A van weighing more than two tonnes over the legal limit and transporting badly-attached bicycles and tricycles was stopped by gendarmerie in southeast France this week.
Motorway gendarmerie near Valence, Drôme, became suspicious when they noticed the van was travelling too slowly on the A7 motorway.
They also said that the bikes were attached to it in a dangerous way, and were at risk of falling off into the road.
The gendarmerie stopped the driver and weighed the vehicle, and found that it weighed five-and-a-half tonnes, well over the three-and-a-half tonne limit for a van of its size.
This helped to explain why the van was travelling so slowly on the motorway - which is also not allowed.
Gendarmerie fined the driver €630 and banned him from taking the vehicle back on the road.
The driver, from Tunisia, had been travelling towards Marseille with a view to taking a boat to Tunisia.
Instead, gendarmerie ordered him to remove the bicycles and tricycles he was carrying, and gave him the option to order a breakdown truck to transport the van to Marseille instead.
The cost of this was estimated at around €1,000.
France has very precise legal weight limits in place for vehicles on public roads.
Vehicles must not transport cargo in a dangerous manner, and cannot be overloaded, as extra weight affects the speed that a vehicle can reach, and extends its braking distance.
Drivers can check the weight limit for their type of vehicle by checking its immatriculation (registration) certificate, which will list the maximum allowed.
It will list the weight of the vehicle when empty, and the maximum allowed when carrying passengers and cargo.
- Weight when empty in kg: 950 (0.95 tonnes)
- Maximum amount technically allowed in kg: 1,450 (1.45 tonnes)
The difference between these weights is the maximum extra you can carry: 500 kg (0.5 tonnes). The weight of the driver and passengers must also be taken into account in this extra.
Drivers can also check the user manual of the vehicle.
Of course, the weight limits differ considerably depending on the type of vehicle; whether a family car, van, lorry, or even a tractor.
There are also legal limits on the weight of trailers, with the total loaded weight of a trailer not allowed to exceed more than 1.3 times the weight of the vehicle towing it.
Before setting off with extra weight, drivers are advised to check tyre pressures and make sure the cargo weight is not unevenly distributed, and does not block driver visibility.
Lawyer Jean-Baptiste Le Dall explained to Vosges Matin: “If the weight is significant, visibility is the most important thing. The cargo must not obstruct the driver’s vision.”
Fines for overloading are set at €135 per 0.5 tonnes of excess weight. If the weight limit is over 5% of the maximum allowed, the vehicle will likely be impounded too.
Mr Le Dall added: “Weight is one thing, but the way the cargo is attached also counts. Article R312-19 of the Highway Code states that the load of a vehicle must not be capable of causing damage or danger.
“Any load extending beyond the outer contour of the vehicle must be secured. Long items must be secured to each other and to the vehicle and must not extend beyond the side of the vehicle.
“Chains, tarpaulins and accessories must be secured to the vehicle.”
The fine for breaching these rules is €68, and just as with weight, a severe breach of the rules may result in the vehicle being impounded by the gendarmerie.