Rase 1

The decision of Palletways member Rase Distribution to introduce a 750kg weight limit on domestic tail-lift deliveries has once again put the question of what constitutes a safe pallet weight before the haulage sector.

The Lincolnshire firm, which was bought by Hazchem member HW Coates this year, introduced the limit after its new owners carried out a risk assessment on tail-lift deliveries.

“HW Coates operates in an extremely safety conscious industry and it was shocked by the risks drivers are expected to take in the pallet sector to move these heavy weights, particularly after the death of Petru Pop,” said Rase Distribution MD Geoff Hill.

Pop was crushed to death in November 2016 while delivering a 1,400 kg pallet of tiles to a residential address in High Wycombe on behalf of Reason Transport, a Palletways member at the time.

Hill added: “Under the Health and Safety at Work Act there is a duty to assess risk. We did this, and it is impossible to escape the conclusion that these heavy pallets delivered to home addresses are unsafe. What then? You can’t ask your drivers to deliver them and then say you don’t know [the risks].”

Hill is now keen to encourage other pallet network members to follow the company’s lead.

“If we can encourage the whole industry to take up this weight limit then Pop’s death will not have been in vain,” Hill added.

Palletline and Fortec are the only two networks that have been operating a 750kg weight limit on tail-lift deliveries since 2015. Both praise Rase Distribution’s stance.

Enough is enough

Fortec MD Adrian Bradley said: “We really welcome a business like Rase Distribution leading this issue from the end-user’s side and saying ‘enough is enough’. As an industry we cannot allow our drivers to be put under that amount of risk.”

Palletline MD Graham Leitch echoed this viewpoint. “I commend any business that reduces its tail-lift weights and protects the health and safety of their staff,” he said.

Graham LeitchMDPalletline2017

Graham Leitch, Palletline

Leitch believes Rase Distribution represents the tip of the iceberg. “I think there are plenty of members in other networks who want to make this move and I would hope this action would encourage other members in other networks without a weight limit to take a stance,” he added.

David McCutcheon, MD of Pall-Ex member Bullet Express, agreed that there is strong support for Rase’s action across networks and members. However, he argued that, unlike Rase, which is working its notice with Palletways, commercial realities prevent most network members from calling the shots on pallet weights.

Nor does he condemn those networks that have stopped short of introducing pallet weights. Instead he slammed the HSE for failing to take the lead on this issue. “The HSE should be ashamed. It is always quick to fine hauliers for the smallest thing but when drivers’ lives are put at risk by handling loads of more than 1-tonne it turns a blind eye,” he said.

“It is ridiculous what drivers are asked to do and I know because I’ve been out there and done it. I cannot believe drivers are asked to manually push anything over 500kg, let alone 750kg. We must be the only industry to allow our people to be treated like that.”

McCutcheon added: “What the HSE has done is weighed up the cost of lost deliveries against that of drivers’ lives and decided that drivers are less important. Well, go and explain that to Petru Pop’s daughter. It’s an absolute disgrace.”

HSE defender

Chairman of the Association of Pallet Networks (APN) Paul Sanders sits on the HSE working group drawing up the draft guidance on pallet weights. He defended the HSE’s stance. “It is not about weight,” he said.

“The HSE review showed that a 250kg weight handled incorrectly can be even more dangerous than a 1-tonne load handled correctly. It is about the environment to which the pallet is being delivered, rather than the weight, and drivers need to be trained to make assessments at the point of delivery to ensure the load can be delivered safely.

“A lot of this is covered in the manual handling regulations, which is why there are no new regulations coming from the HSE on this. What’s needed now is clear guidance for the sector.”

Pallet-Track MD Nigel Parkes backs Sanders’ view. “I can fully understand the HSE’s decision because there are so many factors affecting a delivery. It is not just down to weight.

Nigel ParkesPalletTrack

Nigel Parkes, MD, Pallet-Track

“So ultimately it is up to businesses to make dynamic risk assessments looking at weight and the environment and not just for residential properties, because what is the difference between a residential home and, say, a private consultancy in a converted house? We believe the only way to tackle the problem safely is to use power-assisted equipment.”

