You need to keep weight transfer in mind when you are loading cargo into your vehicle. This applies in a van or ute as well as an ordinary sedan or station wagon.


A commercial vehicle’s greater cargo capacity compounds weight transfer issues because improper loading can amplify roll and pitch and dramatically affect the vehicle’s handling.


When loading a tray back or utility, it is critical that the load is evenly distributed and the load capacity is not exceeded. Placing too much weight on one side will totally unbalance the vehicle, making it experience body roll even while travelling in a straight line. This affects steering stability and is potentially lethal while cornering.


Placing too much weight towards the rear will lift the nose of the car, dangerously lightening the steering. We’ve all seen examples of utes poorly loaded in these ways. They look dangerous even standing still.


Sedans are not immune to this – your car’s boot might not take that much in sheer volume but it can still be overloaded with weight. That trip to the hardware store for half a dozen bags of concrete can see your car dangerously pitched down in the rear too.


Once you've loaded up, it’s a good idea to step back and look at the stance of the vehicle. If it looks over-balanced, re-arrange things to even out the load or make two trips. Doubling up on the journey might seem inconvenient but it’s better than a trip to hospital.


You should also ensure the load is secure as well as balanced. Loose objects will shift around as the vehicle moves. These won’t just damage your cargo and your car, they may damage you.  Even the most innocent of objects can become a lethal projectile under heavy braking or in a crash as they fly around inside the cabin. This is why it is not recommended to place objects on the back shelves of sedans and why cargo nets and barriers are so essential in station wagons.


Moreover, shifting loads will alter your vehicle's handling by introducing additional variables in weight transfer. For instance, a heavy toolbox sliding to the outside of a ute tray in the middle of a corner will suddenly throw further weight onto already compressed suspension. This can potentially destabilise the vehicle and could cause a loss of control.


Another key point is that in utes, loose items may inadvertently part company with the vehicle and cause major dramas for the traffic around you. I’m sure we’ve all heard traffic reports stating that items such as a ladders and other objects on the road or freeway.


Situations like this are clearly a major safety hazard, so make sure that your vehicle’s load is correctly loaded and that all items are restrained.


Drive Safely – Russell White CARMA Road Safety Ambassador