Up to 75% of motorists planning on buying a real Christmas tree this year are unaware of the laws around safe loading of bulky items, a new report claims.
The UK buys around eight million real Christmas trees each year, and with many motorists blessed with high ceilings and cursed with a small car, it means an annual struggle to fit a seven-foot tree into the boot of a supermini.
According to research by Fiat Professional, three-quarters of drivers aren’t aware of safe loading laws – which could leave them liable to receive up to three licence points and an unlimited fine.
A total of 500 people were surveyed as part of Fiat Professional’s research – with presumably very few professional drivers who should know the rules better.
While there are no specific rules surrounding Christmas trees, the Highway Code contains specific laws regarding abnormal loads. It states: “You MUST secure your load and it MUST NOT stick out dangerously. Make sure any heavy or sharp objects are secured safely.”
Around 6% of respondents to Fiat Professional’s survey said they have previously transported a tree ‘in a manner which may have contravened the rules of the road’ by leaving it hanging from the back of their vehicle. An impressive 25% admit to just ‘throwing it in the car’ without any security to prevent it moving around.
About 5% carry the tree home on the roof of their car, whether or not they have a roof rack.
A Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency spokesman said: “A dangerously-loaded vehicle will incur an instant three penalty points on your licence, along with an uncapped fine.” That could mean bills of thousands of pounds for those in contravention.
The advice given in the Highway Code states that while loads may overhang the rear of your car, there are some conditions. For example, the car’s number plate must always be visible – so if it’s mounted on the tailgate, drivers may need to purchase a supplementary plate.
Loads that overhang the rear must also be marked out with a reflective flag or cover – for most, this can be as simple as wrapping a high-visibility vest around the tree’s trunk.
Regardless of whether the Christmas tree is loaded into the rear of the vehicle or on its roof, it must be properly secured. Rope or ratchet straps are advised, but whichever you use it’s essential the tree doesn’t move around.
If you’ve got a little vehicle and a big Christmas tree, consider borrowing or hiring a larger car or pick-up truck for the festive run.