Share this article
vans, with, roof, racks, parked
No Matter how much van makers try to find new ingenious ways to transport large items, the roof rack will always be king

VAN manufacturers are coming up with some ingenious ways of transporting long loads nowadays.

Overhanging loads – what you need to know

  • Up to 1m – no markings required
  • 1m – 2m – ends must be clearly visible
  • 2m+ – 3m – reflective marker boards 400mm to 1700mm off the ground
  • Over 3m – reflective marker boards, driver’s mate and notification to Police required

Take the new Vauxhall Vivaro and Renault Trafic for example.

There is a little flap in the bulkhead near the floor and another underneath the passenger seat so that in the long wheelbase versions, loads up of to 4.1 metres can be carried – that’s 13 and a half feet in old money!

properly, capped, pipes, roof, van
An example of some properly capped pipes on a roof

Use a proper roof rack

But no matter how much the van makers try, there are always going to be odd times when you need that little bit extra for a lo-o-o-o-ng load. And in that case, there is only one solution – tie it on the roof.

It’s a pretty obvious ploy but before you leg it off to Tesco’s for a ball of string and some double-sided sticky tape, there are one or two things about roof-mounted loads that we ought to make you aware of.

Let’s look at the safety aspect for a start. If you don’t use a proper roof rack – and there are plenty of van users who don’t – then you are risking big trouble in the event of an accident.

If your load happens to be a bundle of pipes, they will shoot forward in the event of a prang and possibly spear any poor passer-by who happens to be in the vicinity.

If they are hurt, or even killed, then expect to have the book thrown at you by the law, followed by a knock on your door from a lawyer representing the injured party in a civil compensation case.

Believe us, you REALLY don’t want to go there.

racked, Renault, Trafic,
All roof racks should be like this Renault Trafic, with piping hidden away in a proper tube

Make sure you load is secured correctly

So, having got your pukka roof rack fitted, the next thing to do is make sure your load is secured correctly. String, rope and other such paraphernalia are NOT what you need.

Piping should be hidden away in a proper piping tube and ratchet ties should be used for bigger loads. If it’s a long ladder you are carrying, then special ladder racks are available from a variety of firms.

Now if you studied physics at school, or maybe saw Eric Sykes’ film ‘The Plank’, you will know that a load which is protruding front or back will act in a certain manner when the vehicle is cornered. Get it wrong or fail to keep an eye out and you are likely to end your journey with a pedestrian hanging on the end by the seat of his pants. So utmost care is needed when taking the corners, especially in built-up areas.

But what exactly is the law regarding projecting loads?

Starting with width, the total should not exceed 2.9 metres. If it does, then it must be flagged up with special marker boards.

Loads that project over the back of the vehicle between one and two metres must be marked with something like a red cloth. You’ll need special markers for anything over two metres and special police permission for anything over 3.05 metres. Log on to: for more details.

It’s a similar story at the front, too, with red cloth for over two metres and police permission for over 3.05 metres.

In a nutshell, it’s all pretty simple but it’s amazing how many people get it wrong.

Rod, LIoyd, Low, Cost, Vans
Rod LIoyd of Low Cost Vans

Rod Lloyd, managing director of van leasing specialists Low Cost Vans, said: “Think about what you need to carry and then get a van that is compatible with the requirements of your trade.

“If you’re ever unsure, experts such as ourselves have all the latest information on new vans and we can guide you in your choice with our expert knowledge.

“One thing’s for sure – whatever you carry you need to make sure it is safely secure. So also think about proper racking systems both for inside your van and for the roof. Plastic drain pipes just won’t do it.

“Trades need to project a professional image these days – as well as be professional in everything they do. Make sure your van is as professional – and as safe – as possible.”

With so much at stake it’s well worth taking the trouble to invest in the right equipment. From the start.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here