Transporting vehicle loads safely – guidance on the rules

A tractor towing a trailer with spring wheat harvest along a narrow road

Our farm safety experts provide guidance on how the Department for Transport's Code of Practice for vehicle load safety applies to agricultural vehicles and trailers, and where to go for additional information.

The nature of farming now means that transporting goods along roads with tractors and trailers is becoming more and more of a necessity. When transporting goods, it is important to consider load security and to ensure that loads are secured in a safe way that complies with the law.

Transporting loads and the law

When transporting goods by vehicle or trailer, the law states that you must ensure the load is secured so that the use of the vehicle or trailer does not involve a risk of danger or injury to any person.

The law also states that:

“The load carried by a motor vehicle or trailer shall at all times be so secured, if necessary by physical restraint other than its own weight, and be in such a position, that neither danger nor nuisance is likely to be caused to any person or property by reason of the load or any part of thereof falling or being blown from the vehicle or by reason of any other movement of the load or any part thereof in relation to the vehicle.”

Securing loads

The DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) published updated guidance on securing loads on HGVs and goods vehicles, with the aim of helping vehicle operators follow the law when transporting loads.

Whilst this guidance does not change the underlying legal position, those responsible for enforcing these provisions may look to the guidance to inform their approach. Non-compliance with the guidance may also make it harder to establish that a load was adequately secured if there is any dispute as to whether that was the case.

Sheeting clarification

Following the release of the updated DVSA guidance in July 2023, the NFU identified that the guidance was not reasonable or practical for many transporting agricultural loads.

The NFU is continuing to engage with the DVSA regarding this issue.

The NFU always encourages members to transport loads safely and securely and advises that the current guidance, in conjunction with the following clarification, should continue to be followed until the new guidance is published.

All users, including employers, self-employed farmers and drivers, must assess and manage risk during loading, transport, and unloading agricultural products. This includes considering the risk of load movement during the journey and during unloading, along with other risks such as working at height and manual handling.

The updated DVSA guidance provides advice to help everyone comply with both road traffic and workplace safety legislation. This protects the user themselves, anyone they work with and other road users. The relevant legislation is linked to in part 1 of the guidance under ‘Load securing and the law’.

Part 4 of the new guidance provides detail on netting and sheeting loads and clearly states that users must sheet and/or net their loads to stop them from bouncing upwards on open vehicles unless the load is secured by other means. In part 1 of the guide, under the section – what a load securing system is – it states this can consist of the structure of the vehicle or trailer.

Working safely at height – what does the guidance say?

In practical terms this means that a user can consider a load to be secure if their risk assessment shows that a load is below the height of the trailer/vehicle body to the extent that the structure of the vehicle sufficiently secures it without the need for any other security measure.

The risk assessment should include consideration of action from wind and (more likely important for agricultural product) bounce out of the trailer/vehicle. Overall, users must make sure the load and the way it's secured does not present a risk of danger or nuisance to other road users.

Consider what steps are needed to ensure that you always comply with the law in this area at all times. This means that individuals must risk assess their load and take appropriate steps to ensure that the load and the way it is secured does not present a risk of danger or nuisance to others.

This includes considering whether a load needs to be sheeted, or otherwise restrained, in order to be secure.

It would be advisable to ensure that you have systems in place to demonstrate that the risks have been considered should you need to do so.

Penalties

If loads are not secured adequately, fines and points may be awarded. Drivers and employers are at risk as the law applies to drivers and anyone who causes or permits the use of vehicles deemed to be unsafe.

The DVSA has advised that roadside examiners will take a pragmatic approach, but action will be taken if loads are found to be unsafe.

This page was first published on 07 August 2023. It was updated on 06 June 2024.


Ask us a question about this page

Once you have submitted your query someone from NFU CallFirst will contact you. If needed, your query will then be passed to the appropriate NFU policy team.

You have 0 characters remaining.

By completing the form with your details on this page, you are agreeing to have this information sent to the NFU for the purposes of contacting you regarding your enquiry. Please take time to read the NFU’s Privacy Policy if you require further information.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.