Safety Expert Hands “F” to Harley-Davidson Safe Weight Warning

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?


7 Comments on Safety Expert Hands “F” to Harley-Davidson Safe Weight Warning

  1. I firmly believe that once you buy a vehicle the manufacturer is totally not responsible for whatever the owner does with it. U-Pull-It by cars never read your owner’s manual never read the warning labels on the vehicle either and yet every time somebody gets killed in a car they don’t run back to the manufacturer and blame it on the manufacturer. Once a person touches an object they are solely responsible for what they do with that object. That’s just common sense but we know the world doesn’t have any left

  2. ^agreed

  3. SoCalGlide // May 26, 2016 at 1:09 am //

    Personal responsibility seems to be nonexistent in this country. The information is there, it’s the owner’s responsibility to use it.

  4. This Kenneth Laughery is an idiot.. He wants to assert his so called expertise on an issue of rider incompetence. The driver or rider of any vehicle is solely responsible for the safe operation of said. You cant blame the manufacturer because it was hard to find loading information. Its still there and can be found. I like millions of others have a Harley Ultra Classic and have had no issues finding loading information. I am also very aware of how my bike handles when loaded heavily. This is just the case of an inexperienced rider taking on too much for his abilities, then trying to blame his accident on someone else.

  5. I agree with the above comments, Drivers Responsibllty,But I will say this, I ride a Yamaha Roadliner,The Bike weighs 750lbs naked, the rear tire maximum Load is 463 LBS,This bikes weight is evenly distributed front and back, so 750lbs divided by two is 375lbs rear and front, Now I wheigh 250 lbs =625 add my girlfreind 150 lbs.=775 That is on the rear not counting saddle bags, and tour pack! So I am way over the maximum load on that rear tire!! I used six different brands of bike tires, and only managed to get 6000 average out of each!! So now guess what, I use a Car Tire that is good for an Excess of 1200LBS maximum Load! The wheel and tire are both in compliance with DOT Specs, Now my bike is in compliance with the weight, I have two Roadliners and have gone through Three Car tires, and I average 16,000 miles off each!I have been riding bikes since the age of eleven, Iam now sixty two years old!

  6. Hey Ralph did you know that car tire is not recommended to be used on a motorcycle? All tires have a traction rating. That car tire wears better because it is a harder compound. Get it????

  7. Mark Loudermilk // May 27, 2016 at 7:14 am //

    I seem to remember when I had my Electraglide right inside the trunk it gave the maximum recommended weight to carry. As many have said above, have a little person responsibility in operating you motorcycle.

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