Bearing the load: safety for goods vehicles

Bearing the load: safety for goods vehicles

Loads and persons must be carried on goods vehicles with due regard paid to the relevant regulations, as per the National Road Traffic Regulations (NRTR). Regulations 246, 247, and 224 are provided here, extracted directly from the National Road Traffic Act, Act 93 of 1996 (NRTA) and its NRTR, with some comments and insights from the Road Freight Association (RFA) into their application, where applicable.

Compliance with these three regulations is essential to ensure the reasonable safety of all road users. Failure to comply is an offence and may lead to the transgressor being prosecuted, but more importantly may have fatal consequences.

Regulation 246 – Manner in which goods to be carried

No person shall operate on a public road a motor vehicle carrying any goods-

  • In such a manner as to come into contact with the surface of the public road on which the vehicle is being operated, but a chain, known as a “static chain”, may be carried in contact with the surface of such road;
  • In such a manner as to obscure the driver’s view of traffic to the front or on either side, or his view in the rearview mirror or mirrors of traffic to the rear;
  • Which are not-
  • Safely contained within the body of such vehicle; or
  • Securely fastened to such vehicle,

And which are not properly protected from being dislodged or spilled from such vehicle.

  • On the roof thereof, in the case where such vehicle is a motor car, if the height of such goods measured from the highest point of such roof exceeds one-half of the height of the motorcar, measured from ground level: Provided that the provisions of this paragraph shall not be applicable in respect of pedal cycles being transported on the roof of a motor vehicle; or
  • In any container, which has provision for fastening by means of “twist locks”, unless such container is securely fastened by at least four “twist locks” and the provisions of this paragraph are also applicable to empty containers carried on a motor vehicle, but two “twist locks” may be used to fasten a container which, measured parallel to the length of the vehicle, is at least one comma five metres in length and less than three metres in length.


Drivers must ensure loads do not make contact with the road surface or obstruct the driver’s view in any direction. 

Goods vehicles must contain their loads properly, to ensure they do not fall onto the road and pose a hazard to others. It is noteworthy that the Consignor / Consignee legislation at regulation 330A (1) places an obligation on the consignor and consignee not to offer or accept goods if they are not loaded and transported according to NRTR provisions.

Loads on top of motor cars should not exceed half the motor vehicle’s height. So, for example, a car that measures 1,600mm from the ground to its highest point may not bear a load of over 800mm, for an overall height when loaded of 2,400mm. Bicycles loaded on the roof are the exception to this rule.

“Twist locks” are used to secure container corners to the deck or frame of a trailer.

Regulation 247 – Circumstances under which persons may be carried on goods vehicle

No person shall operate on a public road a goods vehicle conveying persons unless that portion of the vehicle in which such persons are being conveyed is enclosed to a height of-

  • At least 350 millimetres above the surface upon which person is seated; or
  • At least 900 millimetres above the surface on which such person is standing,

In a manner and with a material of sufficient strength to prevent such person from falling from such vehicle when it is in motion.

Provided that no person shall be conveyed in the goods compartment together with any tools or goods, except their personal effects, unless that portion in which such persons are being conveyed is separated by means of a partition, from the portion in which such goods are being conveyed.


The surface on which people are seated must be enclosed to a height of at least 350mm above that surface. It is not permitted to sit on the rim of the load body. For people conveyed while standing, the load body must be enclosed to a height of at least 900mm above the surface on which they are standing. Conveying goods and tools with people in the goods compartment is not permitted unless a partition separates goods and tools from the people.

Regulation 224 – Overall height of vehicle and load

No person shall operate on a public road a motor vehicle together with any load thereon, the overall height of which-

  • In the case of a double-deck bus exceeds four comma six five metres; and
  • In the case of any other motor vehicle exceeds four comma three metres.

Note: The Honourable Minister of Transport, Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga, acting in terms of section 75 (1) (d) of the National Road Traffic Act, 1996 – exempted the operation on our public roads of motor vehicles transporting ISO containers from complying with regulation 224 (b) until further notice.

GN 1725 signed on 31 March 2023 also suspended the application of punitive measures and called on Law Enforcement Agencies to collect data of motor vehicles transporting ISO (High Cube) Containers.


Exemption from the 4,300mm maximum height applies strictly to motor vehicles conveying ISO containers.


• “goods” means any movable property;

• “goods vehicle” means a motor vehicle, other than a motor cycle, motor tricycle, motor car, minibus or bus, designed or adapted for the conveyance of goods on a public road and includes a truck tractor, haulage tractor, adaptor dolly, converter dolly and breakdown vehicle;

• “motor car” means a motor vehicle, other than a motor cycle, motor tricycle or motor quadrucycle, designed or adapted solely or principally for the conveyance of not more than nine persons, including the driver

• “motor vehicle” means any self-propelled vehicle and includes-

(a) a trailer; and

(b) a vehicle having pedals and a engine or an electric motor as an integral part thereof or attached thereto and which is designed or adapted to be propelled by means of such pedals, engine or motor, or both such pedals and engine or motor, but does not include-

(i) any vehicle propelled by electrical power derived from storage batteries and which is controlled by a pedestrian; or

(ii) any vehicle with a mass not exceeding 230 kilograms and specially designed and constructed, and not merely adapted, for the use of any person suffering from some physical defect or disability and used solely by such person;

• “pedal cycle” means any bicycle or tricycle designed for propulsion solely by means of human power;

• “overall height” in relation to a vehicle, means the distance measured from ground level to the highest part of-

(a) any part of such vehicle; or

(b) any load thereon,

whichever part is the highest, but in the case of a vehicle driven by electrical power, the overall height does not include and overhead electrical contacting gear or catwalk protruding above such vehicle;

• “public road” means any road, street or thoroughfare or any other place (whether a thoroughfare or not) which is commonly used by the public or any section thereof or to which the public or any section thereof has a right of access and includes-

  • the verge of any such road, street or thoroughfare;
  • any bridge, ferry or drift traversed by any such road, street or thoroughfare; and
  • any other work or object forming part of or connected with or belonging to such road, street or thoroughfare;

• “vehicle” means a device designed or adapted mainly to travel on wheels or crawler tracks and includes such a device which is connected with a draw-bar to a breakdown vehicle and is used as part of the towing equipment of a breakdown vehicle to support any axle or all the axles of a motor vehicle which is being salvaged other than such a device which moves solely on rails.                                                                                                                              

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