Theory Test Topics Explained: Vehicle Loading

Vehicle loading featured image

Hello PassMeFast readers! We’ve got some great news for you: we’re officially on the second-to-last instalment of our Theory Test Topics Explained series! This means that you’re mere steps away from completing your revision and acing your theory test. This time, the spotlight is shining on the thirteenth topic from the DVSA’s multiple-choice question bank: vehicle loading.

We’re going to walk you through what this topic is all about, share some example multiple-choice questions and case studies, and offer some additional revision resources!

Table of contents: 

Theory Test Topic: Vehicle loading

What is vehicle loading

The thirteenth topic from the multiple-choice section of the theory test is vehicle loading. This topic is all about the rules and regulations that you need to follow when carrying extra baggage, passengers and animals in your vehicle. It also covers what you need to know about towing trailers and caravans, and what actions you need to take to ensure you maintain control of your vehicle and minimise fuel consumption.

It might not sound that interesting, but if you ever intend to head out on a road trip or two, you’ll need to know all about vehicle loading. (Plus, you’ll need to know it in order to pass the theory test!) Simply make your way through the sections below and then test your newfound knowledge with our handy quizzes at the end!

When it comes to revising for the theory test, start with the Highway Code, which provides vital road information and rules. We advise buying resources like the official DVSA handbook or the AA theory test book. They both contain official DVSA questions with answers. Revise them thoroughly—they could show up on your test.

✓ Carrying loads

Though it’s probably not something you’ve ever considered, packing your car with any type of additional baggage requires a lot of careful planning. You need to know how to store and secure your baggage properly, and also know how the extra weight can affect your control over your vehicle.

Avoid overloading your vehicle

It’s the driver’s responsibility to make sure that their vehicle is not overloaded. So, you’ll need to dig out your vehicle handbook to make sure that you haven’t exceeded the Maximum Authorised Mass of your car.

If you do pack too much in your car, it will affect the way that you drive. Typically, when making a left or right turn, you’ll only need to move your steering wheel slightly. If your car is carrying a heavy load, however, you’ll notice that the steering is much heavier than you’re used to. This means that it will take more effort on your end to make a turn.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! The heavier your car is, the more effort it takes to stop it. This means that you’ll need to be even more careful when facing adverse weather conditions or potential hazards—stopping with plenty of time to spare.

Make adjustments to your vehicle

If you are planning to carry a heavy load, you’ll need to increase your tyre pressure so that your vehicle will be able to cope with the additional weight. You might also need to adjust the aim of your headlights.

Secure your baggage properly

Whether you’re putting things in your boot, on a roof box or on the backseat of your car, you need to make sure that everything is distributed evenly. If you don’t, it will affect the stability of your car and lead to problems when you drive around bends and corners.

Be sensible when it comes to distributing your baggage—put the heaviest items at the bottom and try to fill out any gaps with towels. Try not to overstack everything on the backseat, as it might obstruct your view out of the rear window. You’ll then want to secure everything with rope, a net divider or a seatbelt, so that when you come a stop, make a turn, or do pretty much anything, it won’t move.

If you don’t secure your items, something might fall and obstruct your view or distract you enough to take your eyes off the road, which could be catastrophic. Additionally, if you end up in a collision, an item might fall and hit someone inside your vehicle.

Test it out before moving

Once you’ve packed everything up in your car, or on the roof box, you should sit behind the wheel to make sure that nothing is sticking out of the car or obstructing your view in any way. You need to be able to see into your car mirrors and check your blindspots.

✓ Roof racks

Depending on your car model, you might not have that much room in your boot or backseat for extra baggage. In this case, adding a roof rack to the top of your car could be the perfect solution.

Though you can simply load things directly onto a roof rack (securing it with rope/cord), it can make your car less aerodynamic. In other words, it can increase air resistance and lead to you using up more fuel. That’s why most drivers tend to favour roof boxes, which are ergonomically designed to keep your car more streamlined.

Additionally, if you do end up carrying things on your roof rack directly, you’d have to cover it with tarp in order to protect it from the elements.

✓ Passengers in the car

When you’re carrying passengers in your car, do not carry more than your vehicle is able to seat. If you do, not only will you run the risk of overloading your vehicle, you could end up with a fine and penalty points.

Additionally, it’s your responsibility as the driver to make sure that all passengers under the age of 14 are wearing the right seatbelt or child restraint, unless they’re medically exempt.

You can get a better look at what the specific requirements are by age or height in the table below.

Front seat Rear seat
Children under 3 years of age Correct child restraint must be used Correct child restraint must be used. If one isn’t available in a taxi, they may travel unrestrained.
Children from 3 years of age up to 1.35 metres in height or 12 years of age (whichever they reach first) Correct child restraint must be used Correct child restraint must be used where seatbelts fitted. Or, they must use an adult seatbelt if correct child restraint isn’t available in a taxi/private hire vehicle, or for unexpected necessity over a short distance, or if you already have two restraints preventing the use of a third.
Children over 1.35 metres in height or 12 to 13 years of age Seatbelt must be worn if available Seatbelt must be worn if available

✓ Pets in the car

If you’re carrying pets in your car, you need to make sure that they don’t obstruct your view or distract you in any way. This means that you will need to use restraints, e.g., a cage/pet carrier, guard or harness, to prevent them from moving around your vehicle freely. Not only will this stop them from affecting your ability to drive safely, it will minimise their risk of injury in the event of a collision.