Not just a weight issue

Palletforce is another network which does not have a maximum pallet weight limit for deliveries. “It’s not just weight that’s the issue,” said chief executive Michael Conroy.

“It’s bad manifesting and bad presentation too. You can’t eliminate risk, you can only de-risk things, which is what we’ve done,” he said, pointing to the network’s investment in developing imaging and scanning software that is fitted to 77 Toyota LNG forklifts.

The software allows each pallet to be captured, scanned and weighed instantly while being unloaded and loaded from and onto trailers. It also allows members to know the exact weight of their loaded vehicle and not have to rely on customer manifests, which can often be inaccurate, and it flags up pallets of more than 1,000kg so extra precautions can be taken.

Like Conroy, Pall-Ex group MD Kevin Buchanan accepts that weight is not the only risk. He points to a range of measures Pall-Ex has introduced including the roll-out of PDAs to drivers this year, which allow them to make dynamic risk assessments at the point of delivery.

Linked to enhanced software, the PDAs also provide drivers with additional information from customers on the weight and location of the delivery.

But Buchanan still believes a weight limit on tail-lift deliveries is necessary.

pall ex

“We wanted HSE to bring out regulations to limit pallet weights but since they ducked the issue we have had to take matters into our own hands so we’ve been working alongside the working group on this and are developing our own strategies around tech solutions. But we’d have still liked an industry wide limit on pallet weights,” he said.

Like McCutcheon, Buchanan also believes that, unless it is backed by the HSE, pallet weight limits will not be taken up by the sector.

“Introducing them unilaterally is not going to work; it has to be uniform across the sector so that there is a level playing field which everyone signs up to,” he added.

Leitch questioned this view. He argued that limiting pallet weights makes commercial sense.

“The upsides are clear. We have reduced strain injuries across the network and the strategy has been a factor in attracting new members to our network. Customers have also been extremely supportive as have our drivers, which is important for retention, and we have not seen any downturn in business because of this,” he said.

Just makes sense

Bradley endorsed this view. “Apart from the fact that it protects our drivers and customers, it is more efficient. In the time it takes to deliver a 1-tonne pallet up a drive, over steps and into a garage, or park an 18-tonner in a cul-de-sac, you could have made two to three B2B deliveries,” he said.

Adrian Bradley MD Fortec 2018

Adrian Bradley, MD, Fortec

“We are not saying we won’t do B2C deliveries but what we are saying is they have to be delivered in a way that protects our drivers, and we find our customers respect that,” he added.

And while he accepted weight is not the only issue, he argued that it is such a significant factor that it merits special measures, rather than being wrapped up in best practice guidance.

“You can ask a driver all the questions you like at the point of delivery but if he is dealing with a 1,200kg load, rather than a 750kg load, in my mind he is at much greater risk.”

What the networks do


Fortec introduced a tail-lift delivery weight restriction of 750kg across its network in October 2015


Palletline announced a tail lift weight restriction of 750kg in February 2015


Pall-Ex has no tail lift weight restrictions.

The network takes loads of up to 1.25 tonne. Safety measures include pump trucks for tail lift deliveries and an app driver can access by PDA to make dynamic risk assessments at point of delivery. The app links to enhanced software providing additional information from customers on the weight and location of the delivery.


Has no tail lift delivery weight restrictions at present. It takes pallet loads up to 1,200kg. A spokesman said it has no plans to introduce weight limits until the industry group, which includes the HSE, RHA and APN, completes its work to determine best practice.

Pallet Track

Pallet Track does not limit tail lift pallet weights. From 1 February 2019, all vehicles making tail-lift deliveries will have power-assisted pallet trucks on board.

The Pallet Network

Does not have a tail lift weight restriction but its tail lift service limits tail lift deliveries on 7.5 tonne vehicles to 750kg and allows up to 1,000kgs on larger 18 tonne vehicles and above.


Offers pallet weights from 150kg to 1,200kg. Tail lift and oversized services are available


Takes pallet weights up to 1250kg. It has also fitted imaging and scanning software to 77 Toyota LNG forklifts, which allows each pallet to be captured, scanned and weighed instantly while being unloaded and loaded from and onto trailers.