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Gross vehicle weight – safety in transport

>Gross vehicle weight is not only a technical parameter, but also an important element of road traffic regulations. Did you know that the weight of vehicles can have a real impact on the technical condition of roads? In this article you will learn what gross vehicle weight is and what its permissible values ​​are for various types of vehicles. What happens if the GVW is exceeded? Read on to find out.

GVW – definition and legal basis

Gross vehicle weight, also known as GVW, is a term legally defined in the Road Traffic Act of June 20, 1997. GVW is the maximum permissible weight of a vehicle, loaded with people and cargo, that is legally allowed to travel on roads.

It is one of the most important technical parameters of the vehicle and determines its class, operational capabilities, and legal requirements regarding its use. Therefore, GVW is not only a technical indicator, but also an important element that affects road traffic safety and the protection of road infrastructure against excessive load. 

Gross vehicle weight of various vehicle types

Different types of vehicles have been assigned different permissible total weight values. Passenger car drivers are accustomed to GVW values ​​up to 3.5 tons, which also includes the vast majority of delivery vehicles. This is slightly more complicated in the case of professional carriers and combination vehicles.

As pertains to trucks, the permissible total weight may reach up to 40 tons for combination vehicles consisting of a tractor unit and a semi-trailer. Knowing these limits is necessary not only due to legal regulations, but also to plan the efficient and safe transport of goods.

Calculating gross vehicle weight

Calculating the gross vehicle weight of a vehicle or combination vehicle requires understanding two key components:

  • curb weight of the vehicle and
  • maximum load capacity

The curb weight of a vehicle is its weight without passengers and cargo. Load capacity determines how much additional weight a vehicle can safely carry. The sum of these two values ​​constitutes the permissible total weight of the vehicle. However, remember that in case of an inspection, the weight of the vehicle with the driver and all the transported cargo will be verified.

How to calculate the gross vehicle weight of combination vehicles

Combination vehicles, in accordance with the Road Traffic Act, are defined as vehicles connected to each other in order to move as a whole, which includes, for example, a car connected to a trailer. While articulated vehicles, most often mean a combination of a tractor unit and a semi-trailer. 

The permissible total weight of a combination vehicle is calculated by adding the GVW of the individual vehicles included in the combination. This is especially important in heavy transport, where vehicle combinations may consist of various configurations of tractor units and semi-trailers. How does it look like in practice?

To calculate the permissible total weight of a combination vehicle, it is necessary to check the gross vehicle weight (GVW) of the trailer, which can be found in its vehicle registration certificate. The next step is to verify whether the GVW of the vehicle combination does not exceed the value indicated in box F.3 of the registration certificate of the towing vehicle. 

When calculating the weight of a combination vehicle, you should not rely solely on theoretical data from registration certificates. The actual total weight, including the weight of cargo and passengers, is also important.

Controls and consequences of exceeding the GVW

In Poland, the gross vehicle weight is consistently monitored by various authorities, such as the Road Transport Inspection. Exceeding the GVW is one of the most common offenses committed by drivers of trucks and delivery vehicles. Exceeding the GVW has financial repercussions and requires reloading the excessive weight onto another vehicle. Otherwise, it is not possible to continue driving. The fine depends on the degree to which the limit was exceeded and may range from PLN 500 to even PLN 15 000.

Permissible GVW values ​​in Poland

  • single-axle trailer – up to 10 tons
  • two-axle motor vehicle or two-axle trailer – up to 18 tons
  • three-axle motor vehicle – up to 25 tons
  • set: tractor unit and three-axle semi-trailer (colloquial: truck) – up to 40 tons
  • combined transport of a 40-foot ISO container – up to 44 tons

What is the permissible total weight of a passenger vehicle?

Passenger cars have a standard GVW of up to 3.5 tons. This value is relatively safe and is rarely exceeded. The situation is slightly different for delivery vehicles, which are regularly overloaded. Fines imposed by the ITD for exceeding the GVW are significant, but they do not discourage delivery drivers from breaking the regulations.

Summary: road restrictions as a safeguard

The gross vehicle weight has a significant impact on transport efficiency, the condition of public roads and road safety. Compliance with the imposed limits protects all road users against potential threats related to vehicle overload. Understanding and complying with these limits is not only a legal matter , but also a conscious approach to safety and responsibility for the common good.


Is the GVW value the same for all vehicles?

No, the gross vehicle weight varies depending on the type and design of the vehicle.

What are the consequences of exceeding the gross vehicle weight?

Exceeding the GVW may result in fines, but it usually also requires the unloading of excess load in order to continue driving.

Does GVW only apply to trucks?

While GVW is particularly important for trucks, it applies to all types of vehicles, including passenger cars and buses.