Guidelines on Maximum Weights and Dimensions of Mechanically Propelled Vehicles and Trailers

Information on the maximum permitted weights and dimensions of mechanically propelled vehicles and trailers operating in Ireland.

The European Union, via Directive 96/53/EC, sets the maximum authorised dimensions in national and international traffic and the maximum authorised weights in international traffic.  This ensures that no obstacles are created which would prevent the circulation of commercial vehicles between Member States. However Member States are entitled to set their own maximum authorised weights for domestic journeys.  This Directive has been transposed into Irish Law by the Road Traffic (Construction & Use of Vehicles) Regulations 2003.

Maximum Weights

Maximum legal weights are determined by a number of factors, including the spacing between the axles, the outer axle and bogie spread, the number of tyres on each axle, and the type of suspension fitted.  Vehicles with Road Friendly Suspension (RFS) and twin tyres on the drive axle are permitted higher weights than those without.  The majority of vehicles with RFS operate on air suspension, but some rubber and hydraulic suspension may also count as road-friendly.

We have prepared a leaflet (PDF) for the guidance of industry, hauliers and interested members of the public which outlines the maximum permitted weights and dimensions of mechanically propelled vehicles and trailers in Ireland. Please note that it does not purport to be a legal interpretation of the law.

Penalties for breach of legislation

It should be noted that many vehicles are intended by design to operate at maximum weights which are less than the weights set out in our Construction & Use Regulations. Owners and drivers should familiarise themselves with the maximum weight that applies to their vehicle, or combination of vehicles. This is the lesser of the manufacturer’s design weights or the plated weights for the vehicle or combination as outlined in the leaflet.

It is an offence to carry a load on a vehicle which would cause the manufacturer’s design weights or the limits specified in our national legislation (i.e. the plated weights) to be exceeded. On conviction, courts can impose a class C fine (up to €2,500), a prison sentence or both on both the person who commits the offence and on the owner of the vehicle.

Where a vehicle owner is convicted of such an offence, further penalties are payable to the Local Authority (for vehicles with a laden weight exceeding 17 tonnes) with responsibility for the maintenance of the road on which the offence was committed. A summary of the penalties payable are as follows:

Where the excess weight is between 1,000kg & 2,000kg the fine payable is €500
Where the excess weight is between 2,000kg & 3,000kg the fine payable is €1,000
Where the excess weight is between 3,000kg & 4,000kg the fine payable is €1,500
Where the excess weight is between 4,000kg & 5,000kg the fine payable is €3,000
Where the excess weight is more than 5,000kg the fine payable is €5,000.

Since 3rd August 2012 the list of offences that attract penalty points now includes offences for breach of the legislation on vehicle weights, resulting in one penalty point on payment of a €200 fixed charge within 28 days of the date of the fixed charge notice (increasing to €300 in subsequent 28 day period) or three penalty points on conviction in court. Where a member of the Garda Síochána reasonably believes that a fixed charge offence has been or is being committed by a person, the member can serve a fixed charge notice on such person. Where the garda cannot identify the person responsible for the breach of the legislation, he or she may serve the fixed charge notice on the registered owner of the vehicle and the registered owner has 28 days in which to give to the Garda Síochána the name and address of the person who was driving the vehicle at the time of the offence or else make the payment specified in the fixed charge notice. Court prosecutions should not take place unless a fixed charge notice has been issued and subsequently not paid.

Who is legally responsible for the vehicle, owner / driver or both?

In accordance with road traffic legislation, and depending on the offence involved, the user and/ or the owner of the vehicle may be guilty of an offence if a vehicle is not compliant with the applicable legal requirements.

The Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use of Vehicles) Regulations 1963 as amended set out specific requirements regarding the use of vehicles on public roads and the Road Traffic (Construction and Use of Vehicles) Regulations 2003 contain the provisions in relation to maximum weight. Both of these statutory instruments have been substantially amended since drafting, and a full list of amendments to each is available on our regulations for vehicles and trailers in service section.

Plated Weights

In the absence of an equivalent manufacturer’s plate the following vehicle types must be fitted with a weights and dimensions plate at an NSAI approved plating centre:

  • Goods vehicles (including their trailers and semi-trailers) with a design gross vehicle weight exceeding 3,500kg and,
  • Buses/coaches with more than 8 passenger seats and a design gross vehicle weight exceeding 5,000kg.

A check for the presence of an appropriate weights and dimensions plate is part of the roadworthiness test carried out at the Vehicle Testing Network (VTN). The only plates acceptable are those fitted by the vehicle/trailer manufacturer (provided it contains the necessary information), or a plated fitted by an Authorised Person appointed by NSAI. Where a vehicle or trailer has been plated by the manufacturer a combination of two plates is acceptable.

Permits for Abnormal Loads

In exceptional circumstances, for example the carriage of abnormal and indivisible loads (AILs), the legal limits on weights and dimensions stipulated our Construction & Use Regulations may be exceeded. Where it is proposed to carry a load which is such that the gross vehicle weight or axle weights are in excess of the legal limits or the dimensional or projecting limits are breached, a permit must be obtained from the relevant Local Authority or Authorities through whose functional area(s) the load will be carried.  An Garda Síochána also operate a streamlined permit system for the movement of wide and long loads on main routes.

Further details on the permit systems in force for the movement of abnormal loads are available here