An ‘abnormal load’ is a vehicle that has any of the following:

  • a weight of more than 44,000kg
  • an axle load of more than 10,000kg for a single non-driving axle and 11,500kg for a single driving axle
  • a width of more than 2.9 metres
  • a rigid length of more than 18.65 metres

Other measurements may apply if you are transporting a load abroad.

Notifying the authorities

Depending on the load, you are moving and your route, you may need to give advance warning to:

  • the police
  • highway authorities
  • bridge and structure owners like Network Rail

You can use Highways England’s electronic service delivery for abnormal loads (ESDAL) to:

  • plot your route
  • notify the police, highways and bridge authorities of your abnormal load movements around the road network
  • get advance notice of any possible route problems
  • save vehicle details and routes for future use

If you do not use ESDAL, you must fill in an abnormal loads movement application forms.

Give advance notice

You must allow time to get the necessary clearances from the police, highway and bridge authorities. For example, a Special Order application must be completed 10 weeks before the scheduled date of the move.

Read the factsheet for notice requirements.

‘Notification requirements for the movement of abnormal indivisible loads or vehicles’

Taking an abnormal load abroad

If you are taking an abnormal load outside the UK, you will need to:

Check if a load is abnormal in another country

Some countries measure abnormal loads differently from the UK.

Check with each country you are travelling through to find out if the load you are transporting counts as abnormal – if it does, you will need to:


As is the case with many things associated with road haulage, there are restrictions that affect the movement of abnormal loads. For instance, abnormal loads are not allowed to travel in London on the following days and times:

  • 07:00 to 19:00 Monday to Friday
  • 10:00 to 19:00 Saturday

There may well be other town city, or local/county restrictions on your proposed route, so please check during the planning stage.

Source – DVSA

Operators going abroad

Since  1996,  the  European  Union  has  had  clear  legislation  on  allowed  weights  and  dimensions  in  road transport. However, loads surpassing the allowed limits – experts call them “abnormal loads” – constitute an economically important segment of commercial road haulage.  They  include  anything  from  a  mobile house and mobile crane to exceptionally large and heavy indivisible loads such as electric transformers, chemical  reactor  vessels,  airplane  fuselage  or  wings.  Abnormal road transports often need to travel considerable distances; in many cases, national borders have to be crossed.

As  abnormal  road  transports  do  not  comply  with  the  general  European  legal  requirements  on  vehicle weights  and  dimensions,  an  exemption  or  permit  is  needed  prior  to  carrying  out  an  abnormal  road transport operation. Authorities need to verify that bridge structures on the road route can accommodate the often heavier than normal vehicles, and that roads are appropriate for the size of load being moved.

Currently,  in  the  absence  of  European  harmonisation  in  this  field,  international  transporters  are confronted  with  a  panoply  of  rules  and  procedures,  for  instance  on  vehicle  escorts,  the  time  frames allowed,  authorised  speeds,  etc…  for  obtaining  an  abnormal  road  transport  permit.  This varies from Member State to Member State or sometimes even from region to region. Often, this results in delays and difficulties  for  carriers  to  make  precise  cost  calculations  or  to  meet  their  contractual  obligations  to shippers and customers.

To  facilitate  efficient  freight  transport  throughout  the  European  Union,  improve  safe  operations  and provide  more  transparency  in  the  field  of  abnormal  load  transport,  European  experts  from  industry, Member States and the Commission have together produced the Guidelines available at the link below.

European Best Practice Guidelines for Abnormal Load Transport within the EU.