Driver Knowledge Tests

Guidelines for loading a roof rack

If you’re loading a roof rack, whether it’s for work or you’re packing things for your holiday, there are some guidelines which will help keep your load secure:

  1. Check the rating on your roof rack and don’t overload it. There should be a sticker or plate on your roof rack telling you how many kilograms you can carry, and this is most likely going to be between 50-100kg.
  2. Don’t overload your roof rails – these are what your roof rack is attached to. To get the maximum load you can carry, you need to subtract the roof rack weight from the roof rail maximum load.
  3. Use ratchet straps, not ropes or bungee cords – you can get much more clamping force with a ratchet strap than ropes. Bungee cords don’t have enough load restraint for anything other than tarpaulins.
  4. Avoid loading anything ahead of the top of the windscreen as wind pressure will try to rip your load and the roof rack from your vehicle
  5. Keep the centre of gravity as low as possible and between the front and rear axle, i.e. load heavier items low down and nearer the middle. A high centre of gravity will make your vehicle much less stable in the corners.
  6. Bear in mind that the load on your roof rack contributes to the overall weight of your vehicle.
  7. Check your load periodically and especially after going over bumpy ground.
  8. With flat loads, strap over the front of the load because you won’t have the clamping force to just strap from side-to-side.
  9. Heavy loads are best carried in a trailer, not on a roof rack.
  10. Long loads should have a strap at least every 1.5m. All loads should have at least two straps.
  11. Use a tarpaulin for weather protection and to make the load more aerodynamic.
  12. Load smaller items at the front to improve the aerodynamics.
  13. Metals loads like ladders have much less friction on the roof rack than other types of loads; ensure you have enough load restraint; strap through a rung for added load security.
  14. Wrap straps around loads which might slip out, e.g. groups of pipes, and tape them with duct tape for added security.
  15. Use racks for specialist equipment like bikes and canoes.
  16. Secure the ends of your straps so that they don’t flap in the wind (this frays them very quickly) and don’t get underneath your wheels.
  17. You can never put too many straps on!

Darren is an expert on driving and transport, and is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists

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