A national safety analyst and Rice University Professor Emeritus gives an “F” to Harley-Davidson’s maximum weight warnings on its motorcycles. Kenneth Laughery, PhD., weighed in on the motorcycle safe weight issue as part of my lawsuit in the death of Stephen Gageby, of Butte MT.
Dr. Laughery is a Human Factors Professional, specializing in the design and effectiveness of warnings, labels and instructions. He confirmed what many in the motorcycle world already know: the way manufacturers deal with maximum weights and loads is grossly inadequate.
A motorcycle’s Gross Vehicle Weight Rating is usually posted on the bike’s frame. But this number is meaningless unless other statistics are known. Currently, owners of Harley Davidson touring bikes have to hunt through owner’s manuals to find the bike’s weight-related statistics, understand how the weights relate to each other, and calculate the difference to find their bike’s maximum safe load. Honda owner’s manuals directly state the model’s maximum weight limit. But all this information is still buried in small print and not adequately available to buyers and riders.
Manufacturers state unequivocally in owner’s manuals that riders must not exceed safe weight limits. But in order to get this point across effectively, “it is critical that the maximum load be specified and an effective warning system address the safety issues associated with exceeding the weight capacity,” Dr. Laughery writes.
Specifically, he notes, “The owner’s manual for the Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic motorcycle was the only source of information regarding the value of the GVWR and the weight of the motorcycle. While this information enables the user to calculate the maximum load value…it requires the user to perform an additional task of determining the relevant values and carrying out the calculation to determine if the GVWR is being violated. There is substantial research reported in the peer-reviewed scientific literature that documents the negative effects of such (requirements) on warning compliance.”
Then he confirms what most of us already know. “It is well documented in the research literature that a substantial majority of people do not read vehicle owner’s manuals cover to cover. Rather, such manuals are used as reference documents for obtaining information when it is needed. Thus, unless the user is provided a reason to seek particular safety information in the owner’s manual, such as maximum load capacity, it is unlikely the information in the manual will be addressed. “
Most large touring models of bikes are represented, since these bikes are frequently loaded for long trips and may carry more than one rider. Just plug in passenger and cargo weights, and the calculator will tell you if you are within the model’s safe weight limits.
Don’t you think it’s time motorcycle manufacturers posted clear, meaningful weight information that riders can use to stay safe?