Truck Overloading

The law limits how much weight a heavy vehicle can carry. Exceeding these limits is an offence, known as “Mass Overload Offences”.

In this section you will find information on the mass requirements for heavy vehicles and the consequences of breaching them.

What Are Mass Limits?

The mass limits are contained in the Heavy Vehicle National Law (NSW).

There are two general types of limits that a vehicle must comply with:

  • GVM – the ‘total’ mass
  • Axle mass – the mass carried on a particular axle.

A truck must comply with both sets of limits. i.e. an offence will occur if an axle limit is exceeded, even if the truck is under it’s GVM limit.

Calculating A Vehicle’s Mass Limits

The specific mass limits vary depending on the vehicle.

The precise limits depend on a range of factors, including the manufacturer’s recommendations, the type of vehicle, and the number and spacing between the axles. As a result it can be complicated to determine a vehicle’s limits.

It is important that people involved in the operation of a truck are aware of its mass limits. If you are unsure of a vehicle’s limits you can seek assistance from the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator or Roads and Maritime Service.

Consequences Of Overloading:

It is a criminal offence to exceed a mass limit on a heavy vehicle.

Small breaches can be dealt with by issuing a Penalty Notice.

For more serious matters a Court Attendance Notice will be issued, requiring the person to appear before a Magistrate.

Who Can Be Liable For A Mass Overload Offence?

The responsibility to comply with mass limits does not lay solely with drivers. The law makes a number of other people in the trucking industry liable for overloads.

If a mass overload offence occurs, charges can be brought against the:

  • driver
  • driver’s employer or prime contractor
  • operator
  • consignor
  • packer
  • loading manager
  • loader

Penalties For Overloading:

The penalty for committing a mass overload offence is a monetary fine. The maximum amount of the fine depends on the size of the overload.

The maximum penalties are increased each year and published on the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator’s website.

The following penalties applied as of June 2017:

Breach Category Amount of Overload Maximum Penalty
Minor Risk Less than 0.5t or 105% of the maximum permitted mass (whichever is higher) (a $4,260
Substantial Risk Between 105% and 120% of the maximum permitted mass. d $6,400
Severe Risk 120% or more of the maximum permitted mass. $10,650 plus an additional maximum $530 for every additional 1% over a 120% overload (but so that the additional maximum penalty does not exceed $21,320)

Reasonable Steps Defence:

The law recognises that sometimes mass overload offences will occur even when a person has done everything that they can to prevent it. For this reason a ‘Reasonable Steps Defence’ is provided.

Under the Reasonable Steps Defence a person can be found ‘not guilty’ of a mass overload offence if the Court is satisfied that they:

  • did not know and could not reasonably be expected to have known, of the contravention; and
  • took all reasonable steps to prevent it, or there were no steps they could reasonably be expected to have taken.

The Court considers a wide range of factors when deciding whether a person has taken reasonable steps. Some examples include:

  • by how much the mass limit was exceeded
  • what facilities were available to weigh the vehicle
  • training provided to employees
  • steps taken to address similar problems in the past




In NSW, traffic offences are treated seriously. Therefore, it is important to get competent legal advice as early as possible, whether you have received a penalty notice, had your licence suspended or been charged with a serious offence. Our lawyers are highly experienced and understand the difficulties you face without a licence. We can guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.


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