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California State Shipping Regulations

California state shipping regulations for shipping oversize and overweight. Trucking company and pilot car rules and regulations as well as travel times allowed by CA DOT – CALTRANS.

California state shipping regulations.

The great state of California official seal.

Please share your expertise or knowledge of California state shipping regulations with other visitors below.

Trucking company & pilot car directory.
Locate trucking companies and pilot car companies in the state of California:

California trucking company directory.
California pilot car company directory.
Order California heavy haul and oversize trucking permits.

Legal load limits.
California DOT legal load size & weight limitations:

Length: Many measurements for semitrailers by California DOT seem very short because they are talking about the distance from the king-pin to the rear axle. So if you hear/see a small number make sure you get clarification. Also certain routes have restrictions on trailer sizes so if you are at any point confused please call the DOT and check California state shipping regulations before traveling. First of all for passenger related vehicles the maximum is 45′ in length overall on approved routes. Semi-trailers: for a single axle semitrailer the maximum length is 53′ overall as long as it has two axles. If it has only one axle the maximum is 38′ overall. The maximum overall legal combination length is 65′ for our sector of the trucking industry but for those who care to wager we will mention that there is some esoteric law for trucks pulling doubles or triples (dry box) that allows them to max out at 75′ overall.
Width: 8′ 6″ is the maximum with allowed to travel on any road in the state of California.
Height: 14′ in the maximum legal height allowed to travel in the state of California.
Weight: 80,000 lbs GVW. 20,000 lbs maximum weight on any single axle and 34,000 lbs on tandem axles is the maximum weight allowed in California without a permit.
Overhang: You are allowed 3′ of front overhang. Rear overhang is 6′ in most areas but can for sure be no more than 1/3 of the total item being shipped. Be sure to clarify the amount with the California DOT office you are traveling in to make sure. We welcome your comments below to help others in clarification of rear overhang.

Routine trucking permits.
Oversize and overweight trucking permits that are routinely issued by California DOT:

Length: 135′ in the maximum length on a routine oversize trucking permit that is issued.
Width: 15′ wide is the maximum width issued by a routine oversize trucking permit in California.
Height: Under 17′ as anything over that height is required to have a route survey. If your route happened to be a well documented  route you might be able to get away without having to do the route survey but its not likely.
Weight: Steering axle: 12,500 lbs. Single axle: 20,000 lbs. Tandem axles: 46,000 lbs. Tridum axles: 60,000 lbs. Quad axles: 60, 000  lbs (a quad setup is recognized by California state shipping regulations and the DOT as a weight reducer). 5 axles: 112,500 lbs. 6 axles: 117,450 lbs. 7 axles: 158,000 lbs. 8 axles: 181,300.
Overhang:

Notes: The distance between axles is measured to the nearest whole foot. When a portion is six inches you round up to to the nearest foot ie: 8′ 6″ = 9′.
Two consecutive sets of tandem axles can have a maximum weight of 34,000 lbs on each one but only if the distance between the first and last axles of the consecutive sets of tandem axles is greater than at least 36′.
The gross weight of each set of tandem axles must not be more than 34,000 lbs and the gross weight of the two consecutive sets of tandem axles is not over 68,000lbs. There is a lot to be said and read about what the California state shipping regulations and the DOT consider legal weights as far as axle groups and spacings are required. You can read more here. If you have anything to ad to this that can help others please share that information below.

Superload information.
California DOT superload information:

Length: If you are over 135′ in length overall you are more than likely going to be classified as a superload in California.
Width: Depending out routing and the number of lanes available on the route but 15′ in some areas would qualify you. Over 17′ in width and you will more than likely be categorized as a superload.
Height: Anything over 16′ as you know will require a route survey. If 17′ in height or over you are more than likely a superload. Check here to see if you are “black route” or “yellow route”. Then this is the California DOT (Caltrans) .pdf booklet for loads over 20′ in height which may just save your butt.
Weight: Of course weight is a huge issue. So we simply refer you to the “orange“, “green” and “purple” weight charts to get straight to the point.
Overhang: California is NOT going to let you break the rule of 1/3 (no more than 1/3 of overall length can overhang) and they shouldn’t in our opinion from a general view point. Get your proposed routing together and talk to them and see what you come up with would be our suggestion. 15′ possibly routine. 20′ and you are superload for sure we’d guess.
Notes: Here are some maps for superloads (California calls them “Extralegal” – maybe Arnie came up with that?)that can save you some serious money when you need the information. If you need to hire an expert to take care of your California shipping needs or even consult you we are happy to assist you. Most of the time we can handle your problem over the phone for a reasonable fee but when you need someone in the field we are qualified to assist you.  See consultation.

