If you have been considering purchasing a motorhome or already own one, you may have come across posts and forum discussions mentioning public weighbridges. If you are still relatively new to touring vehicles and the caravan and motorhome lifestyle, you may wonder what a weighbridge is and why you would want to use one.
At Caravan Helper, we want to help you understand the subject a little better with this helpful guide.
First things first…
What is a Public Weighbridge?
A public weighbridge is a basically a set of scales designed to predominately weigh large vehicles such as trucks involved in the haulage and transportation sector but can also be used by caravanners and motorhome owners to check the weight of your tourer.
Is it a Legal Requirement to Have Your Motorhome Weighed?
If you have not checked your motorhome’s weight before, it is definitely something you should consider doing before you head out on your next adventure. Why? It is too easy to use as much space as possible for storage and take everything you want and not just what you need on holiday.
Although it is not a legal requirement to check how much your motorhome weighs, it is a legal obligation based on the driver’s licence you hold to make sure your vehicle is not overloaded. Even if you avoid being stopped by the police and fined, driving around in an overloaded motorhome actually voids your insurance, meaning you are essentially driving around unprotected.
Understanding the Basic Rules and Driving Licence Categories
When did you pass your driving test? If it was after 1st January 1997 but, before 1st January 2013, you will have the categories B and B1 listed on your standard driving licence. This means you are limited to driving a motorhome that is a maximum of 3,500kg and trailers that are a maximum of 750kg.
If you are looking to drive a motorhome that weighs more than 3,500kg, however, you will need to go through an additional driving test to have the C1 category added to your licence.
What if you successfully sat your driving test before 1st January 1997? You should already have the C1 and the C1+E categories noted on your licence. With that licence, you are allowed to legally drive motorhomes with a maximum weight of 7,500ks and a motorhome and trailer combo with a maximum weight of 8.250kg. If you have successfully passed the full trailer test, however, you are allowed to drive a motorhome and trailer combination with a maximum weight of 12,000kg.
Age is also considered, as once you reach the ripe young age of 70, you are required by law to renew your driving licence every 3 years. Although that does mean you will retain the B and B1 categories on your licence, if you are looking to retain the C1, you need to put forward the D4 and D2 medical forms, that need to be filled in by your doctor. Having said that, the rules may be different if you have specific medical conditions.
Looking beyond the legal requirements regarding weight and overloading your vehicle, it is also incredibly dangerous too. Your tourer is designed to specifically handle a certain weight. Exceeding that weight will put additional pressure on the vehicle and will stop it running as safely or effectively. Brake times are longer, and the overall steadiness of your vehicle is severely impeded.
How to Find Weighbridges and How Much They Cost
In the past weighbridges were generally free. However, that has changed, and you may find that some companies that use them may request a small charge for the privilege. The cost will vary from area to area and business to business. You really shouldn’t pay more than a tenner, though.
It may often be the case that the weighbridge provider allows you to weigh your vehicle for free but charges for the printout of the numbers. As the printout will only represent the weight of your tourer at the time of weighing it, though, most caravanners and motorhome drivers consider this to be useless.
If you feel more comfortable having a printed note of what the weight was when you last visited the weighbridge, by all means, get a printout. Unless you want to take a note of it yourself.
Finding weighbridges is not nearly as tricky as you may think. You can run a search in Google for the term weighbridge + your location https://www.gov.uk/find-weighbridge is also a handy resource, but as it redirects you to your local county pages, it will really depend on how regularly updated they are.
Another great way to find weighbridges local to you is through caravan and motorhome forums. Many have threads all about weighbridges with users offering their tips on the nearest and best locations. If you are worried about the expense, many of these posts feature quoted prices too.
Tips for Using a Weighbridge
You will normally be given two readings, the front axle weight, where you drive just the front wheels onto the weighbridge scales, and the total weight when you drive the vehicle fully onto the scales.
Many people do things differently. However, the best way to ensure you get the most accurate reading, in our humble opinion, is to have your motorhome weighed when it is fully loaded. Make sure you have everything on board you are going to take with you on your next trip, fill the petrol tank up and fill the water tank up and then go and get it weighed.
It is so easy when packing up your caravan or motorhome for a trip to take for granted that they do not have a finite amount of space and are only designed to handle specific maximum weights. If you want to stay on the right side of the law, have a tourer that is fully insured and safe to drive, therefore, you should be fully aware of your motorhome’s weight and use a public weighbridge when necessary.