2022 California State Shipping Laws, Regulations, and Limitations for Heavy-haul Trucking and Oversize Loads
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Maximum Legal Limits Without Requiring a Permit
|Maximum legal limits.||Standard||Metric|
|Length:||65 feet.||19.8 meters.|
|Width:||8 feet, 6 inches.||2.6 meters.|
|Height:||13 feet, 6 inches.||4.1 meters.|
|Weight:||80,000 pounds.||36,287 kilograms.|
|Overhang:||4 feet from the rear, 3 feet from the front.||1.21 meters from the rear, 1 meter from the front.|
|NOTES: Always verify any discrepancies with CalTrans prior to movement/transport if you are ever uncertain.|
These rules pertain to personal vehicles (towed or otherwise), commercial motor vehicles including semi-tractors, trailers, buses, boats, or anything else on California roads. Some local roads may have additional restrictions. For clarification of any discrepancies consult CalTrans (see contact information below).
Legal Load Limit Details in California
California DOT legal load size & weight maximums.
- Length: Many measurements for semi-trailers by the California DOT may seem short because they refer to the distance from the kingpin to the rear axle. Also, certain routes have restrictions on trailer sizes, so if you’re confused, call CalTrans and check with them before commencing movement. For passenger-related vehicles, the maximum length is 45′ in length overall on approved routes. The maximum trailer length allowed for a semi-trailer is 53′ overall as long as it has two axles. If it has only one axle, the maximum trailer length is 38′. The maximum overall legal combination length is 65′ for the heavy-haul and oversize trucking industry sector; however, there are additional laws for trucks pulling doubles or triples that allow them up to 75 feet overall. California also has classifications such as an “STAA” vehicle. You can look at the green truck dimensions at Truck Map (.pdf) for further clarification.
- Width: 8′ 6″ is the maximum width allowed to travel on any road in California.
- Height: 14′ is the maximum legal height allowed to travel in the state of California.
- Weight: 80,000 lbs GVW with no more than 12,500 on a steer axle, 20,000 pounds maximum weight on any single axle, 34,000 pounds maximum on tandem axles, and tridem axle configurations depending on axle spread from 10 feet to 10 feet 2 inches (10’2″) tridem is legal at 40,000 pounds. If you feel you are getting close to the legal limits see the section below on “routine trucking permits.”
- Overhang: You are allowed 3 feet of front overhang (4 feet for fixed trailers, i.e., car haulers). The rear overhang is 6′ in most areas but can be no more than 1/3 of the total item. Be sure to clarify the amount with the California DOT office you are traveling in to make sure. Note: The comment below on vehicle shipping overhang.
Routinely Issued Oversize/Overweight Permit Maximums in California
Oversize/overweight transport/trucking permits are routinely issued by CALTRANS.
|Maximum routine permit limits||Standard||Metric|
|Length:||135 feet.||41.1 meters.|
|Width:||15 feet.||4.5 meters.|
|Height:||17 feet.||5.1 meters.|
|Weight:||250,000 pounds.||36,287 kilograms.|
|Overhang:||4 feet from the rear, 3 feet from the front.||1.21 meters from the rear, and 1 meter from the front.|
|NOTES: Detailed instructions should be clearly printed on your official permit. Any discrepancies should be discussed with issuing CALTRANS office official prior to movement/transport for clarification.|
- Length: 135 feet in overall length is the maximum length on a routine oversize trucking permit that is issued. All others see “superload” info below or learn more about the California length limitations.
- Width: 15′ wide is the maximum width issued by a routine oversize trucking permit in California. All others see “superload” info below or learn more about the California width restrictions.
- 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 it’s not likely. Some shipments may be forced to use a lowboy, double drop, or otherwise, trailer that is purposely lower to the pavement.
- Weight: 250,000 pounds maximum (Class C if over or see super loads). Steer axles 12,500 pounds. Single axle; 20,000 pounds, 46,000 pounds on tandem axles, 60,000 pounds on tridem axles. Quadem axles are not recognized for overweight shipments. Depends upon the axle spacings and tire size. Trunnion: 60,000 pounds.
- Gross Weights: 5 axles is 112,000 pounds; 6 axles – 117,450; 7 axles 158,000 pounds, 8 axles 181,300 pounds (subject to inspection). The weights depend upon the number of tires combined with the overall distance between each of the axles. Spacings on axles are tricky in this state. The California DOT permits office will consider a number of factors but primarily bridges. If weights are excessive and trailer capabilities are even close to short of maxing out forget it. Pavement structural and stress testing and results will govern your overall capabilities. Learn more details on California heavy-haul weight restrictions.
- Overhang: Overhang in the state of California is very detailed depending on the amount of front or rear overhangs and the route (color; see maps link above) you prefer. Some shipments may be forced to be loaded onto stretch trailers.
NOTES: The distance between axles is measured to the nearest whole foot. When a portion is six inches you round up to the nearest foot, ie: 8 feet and 6 inches would be documented as 9 feet.
