Revised rules for securing loads on HGVs and goods vehicles

Earlier this year, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) updated their guidance on securing loads on HGVs and goods vehicles. The new regulations help vehicle operators, drivers, and consignors safely load, unload, and transport goods. 

The code of practice covers six key areas – from troubleshooting hazards to loading different vehicle types – and shares detailed best practice on load security, compliance checks, and legal requirements. 

This article shares a high-level overview of the revised rules and is not exhaustive. For tailored advice on your specific loading requirements, talk to your Opus Safety consultant. 

1. Responsibility for load security

Unsecured loads can affect vehicle handling, increase rollover risks, and cause road accidents or obstructions. Everyone involved in vehicle loading or transport operation is responsible for ensuring the load is safely loaded, secure during transit, and safely unloaded. 

As a vehicle operator, you’re responsible for: 

  • Ensuring vehicles are suitable for their intended purpose
  • Maintaining roadworthy vehicles 
  • Making sure your drivers are qualified, trained, and competent
  • Provide drivers with training, equipment, and instructions if they secure loads.
  • Supporting drivers who raise concerns about loading or load security practices. This includes not pressuring them to drive vehicles or trailers they think are unsafe.

As a driver, you’re responsible for: 

  • Making sure equipment is in serviceable condition and strong enough to prevent the load from moving (if you secure the load yourself). 
  • Checking the security of consignors’ loads before you drive (if someone else has loaded the vehicle). 
  • Reporting safety concerns to your employer or load consignor – and not setting off if you have doubts. 
  • Checking load restraints regularly during the journey. This is particularly important when using webbing lashings, transporting ‘settling’ loads like sand or aggregate, and after harsh braking or swerving. 

As a load consigner, you’re responsible for: 

  • Ensuring the goods are in a suitable condition for transport, stable before they’re loaded, and packaged in a way that allows them to be secured to the vehicle or trailer. 
  • Providing training, equipment, and instructions for onsite loaders. 
  • Finding the driver a safe place to wait and informing them how the goods have been loaded and secured. 
  • Potentially sharing a load plan outlining the load’s weight, position on the load bed, security measures, special instructions and precautions for unloading, and a date- and time-stamped photo of the load. 
  • Agreeing a system with the vehicle operator to keep the load secure throughout the journey. 

2. Load securing: the basics

The method you use to secure the load depends on the load type and vehicle. Elements of your load securing systems might include lashings, friction matting, and physical barriers to movement like coil wells and internal bulkheads. Some shipments may need to be carried in a transport frame, box, stillage, or cage. 

As a minimum, your load securing system should withstand forces equivalent to:

  • the entire weight of the load in the forward direction
  • half the weight of the load to the sides
  • half the weight of the load to the rear

It must also maintain its integrity during an emergency stop and swerving action – and may need to be augmented with additional security during wet or icy weather, strong winds, or if any part of the journey is at sea. 

To select the most appropriate solution for your vehicle and goods, it’s essential to assess all risks (including additional hazards like working at height) and evaluate different securing options. You can also use the British Standards Institution’s (BSI) load securing technical standards to help pinpoint the safest setup.  

After inspecting the load platform, bodywork, anchorage points, and twist locks, you should check the load will not exceed the vehicle’s maximum permitted axle and gross weight limits – considering whether a portion of the load is going to be picked up or removed during the journey. 

The load should be: 

  • Placed near the vehicle’s centre line, with its centre of gravity as low as possible. 
  • Spread out to achieve an even weight distribution over the whole floor area. 
  • Positioned with lighter items near the sides of the vehicle.
  • Distributed using load spreading devices (like pallets or wooden boards) for small but heavy loads. 
  • Secured with the heaviest items on the lower deck or swan neck for multi-deck trailers.
  • Entirely supported by the load bed if transporting wheeled loads, such as plant equipment. 
  • Clear of the driver’s field of vision, including the rear view through the driving mirrors. 
  • Stacked with larger and heavier items at the bottom, nearer to the vehicle’s centre line. Lower items in the stack should be strong enough to support other goods during braking, cornering, or accelerating. 

3. What to do if a load becomes unstable during a journey

If your load shifts during your journey but remains on the vehicle or trailer, slow down gradually, avoiding sudden braking, and find a safe place to stop and resecure the load (without placing yourself in danger). Don’t continue your journey until your goods are secure.

If the load leaves the vehicle and is likely to obstruct traffic or place others in danger:  

  • Stop in a safe place as soon as possible.
  • Call 999 and report the incident to the police.
  • Wait until the emergency services or highway authorities arrive.

If you realise your load has moved once you reach your destination or during unloading, you should quarantine your vehicle. The receiving site should collaborate with your operator to create a plan for safe unloading. 

You should not return to the road with unstable goods on board. 

4. Ways to secure a load in an HGV or goods vehicle

There’s no single load securing solution that works for all vehicles. You should assess all risks and select the combination that best suits your load, vehicle, and conditions. Whatever your system, equipment should be correctly stored and regularly checked for signs of damage and deterioration. 

