The DVSA has recently highlighted some confusion about the use of "HIAB" loader lorries regarding the length and maximum weight of these vehicles.

An HIAB truck or crane allows the user to load or unload heavy objects that the same vehicle is transporting.  They are usually made up of a crane mechanism mounted on a modified tractor chassis.  The name HIAB is an abbreviation of "Hydrauliska Industrial AB", a company founded in Hudiksvall, Sweden in 1944 by Eric Sundin.  Eric Sundin was a ski manufacturer who saw a way to utilise a truck's engine to power "loader-cranes" through the use of hydraulics, thereby saving time and cost for loading and unloading large items from vehicles.

The DVSA has noticed an increased number of these types of Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) being used on the UK roads and has been involved in prosecutions where the vehicles had been considered to be too long or overweight.  In a recent Court of Appeal ruling a vehicle fitted with a HIAB and towing a trailer was found to be over the permitted 16.5m length.  The Court of Appeal found in favour of the DVSA conviction that the length of the vehicle is measured to include all parts of the vehicle including the parts the crane is mounted on.  Some manufacturers of these vehicles had been indicating to operators purchasing the vehicles that this was not the case and/or that they could run "HIAB Tractor Units" under the Special Type General Order (STGO) regulations.

These regulations govern the special types of vehicles and loads that do not meet the Road Vehicles (Construction & Use) Regulations 1986 (known as C&U Regs) and the Road Vehicles (Authorised Weight) Regulations 1998 (AW Regs).

Vehicles most likely to be used under an STGO are:

  • Abnormal indivisible loads - i.e. loads which cannot be divided into 2 or more loads to be transported by road,
  • Mobile cranes:  specially built or adapted for lifting operations, i.e. cannot transport a load itself,
  • Engineering plant - a moveable piece of plant or equipment which is a motor vehicle or trailer specially built for engineering operations, and
  • Road recovery vehicles, i.e. vehicles that are specially built for recovering broken-down large vehicles.

The ruling in the Court of Appeal makes it clear that HIAB vehicles do not come under the remit of the STGO and therefore the length and weight of the vehicle must comply with the C&U and the AW regulations.  that is to say:  The length of the tractor unit with the trailer attached must not exceed the permitted 16.5m.  The combined weight of the tractor unit, and the trailer & load it is pulling must not exceed the 26 tonne limit.

Within the C&U and AW regulations there are allowances for any apparatus that extends beyond the rear and/or front of the total length of the vehicle.  These overhanging sections can be subtracted from the total length and do not count towards the total length permissible under the regulations.  However, if a HIAB crane has been fitted and forms part of the trailer and/or tractor unit it will be included in the total length of the vehicle.

Operators would do well to ensure before purchasing an HIAB unit that the vehicle manufacturer's interpretation reference the STGO regulations is correct and further, that having bought such a vehicle that any loads being transported (that do not qualify as "special loads") should comply with the length and weight set down in the C&U and AW regulations.

Despite the inventor, Eric Sundin's aim to save time and cost in the loading and unloading of vehicles through the use of his hydraulic crane being attached to the load vehicle, the use of HIAB equipment on the UK's roads means that Operators do need to spend time ensuring that such vehicles are being used correctly, and comply with the applicable regulations.

As always, if any of the issues mentioned above might be affecting your transport operation, then call us on 01279 818280 or email by clicking here.  We are here to help.

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