tow ball weight) this is super easy to exceed.
Again, leverage from the tow ball weight comes into play. For many dual cab Utes, for every kg of tow ball weight you add, it adds about 1.5kg onto the rear axle. This means a heavy tow ball weight (say 300kg) will apply about 432kg onto the rear axle, and that’s without any other gear.
Add the tow bar itself (50 – 70kg), plus fuel, passengers, gear, a rear bar and anything else that might add weight onto the rear of your vehicle and you can be easily over the rear axle capacity.
It’s super important to know that the payload of your vehicle cannot be put on the rear axle of your vehicle. If you have a 800kg payload available, and you put most of that on the back of the vehicle its going to exceed the rear axle weight considerably and be illegal.
Tow ball weight
If you’ve never weighed your tow ball weight, its time to do so. Not only is it imperative to ensure you are towing a rig that is stable, safe and well balanced, but it can easily make you illegal. If you exceed the maximum tow ball weight as specified by the vehicle manufacturer, or the tow bar manufacturer, you are in dangerous territory.
Also, consider what happens when your water tanks empty on your camper trailer or caravan, as many are located behind the rear axle and can take a ridiculously heavy tow ball weight to a level that is likely to damage your chassis, and put you well over the maximum weight scales.
How do you ensure that you are under weight?
The best way to maintain full insurance and legal stance is to have a mobile weighing company come out and weigh your setup when its fully loaded, and ready to roll. They will weigh your axles, and look at your GVM, GCM, tow ball weight and give you a green tick for each, or a red cross.
You can move a few things around while they are there as needed, but I’m told 60 – 80% of people who get their setups weighed are over weight, and that’s pretty shocking.
If you are well over, you have a couple of options. GVM upgrades can get you by (and some will increase the axle capacities if that’s where you fall short), some states still allow GCM upgrades (but whether they are a real thing is an interesting and controversial topic) or you need to lose some weight from anywhere possible, or look at getting a different tow vehicle, or trailer.
Taking the risk and driving a rig around Australia that is overweight is a major risk. Best case you get pulled over, weighed, fined and told to leave your van there and collect it with something more suitable.
Worst case, you have a bad accident and other people are injured or killed. In the latter, your insurance company is going to weigh everything, work out it was over weight and not cover a cent towards the damage to your vehicle, and to anyone else.
Worse still, if the weight contributed to the accident you can be criminally liable for others, and that’s not a position anyone wants to be in.
Are you legal and towing more than 2500kg?