How to transport loads
Note: This section refers to light vehicles under 4.5t. For information about loading heavy vehicles over 4.5t, see the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator.
When you transport any kind of load, your vehicle or trailer must be loaded safely so it doesn’t endanger other road users, you or your passengers, or damage road infrastructure.
This means ensuring that your load:
- is properly restrained
- doesn’t overhang dangerously
- doesn’t exceed mass limits
- doesn’t cover lights, indicators, reflectors or the number plate.
Restraining your load
If you’re in control of a light vehicle, you’re responsible for ensuring your load doesn’t make your vehicle unstable or unsafe, and can’t fall or be dislodged from the vehicle.
To keep your load safe, you must:
- select the right vehicle
- position the load correctly
- use the right method of load restraint.
Below you’ll find advice for restraining various types of loads on light vehicles. For more information, see the National Transport Commission’s Load Restraint Guide 2018 for Light Vehicles (PDF, 521KB).
Garden refuse can be light enough to blow off a ute or trailer during transport. Use a secured tarpaulin or netting to prevent light items blowing away and endangering other road users.
If the refuse is loaded higher than the sides of the ute or trailer, tie or strap it down to prevent it moving.
Furniture and white goods
Restrain tall items of furniture or white goods (such as fridges) to head boards to ensure they don’t fall over when you brake, turn or take evasive action.
If the furniture extends above the sides of the ute or trailer and isn’t tightly packed, tightly restrain it using rope or webbing straps. Rubber matting under the load can help prevent movement.
Tightly pack your furniture and fill the spaces between items with dunnage or packing materials to ensure the load doesn’t move and loosen the lashings.
Do not transport loose, smaller tools unrestrained in the back of utes or trailers. Instead, contain them within toolboxes that are restrained adequately.
Restrain larger tools, such as shovels, rakes and lawn mowers, using ropes, straps or a cargo net if they’re not adequately contained by the vehicle body.
For boats on trailers, a safety chain can be used in addition to the wire rope from the trailer’s winch to the bow of the boat, and the boat should have a strap over the stern attaching it to the trailer.
If the boat is fitted with an outboard motor and its mounting to the stern can’t withstand bumps and other shocks encountered in road transport, you may need to separately restrain the motor or remove it during transport.
You may tow an oversized boat using a light vehicle if it complies with the Guideline for the safe movement of oversize 'special use' light trailers and oversize boats on light vehicles .
Loose items carried inside a boat, such as fishing rods, eskies and safety equipment also need to be restrained to ensure they cannot blow out of the boat or move in a way that can affect the stability of the vehicle. Refer to the Load Restraint Guide 2018 for Light Vehicles (PDF, 521KB) for various load restraint methods.
You can’t tow a boat that’s more than 2.9m wide behind a light vehicle.
Small boats, kayaks and canoes transported on roof racks must be within the projecting load limits, and have warning flags or lights as required.
Refer to the section on safe transportation of gas cylinders.
Dogs in utes
Refer to the section on transporting dogs in utes.
Should you carry the load?
When deciding whether to carry a load, ask yourself the following questions. Remember, breaching transport laws can also void your vehicle insurance in the event of a crash.
Will the load create a hazard for other road users?
An object that projects from the front, rear or side of your vehicle can distract others, collide with vehicles or injure pedestrians. Make sure you’re always within legal limits, even for short trips.
Will the load create a hazard for you?
Very heavy or high loads may affect your ability to steer and brake safely. A badly placed load may interfere with your view of the road. All increase the risk of a crash. Check that you still have a clear view in your rear vision mirrors.
Will the load endanger your passengers?
A load that projects from inside a passenger vehicle can be dangerous. Passengers should not be responsible for keeping a load in place. You must be confident that the load is stable and won’t harm passengers when you stop, accelerate or turn.
Carry loose items in the boot to prevent them endangering passengers. A load barrier in a station wagon can prevent a load from injuring your passengers or yourself.
Will the load endanger your vehicle?
Overloading or incorrectly loading your vehicle puts extra stress on the engine, suspension and brakes. Generally, passenger vehicles aren’t designed to carry large or heavy loads. Badly packed loads can also damage interior fittings or exterior paintwork.
Will the load be safe?
It's easy to damage valuable purchases by loading them badly – even on a short trip. Professional transporters have the correct materials to secure and protect your goods.
If in doubt, don't carry the load. Consider hiring a vehicle designed to move loads or pay for professional delivery. In the long run, it could be much cheaper than the cost of a crash, injury, vehicle repairs or load damage.
Read more about transporting projecting loads.