Permitted travel times & restrictions.
Caltrans permitted travel times and restrictions:

Let’s start by clarification of daylight hours; the basic rule of 1/2 hour before sunrise until 1/2 hour after sunset. If you do not require a pilot car/escort vehicle and are not overweight (green chart – over 52,000 lbs. on tandem axles or higher see charts in “superloads” section above) or don’t have anything out of the ordinary going on your travel times are 7 days a week 24 hours a day if you request to do so when you order your permits. The travel times restrictions are loaded so figure this as a rule of thumb (your permit will state your allowed travel times when issued) since this is just for you to get an estimate:

  • No travel from 6 AM until 9 AM in/around Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento & San Francisco.
  • No travel from 3 PM until 6 PM in the same areas with a 1 hour variance.

Your physical permit will state your exact allowed travel times when you get it issued and they will be real close to the above examples. There are simply too many variable to list.
Holiday travel:  There is no holiday travel time permitted in California unless you have a special arrangement with Caltrans. The following holidays are observed as no travel days by California state shipping regulations: New Years day, Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, George Washington’s birthday, Memorial day, Independence day, Labor day, Thanksgiving day and Christmas day. If the holiday is in a Friday or a Monday there is no travel permitted during Saturday or Sunday. Never travel without first verifying approval first which will be documented clearly on your permit.

When pilot cars are required.
If your shipment is any of the following you will be required to be escorted by a pilot car(s):

Length: If over 100′ in length in Los Angles area you will be required to have 1 front and 1 rear pilot car/escort. This may be required in other areas as well. If over 120′ in length on some routes you will be required to have 1 front and 1 rear pilot car/escort vehicle. If over 135′ in length you will be required to have 1 front and 1 rear escort on any road in the state.
Width: If your shipment is over 12′ wide the general rule is that you will be required to have 1 front escort on 2 lane roads or 1 rear escort on 4 lane roads. This 12′ rule pretty much applies until you get up to a width of 15′. At 15′ wide it is mandatory that you have 1 front and 1 rear escort. There are certain routes that will require you to have 1 front and 1 rear escort as well with only 12′ in width. Check with Caltrans to see if your route applies.
Height: Once you hit the 17′ mark that’s it. You have to have a high pole pilot car/escort vehicle and before you even apply for your permit you have to conduct a route survey with the pole set at a minimum of 17′ 3″. Anything over this is the same thing with utility companies notified in advance of transport.
Weight:  There is little mention if any of weight restrictions and pilot cars. As with many states if the shipment is able to maintain the minimum required speed limits there is usually not pilot car/escort vehicle required. If your shipment is NOT able to meet the minimum speed requirements then you will be required to have at minimum 1 front and 1 rear pilot car/escort and in some cases may even be required to have a police escort. Check with California DOT (Caltans) for further information.
Overhang: It all depends on the route. Just as a basic rule to calculate off of (NOT LAW) if you have less than 15′ of rear overhang you are probably not going to be required to have a pilot car. If you are dealing with a shipment that has 20′ – 25′ of overhang then yes you are going to be required to have at least 1 pilot car/escort vehicle – if overhang is in the front then lead and if off of rear chase. If you have both front and rear overhang that is in excess (20′ front and 25′ rear) count on being required to have 1 front and 1 rear pilot car/escort vehicle.
Notes: Keep in mind these are basic rules as of April 2013 intended to help you calculate requirements. California state shipping regulations has too many variations of policies, routes and regions to list anywhere but the state library. Always refer to your permit before traveling.