Your options might include: 

  • Attachment points 
  • Buckle straps and internal nets 
  • Bungee securing systems and kites
  • Chains
  • Coil wells, chocks, and cradles
  • Friction and friction matting 
  • Headboards and bulkheads 
  • Positive fit 
  • Ropes
  • Sheeting and netting 
  • Vehicle mounted equipment 
  • Webbing ratchet straps 

5. How to load different HGVs, light goods vehicles, small vans, and cars

The updated code of practice provides detailed instructions on securing loads on different types of transport – from agricultural vehicles to passenger cars. We’ve summarised guidance for vehicles commonly used by our clients. For more bespoke loading strategies, speak to your Opus Safety consultant. 

Bulk tippers 

  • Use a tarpaulin or net if the load sits below the height of the vehicle sides. 
  • Opt for a tarpaulin if the load sits above the height of the vehicle sides (never use a net in this case). The tarp must completely cover the load bed with no gaps on any side. Never rely on the load settling below the sides. 
  • Use a rated sheet or solid cover for divisible loads like aggregate or scrap metal that are higher than the vehicle’s sides. 

Flatbeds and low loaders

  • Load against the headboard or within 30cm of it wherever possible. 
  • If safe weight distribution makes this impossible, you can use securely mounted blocks, chocks, or timbers to stop goods moving forward. 
  • Alternatively, you can fit an obstacle, like a stacked timber secured by lashing, across the load bed and attach it firmly to the vehicle. 

Drop and fixed-sided flatbeds

  • Don’t rely solely on the sides to secure a load, as items can bounce over. 
  • Instead, secure individual items using lashings, wherever possible. 
  • Cover the load bed with a net or tarpaulin. 
  • Place items against the headboard or within 30cm of it, wherever possible. 
  • Attach lashings to the vehicle chassis before fixing the vehicle sides. 
  • Keep side gates and anchor stanchions in good condition, repairing any defects as soon as possible. 
  • If the vehicle doesn’t have a rear bulkhead, use additional lashing or secure rear tarpaulin to prevent the load from moving backwards. 

Multi-deck trailers 

  • Consider additional work at height and falling object risks when loading multi-deck trailers. 
  • Ensure items in the upper deck are loaded in a single layer (not stacked), stable without lashings, and weigh less than 400kg. 
  • Secure palletised goods to the pallet and each other before loading and securing them on the vehicle.
  • Use a ground-operated internal net or securing system to protect drivers and site personnel from items falling from the upper deck when the curtain is pulled back for unloading.
  • Don’t employ internal nets or roof-mounted buckle straps for goods weighing 400kg or more. Instead, load them on the main deck or swan neck, securing them as you would on a single-deck trailer.


  • Load items against a bulkhead.
  • Group smaller items together within a box or container.
  • Secure large or heavy items to the vehicle. 
  • Use positive fit, placing goods to prevent shifting or slipping during transit. 
  • Fit a bulkhead between the load compartment and the cab to protect drivers and passengers from load movement during sharp braking. 
  • If there is no bulkhead, use extra strapping or other measures to stop the load moving forward. 
  • When making multiple deliveries, check the load to minimise movement. 
  • Don’t store load items, including work tools and gas cylinders, in the cab.

6. How to carry different types of loads in HGVs and goods vehicles

The DVSA’s updated guidelines offer advice on transporting a range of goods, including abnormal loads, non-hazardous goods, and bulk bags. We’ve outlined a selection of items of particular interest to Opus clients. To learn more about specific loading or stacking practices, please get in touch with your consultant. 

Construction products 

  • Secure construction products – like bricks and blocks – to the vehicle, loading them against the headboard or within 30cm of it. Stacks should be stable without lashings.
  • If the load is higher than the headboard, use at least two frictional lashings over the front row of the load to create a bulkhead.
  • In this scenario, use a frictional lashing to prevent sideways movement if you use diagonal lashing (cross strapping) to create a rear bulkhead and stop rearward movement. 
  • Ensure the lashings don’t go under the product’s pallet base. Instead, they should go around the load and attach to the vehicle’s chassis.
  • When transporting construction products on pallets, secure them to the pallet to form a single unit before securing it to the vehicle.


  • Ensure the load cannot slide on the pallet to prevent the restraint system from failing. 
  • When loading pallets onto the vehicle, check them for damage. Don’t accept them if you don’t believe they’re strong enough. 
  • If you can’t achieve positive fit due to different pallet sizes, fill gaps with packing material or use extra lashing. 
  • When carrying pallets on vehicles with van bodies, restrain the pallets with lashings or use packing material or dunnage if there are spaces around the pallets, vehicle sides, or headboard. 
  • If there are gaps in the load space or if weight distribution is a concern, position pallets as close to each other as possible, loading front to back along the centre line of the vehicle or trailer. 

Discuss your loading needs with an Opus expert 

Getting to grips with updated DVSA guidelines often requires specialist support. If you need comprehensive answers about approved loading and unloading practices in your business, we’re here to help. 

Chat with a workplace transport specialist about risk assessments, vehicle compliance, and more on 0330 043 4015 or email

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