Newbie Knowledge: Understanding Lorry Types And Weights

Considering a career in the transport industry? As a driver, you’ll be expected to get behind the wheel of different vehicles, so it’s essential to understand the various lorry weights and types. Get your head around it all with this short and sweet guide.

Different Lorry Types

Lorries are divided into two main categories: Light Good Vehicles (LGVs) and Heavy Good Vehicles (HGVs). They’re then subcategorized by weight and number of axles.


Weighing 3.5 tonnes, these lorries have 2 axles and no rear side windows.

HGV: Smaller 2-axle lorries

Identified by their two axles, they weigh anywhere between 3.5 and 7.5 tonnes.

HGV: Bigger 2-axle lorries

These lorries also feature two axles, but can carry much heavier loads, weighing anywhere between 7.5 and 18 tonnes.

HGV: Multi-axle lorries

They have between 3 and 6 axles, which are either rigid or articulated. They can also feature draw-bars. Their Maximum Gross Weight is between 25 and 44 tonnes.

Vehicle Weights Explained

It’s important to note that any lorry over 7.5 tonnes requires a HGV licence. When applying for one, you’ll come across the terms ‘unladen weight’, ‘down-plating’ and ‘maximum authorised mass’. Unsure what they mean? Don’t worry, you’re about to find out.

Unladen Weight

A lorry’s unladen weight includes the body and all parts that are normally used when it’s on the road, excluding the weight of fuel, passengers, goods or any other items it might be carrying.


When a freighter is ‘down-plated’, a lower weight than its potential maximum weight is shown on the plate attached to the vehicle.

Maximum Authorised Mass

Listed in the owner’s manual or on the plate, the maximum authorised mass (MAM) refers to the total mass of a freighter and the maximum load that can be safely carried when on the road.

A Few Definitions

I know I’ve thrown a lot of new information at you, so to ensure that you fully understand lorry weights and types, here are a few explanations of key terms that you should know.

  1. Axle Weight: this is the total mass which is transmitted to the road by the wheels on a single axle.
  2. Gross Vehicle Weight: this refers to the combined heaviness of both your vehicle and its load.
  3. Trailer: A trailer is a vehicle drawn by any other motorised vehicle.
  4. Draw-bar Trailer: this is a trailer drawn by a rigid vehicle.
  5. Semi-trailer: unlike other trailers, the semi-trailer is part of an articulated vehicle.
  6. Articulated Vehicle: this is the tractor unit to which the semi-trailer is attached.

Why You Shouldn’t Overload a Lorry

As a driver, it’s your duty to conform to set lorry weights, or you risk endangering yourself and other road users.

  •  Keep Roads Safe

When you overload a lorry, the excess burden prevents you from having full control. Steering will become more difficult and you won’t be able to stop quickly in an emergency.

  • Respect the Road

Excessive lorry weights cause too much wear and tear on roads.

  • Respect Other Operators

When you overload, you’re carrying more goods than law-abiding operators, giving you an unfair (and illegal!) advantage.

Norman Dulwich is a Correspondent for Haulage Exchange, the leading online trade network for the road transport industry. Connecting professionals across the UK and Europe through their website, Haulage Exchange offers a valuable service providing information on lorry weights and other news from the industry. Matching delivery work with available vehicles, over 4,500 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.

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