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Campervan: How strict is France on enforcing maximum loads rules?

This maximum figure is important to keep in mind when setting off on a trip as otherwise you may risk fines - or even insurance issues

Campervans have a maximum payload permitted under normal driving licences Pic: Andrey Armyagov

I have seen references to charge utile (payload) in my campervan registration document. How strict do we have to be about this? Are there checks?

The charge utile – maximum payload – of campervans or other vehicles in France is a measurement of which drivers should be aware, as it is likely to be a condition of your insurance coverage. 

Campervans and caravans which can be driven with a permis B – for cars and small vans – must weigh 3.5 tonnes (3,500kg) or less. 

Beyond this weight, drivers must obtain a mention additionnelle 96, which requires seven hours of training for operating heavier vehicles. 

Unless you have this additional mention, the maximum authorised laden mass (poids total autorisé en charge) of your campervan will be 3.5 tonnes. You can check this figure in the F1 section of your vehicle registration document.

This weight, minus the kerb mass (masse à vide en ordre de marche) of the vehicle when unladen – found in section G of the registration document – equals the charge utile

Each object or person loaded into the vehicle forms part of its payload. For example, a television may weigh between two and five kilograms, while an air conditioning unit could add 30kg.

It is important that owners do not ignore their vehicle’s maximum payload, as those found to be in excess by up to 5% could face a fine of €135. 

If the vehicle is carrying between 5% and 20% more weight than it should, you may be prevented from continuing your journey, subject to a fine of up to €1,500. You could also lose points on your [French] licence if you have one. 

In addition, if you are involved in an accident and your insurer discovers that your vehicle was travelling with too much weight, your cover may be invalidated. 

Owners are therefore advised to keep track of items that their vehicle is carrying, or opt for a compact campervan or caravan, whose unladen kerb mass is lower. 

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