Secure Your Load, Secure Your Drive: A Guide for Light Vehicle Drivers

By Ben
ABC QLD

As featured on ABC Brisbane with Kat Feeney and the Afternoons team. 

Ever wondered how to safely transport that giant stuffed bear you just won at the Ekka? Maybe you're helping a friend move, or just need to pick up some bags of soil from the garden center. Whatever the reason, if you're driving a car, ute, or small trailer, knowing how to secure your load is essential. An unsecured load can become a dangerous projectile, putting yourself, your passengers, and other road users at risk.

This guide will equip you with the knowledge to secure your cargo safely and legally.

The Basics

    • Keep it all in: Your load must be properly restrained to prevent items from shifting or falling out.
    • Size matters: Don't overload! Your vehicle has weight limits, and exceeding them can affect handling and braking.
    • Stay within the lines: The load can't overhang your vehicle excessively, and it must not obscure lights, indicators, reflectors, or your number plate.

Projecting a Safe Image

There are specific limits for how far a load can stick out from your car or trailer:

    • Height: Maximum 4.3 meters (a little taller than a standard doorway)
    • Width: Maximum 2.5 meters (including the width of your vehicle)
    • Side overhang: Up to 150 millimeters (less than the width of a standard ruler)
    • Front overhang: Up to 1.2 meters

Rear Overhang Warning

If your load overhangs from the back more than 1.2 meters or if the load isn't clearly visible, you'll need a special warning device:

    • Day time: A brightly colored 450mm x 450mm sign, red and yellow or all yellow.
    • Night time: A red or yellow warning light visible from 200 meters away, or two red reflectors at the very back of the load.

Examples: Taming Your Cargo

    • Green waste: Use a tarp or netting to stop leaves and twigs from becoming airborne.
    • Furniture and appliances: Secure them to the headboard of your vehicle using straps or rope. Tight packing and filling gaps helps prevent items from moving.
    • Tools: Small tools need to be secured in a toolbox. Larger tools like shovels can be strapped down or secured with a cargo net.
    • Boats: Use a safety chain to the bow of the boat in addition to the winch cable. Consider a stern strap for added security. Kayaks and canoes on roof racks must also meet dimension limits.

Special Cases: Canine Cargo, transporting your doggo. 

    • Safety first: There are legal requirements to ensure your dog is safe and secure during transport.
    • No lap dogs: Your dog cannot be in your lap while driving.
    • Contained comfort: An enclosed cage is the safest option, sized appropriately and positioned to minimize exposure to the elements.
    • Securely strapped: If using a tether, it must be attached to a secure collar or harness, be the right length to allow movement, and have swivels on both ends to prevent entanglement.
    • Working dogs are an exception; they can be unsecured in the back of a ute or trailer if assisting with moving livestock.

Should You Do It?

Before you load up, consider these questions:

    • Will it be a hazard to others? A protruding object can distract drivers or injure pedestrians.
    • Can you handle it? Heavy or high loads can affect steering and braking.
    • Are your passengers safe? A loose load inside the car can become a projectile during sudden stops.
    • Is your vehicle up to the task? Overloading can strain the engine, suspension, and brakes.
    • Will the load stay safe? Improperly secured cargo can get damaged, even on short trips.

If you're unsure about safely transporting your load, consider renting a suitable vehicle or hiring a professional delivery service. It can save you money and hassle in the long run.

Remember, securing your load is not just about following the rules; it's about safe driving!

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