Driver whose van was dangerously overloaded faces bill of more than £1,200

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A man whose overloaded van was a danger to other drivers is facing a bill of more than £1,200.

Paul Soakell was travelling through East Durham at about 8am on February 17 when his vehicle was stopped as part of routine roadside checks by Durham County Council and Durham Constabulary.

A trading standards officer from the council instructed Soakell, 44, of White Hill Road, Easington Lane, to follow a police vehicle to the nearby Wellfield weighbridge site.

During the journey from Blackhall, the officer noted that the flat-bed Ford Transit was travelling very slowly and, due to the condition of the vehicle and distribution of the bags of coal it was carrying, formed the view that it was dangerously overloaded.

The van was found to be carrying a load of 6,070kg despite only being permitted to carry 3,500kg.

The excess coal was removed and it took Soakell three journeys to legally transport all of the van’s contents from the site.

During an interview under caution, Soakell confirmed that he was self-employed and the regular driver of the vehicle although he had not been driving it for long.

He claimed not to know the weight limits for the vehicle and did not have a weigh ticket for the journey.

At the time of the incident, Soakell was making deliveries from M&G Fuels, in Hartlepool.

Trading Standards officers visited the company and found that vehicles were weighed before leaving the site.

Sign were also in place warning drivers not to leave the yard with an overloaded vehicle and the firm retained weigh tickets for their accounts.

Soakell did not attend Newton Aycliffe Magistrates' Court on Wednesday but pleaded guilty by post to four offences under the Road Traffic Act 1988.

He was fined £730 and ordered to pay £405.45 in costs and a £73 victim surcharge after admitting three counts of using an overloaded vehicle and one of using a vehicle in a dangerous condition.

Joanne Waller, Durham County Council’s head of environment, health and consumer protection, said: “Weight restrictions for goods vehicles exist for the safety of all road users.

“An overloaded vehicle will be unstable and the brakes will not be as effective as they should be. As the weight of the overload is increased further, the braking becomes even less effective. The brakes will overheat, leading to potential brake failure.

“In this case, the driver chose to take a heavily overloaded vehicle through a built-up area at a time when the roads would have been busy with commuters, causing a major risk to a large number of people.

“Hopefully, this case will highlight the importance of being aware of weight restrictions and operating within these limits.”