Pilot car certifications.
Pilot car (escort vehicle) certifications and requirements for operating in California state:

Pilot car (escort vehicles) are required to have a minimum of one flashing or strobing amber light mounted at the highest point if the vehicle. Light must be visible from 360 degrees from a distance of no less than 500′ and be completely covered when not tending a shipment. Pilot car vehicles must be equipped with a CB radio or a 2 way communication device with a range of no less than 15 miles and be in constant communication with all parties related to the shipment at all times while in transit. Vehicle is required to have identification signs on each side of the vehicle stating the company name, address and contact telephone number. Vehicle must be equipped with the appropriate banner/sign stating ‘OVERSIZE”, with “OVERSIZE LOAD”, “WIDELOAD” and “LONG LOAD” being used when appropriate that is a minimum of 5’ in width and 10″ in height with black lettering no less than 1 5/8″ letter thickness and a yellow background mounted no less than 48″ from the pavement surface. If not tending a shipment this sign must be fully covered or removed. Vehicle must have one safety colored red flag mounted on each side of the vehicle with a minimum distance of 16″ in either direction. Vehicles must also be equipped with a hand held sign with the words “stop” on one side and “slow on the other, a emergency colored vest/shirt/jacket with reflective stripe and a red emergency flag of no less than 24” in either direction.
Note: It is only our professional opinion that pilot cars also have items in addition to the above but not required:  2 – 5 pound fire extinguishers type A, B and C, 3 reflective emergency road triangles or 18″ traffic cones, 8 burning road flares, 2 OVERSIZE LOAD banners (yellow with black lettering) and a hard hat. Also when working in California you want to make sure you have the pilot car maps.

Shipment, truck and trailer markings.
Truck, trailer and shipment required signs, banners and flags:

All trucking companies that are hauling oversize and overweight shipments must have a amber colored strobing or flashing light affixed to the top of the tractor trailer cab that is visible 360 degrees from a minimum distance of 500′. Signs that state the exact nature of the shipment; “WIDELOAD”, “OVERSIZE LOAD”, “LONG LOAD”, “EXCESSIVE FRONT OVERHANG”, “EXCESSIVE REAR OVERHANG”. If the shipment is over 100′ overall then the “LONG LOAD” sigh shall be displayed and the “OVERSIZE LOAD” sign is to be displayed for lesser lengths and other oversize configurations. The other signs will need to be used when appropriate. When shipping ANYTHING in excess of 80′ in length, 102″ in width or more than 10′ of overhang you MUST have the appropriate sign on the front of the tractor trailer and on the rear of the trailer and/or rear of overall shipment. The signs must have lettering that is a minimum of 10″ in height with a minimum of 1 5/8″ letter thickness with lettering being black in color on a yellow background. All shipments that are in excess of the 102″ must also have safety colored red flags placed on all for corners of the shipment that are no less than 16″ in either direction. Overhang must be flagged as well.  California law defines daylight time as 1/2 hour before sunrise and 1/2 hour after sunset which leaves you open for trouble on lighting which states that during the hours of darkness (we’ve got a 1/2 hour of lee-way time here) you must have 2 red lights on the side and rear (visible from a minimum of 500′) attached to the load or extremities. So, as soon as you pull out in the AM or if it gets close to dusk pull over and put on the red lights so you don’t find yourself in court trying to argue their error in defining “daylight hours” as it is a contradiction that our legal beagles caught while perusing their endless piles of regulations.

California DOT and other information.
California DOT (Caltrans) contact information and other helpful links:

Contact information:
Northern region:
California Department of Transportation – Caltrans
PO Box 942874, room 4105
Sacramento, CA 94274-0001
Telephone help line:
916-322-1297
Fax line:
916-322-7966
Permit office hours:
8 AM until 5 PM – PACIFIC TIME ZONE

Southern region:
California Department of Transportation – Caltrans
464 West 4th Street, MS 618
San Bernadino, CA  92401
Telephone help line:
909-383-4637
Fax line:
909-388-7001
Permit office hours:
8 AM until 5 PM

Caltrans pilot car maps – PILOT CARS LOOK!
Caltrans oversize, overweight and single trip permits here.
Caltrans oversize and overweight shipping manuals.
Loads of contacts inside of the Caltrans oversize permit offices.
California traffic and road conditions reports.

California state shipping regulations.

California DOT and Caltrans regulations for oversize trucking and heavy haul.

California state flag.

The information contained in these pages is research information primarily for use by oversize and overweight trucking company drivers, dispatchers and pilot car companies. While every effort is put into maintaining the accuracy of this information you must absolutely verify this information with the California DOT (Caltrans) Permits office before commencing movement.
1 Comment
  1. Not to be a smarty but if you’re hauling vehicles you are allowed to have 4 feet of front overhang (not 3) as long as it is a vehicle that overhangs. I was here for the length and appreciate all of the information you have on this great website. Thank you.

    Calvin
    AutoTrans, Inc.

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