If it’s the first time that your pet is travelling with you by car,  they might be slightly distressed or irritable. It might help if you make sure they’ve exercised before the trip. Or, if you’re carrying a passenger as well, you can get them to sit next to the pet to keep it calm. Additionally, if you’re dealing with a large pet, like a dog, you can always pull up at a rest stop to let them stretch their legs every hour or so.

✓ Towing caravans and trailers

The rules

First things first, there are different rules on what you can tow, depending on when you passed your driving test.

If your licence was issued from 1 January 1997:

  • You can drive a car or van up to 3,500kg maximum authorised mass (MAM) whilst towing a trailer of up to 750kg MAM
  • You can tow a trailer over 750kg MAM, as long as the combined MAM of your vehicle and trailer doesn’t exceed 3,500kg

If your licence was issued before 1 January 1997:

  • You’re usually allowed to drive a vehicle and trailer with a combination MAM of up to 8,250kg
  • You’re also allowed to drive a minibus with a trailer over 750kg MAM

Plus, when towing trailers, you must also:

  • Make sure that the width doesn’t exceed 2.55 metres and that the length isn’t more than 7 metres
  • Check that it has two red sidelights, two red stop lamps, two triangular red reflectors and amber indicators
  • Fit suitable towing mirrors if your caravan or trailer is wider than the rear of your vehicle
  • Attach your number plate to the back of the caravan or trailer
  • Fit a breakaway cable to your trailer braking system which will be used in the event of your caravan or trailer becoming detached

Loading a caravan or trailer

As with loading your car, you should always distribute the weight evenly in your caravan or trailer. The Highway Code advises drivers to place the heaviest items over the axle(s), whilst ensuring a downward load on the tow ball.

By following these rules, you’re minimising the chances of your caravan or trailer swerving. If you do find yourself losing control of it, e.g., if you see it snaking (moving side to side), all you need to do is lift your foot off the accelerator pedal and start to slow down.

Driving with a caravan or trailer

Thought you had speed limits memorised? Think again! If you’re towing a caravan or trailer, you’ll have to stick to different speed limits than when you’re simply driving a car. This means driving at 30mph in built-up areas, 50mph on single carriageways, and 60mph on dual carriageways and motorways.

Additionally, when driving on a motorway that has three or more lanes, you’re not allowed to drive in the right-hand lane—unless you’ve been directed to do so by road signs, the police or traffic officers.

✓ Fuel consumption

If you’re carrying anything in your car, it will increase your fuel consumption due to the extra weight. This is because your car engine needs to put in more work to get moving and to increase its speed.

To avoid wasting fuel, you should remove unnecessary weight from your car. If you’re not using your roof rack or box, for example, you should remove them. Similarly, you should go through the car essentials that you carry in your boot to see if you’re carrying anything that you don’t actually need.

Struggling to remember everything? Don’t worry! We’ve summarised all of the important rules below!

Vehicle loading rules

Example questions featured image

Multiple-choice questions

If you’ve been closely following our Theory Test Topics Explained series then you should know the drill by now—you’ve got to answer 50 multiple-choice questions in total and get a score of 43 or more to pass. Your test will consist of questions from all fourteen theory test topics, so it’s important that you know each topic inside and out before you go in for your theory test.

To give you a taste of what you can expect from vehicle loading questions, we’ve put together our own multiple-choice quiz. Good luck!

Let us know how many questions you got right in the comment section below!

Case studies

It’s not enough to just memorise all of this theory test knowledge, you also need to be able to apply it to real-life situations on the road. That’s why the last three questions in the multiple-choice section will revolve around a video case study. Get an idea of what this looks like with our five written case studies below!

Let us know how many questions you got right in the comment section below!

How to revise vehicle loading

Two stacks of books, one taller than the other, each with a car on top, floating in clouds

Ladies and gentleman, you’ve almost made it to the end of our Theory Test Topics Explained series! That means you’re only a few steps away now from completing your revision and taking your theory test. Before that happens though, you need to make sure that you’ve got vehicle loading nailed down properly. You can do this by pitting your newfound knowledge against these handy quizzes:

To find even more handy revision resources and apps to help you ace the theory test, try out our ultimate theory test revision resources. Or, if you’re trying to figure out how to go about revising, take a look at how I revised and passed the theory test first time!

If in doubt, start with the Highway Code, which provides vital road information and rules. We advise buying resources like the official DVSA handbook or the AA theory test book. They both contain official DVSA questions with answers. Revise them thoroughly—they could show up on your test.

Looking for more? Check out our other theory test topic breakdown instalments:

By Bethany Hall

Whether you’re a learner or a pro driver, Bethany is here to help. From defensive driving to the Highway Code, she’ll tell you everything you need know about driving. If she’s not on the road, you’ll probably find Bethany with her head in a book or binge-watching the latest TV show.

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