Weight Management for your Fleet

Aug 15, 2013

Fleet management involves a much wider scope of stipulations within the realm of ensuring fleet operators are driving safely and efficiently. With the discrepancy between federal and international weight regulations, weight management of individual vehicles is a continual hot topic of discussion. In addition to the legislation in place, an improperly loaded vehicle can have disastrous results.

Risks of Vehicle Overload

To stymie the risk of legal action, it is important for Fleet managers and fleet drivers to be cognizant of payload size. Federal and state regulations dealing with maximum weight limits have been passed not only because of the dangers overloaded trailers present to the driving environment, but the economic impact associated with road damage as well.  Aside from damage to the road and risks of operation, there is an inherent risk of vehicle damage when overloading.

Manufacturers have prescribed limits to various operational and non-operational weight limits as a means to reduce damage from overloading. Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) is the maximum allowable mass of a vehicle fully loaded with fuel, fluids, and passengers. GVWR does not include the added weight of trailers; Gross Trailer Weight Rating (GTWR). Gross Combined Weight Rating(GCWR) accounts for the total weight that is being placed on the road surface and is the sum of GVWR and GTWR. Curb Weight is the mass of a vehicle without cargo or occupants. This value is further reduced to make up the Dry Weight which is when all fuels and engine fluids are removed. Gross Axle Weight Rating provides the maximum weight available for individual axles. Going above these set limits can lead to a decline in fuel efficiency, an altered driving experience as well as mechanical issues within the vehicle caused by the undue strain this additional weight applies to the components of the chassis and engine. Staying within these maximums is imperative for reduction of fleet operational costs.

With so much against overloading, why is it still an issue?

Even with legal and financial risk widely regulated, Fleet managers often boldly ignore these factors to reduce costs elsewhere. The general consensus behind going beyond these limits revolves around consolidation. It is seen as justifiable to risk the fuel efficiency and operational standards of a few vehicles in a fleet if it means fewer vehicles are needed to be driven and thus loaded and received. If an unethical business has, for example, two trucks with a 36,000 pound GCWR, a single hauler with a 76,000 pound GCWR and 82,000 pounds of cargo to deliver, a strictly expense focused manager might place all the cargo into a single load. While this reduces the fuel efficiency of the single truck, it saves fuel costs overall because an additional vehicle is not making the same trip. In addition to fuel costs, having the cargo split into two loads means double the man power needed to make the delivery, additional savings from a human resources vantage.

While there are isolated, positive financial impacts of increasing a vehicle's payload past the specified limits, the overall fiduciary risk of doing so greatly outweighs the positives. To avoid legal fees and extraneous maintenance costs due to mismanagement of weight in your fleet, fleet operators and managers need to acknowledge that these limits have been provided for reasons of safety and damage to roads and vehicles.