The Overhang From the Front of the Trailer
The Overhang From the Rear of the Trailer
Lights and Flags for Shipments That Have a Rear Overhang
Exemptions for Poles, Timber, Pipes, Etc.
Forklifts Protruding From Trailers
Projections From the Side of Trailers
Boat Shipping Boom, Masts, Cranes, Shovels, and Drilling Equipment Restrictions
Transporting booms, masts, cranes, shovels, or drilling equipment is permitted provided it meets the two-thirds (2/3) provisions described above in “overhang from the rear of any trailer”. Any protrusions from the trailer must be secured to prevent and bending or movement. Front projections that may extend further than the front axle must be a minimum of 7 feet above the pavement and must not restrict the vision of the truck driver.
Container Shipping and Overhang Limitations
Container shipping companies that have intermodal capabilities whether shipping within or out of the state of California must ensure that all lower corners are securely fastened to the trailer. On trailers that are not designed as “intermodal” trailers, you are not permitted to overhang from the front or rear of your trailer and all 4 corners must rest securely upon your trailer however, IF the trailers are completely empty overhang is permitted provided it meets all other overhang restrictions and does not protrude more than 5 feet from the front or rear of the trailer. Also keep in mind the state of California conforms to the regulations defined in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Title 49, Part 393, Section 126 (c) and (d) as well as California state law defined in the California Code of Regulations (CCR): Title 13, Div 2, Chap 7, Article 1, Section 1300 (b). If you intend on operating as a container shipper it is strongly advised you clearly understand the limitations set in both federal and state laws.
Drawbars or Load Extensions
Extension devices or drawbars up to 18 inches in length are not included in measuring the length of a tractor or trailer individually but are included in measuring a shipment’s overall length. If you are simply towing a small trailer, boat, car or camper see the California sections on the “Auto, Boat, & Camper Transporters Exemptions.”
Safety Devices to Ensure Trailer Attachments
Any safety devices that are used to ensure the trailer is secured to the towing vehicle are permitted provided they are no longer than 10 inches in length. If you need to perform more research on California overhang laws this is directly from the source.
California Superload Information
Shipments in excess of the following weights/dimensions are classified as superloads in California.
|Superload size/weight classification||Standard||Metric|
|Length:||135+ feet.||41.1+ meters.|
|Width:||15 + feet.||4.5+ meters.|
|Height:||17+ feet.||5.1+ meters.|
|Weight:||250,000+ pounds.||36,287+ kilograms.|
|Overhang:||4 + feet.||1.21+ meters from the rear, and 1+ meters from the front.|
|NOTES: Superloads have finely detailed instructions clearly printed on the official permit. Any discrepancies should be discussed with the issuing CALTRANS superload permit office official prior to commencing movement/transport.|
In-depth California 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 on 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 18 feet tall will require a route survey. If 18′ feet or over in height you more than likely will be classified as a superload. For detailed information on California’s maximum height limitations check out the state height limitations and routes.
- Weight: Of course, heavy haul weights are a huge issue. Anytime your overall GVW is over 80,000 pounds or you exceed any of the above (see routine permits) limitations on length, width, or height depending on the route you desire you are subject to be classified as a superload.
- 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 viewpoint. 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 a 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 & Travel Restrictions in California
California permitted travel times and restrictions for heavy haul and oversize loads:
- 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.
Holiday Travel in California
- New Years Day
- Abraham Lincoln’s birthday
- George Washington’s birthday
- Memorial Day
- Independence Day
- Labor Day
- Thanksgiving Day
- Christmas Day
If the holiday is on a Friday or a Monday there is no travel permitted on Saturday or Sunday. Never travel without first verifying approval first which will be documented clearly on your permit.
Will I Need a Pilot Car or Escort Vehicle?
Shipments requiring escort vehicles or pilot cars:
- Length: If over 100′ in length in the city of Los Angles or Los Angeles county 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 feet and no longer than 135 feet 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 you will be required to have 1 front pilot car on 2 lane roads or 1 rear escort on 4 lane roads however note that 2 pilot cars are required on some routes. Any shipment in excess of 12 feet should figure on a minimum of 2 pilot cars or escort vehicles.
- Height: Once you hit the 18 feet mark in height everything changes. You’ll be required to have a height 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 18 feet and 3 inches (18’3″) as well as a utility company clearance letter. Anything over this height will be required to notify all utility companies in advance of transport.
- Weight: There is little mention of weight restrictions and pilot cars. As with many states if the shipment is able to maintain the minimum required speed limits then a pilot car or escort vehicle may not be required. If your shipment is not able to meet the minimum speed requirements then you will more than likely be required to have at minimum 1 front and 1 rear pilot car/escort vehicle and in some cases may even be required to have a police escort. This is based entirely on your proposed route, the weight of the heavy haul shipment, and ultimately the California heavy haul permit department.
- Overhang: It all depends on the route. Just as a basic rule to calculate off of (not legally binding) 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 the 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 (30′ front and 25′ rear) count on being required to have 1 front and 1 rear pilot car/escort vehicle.
Pilot Car and Escort Vehicle Certifications and Requirements for Operating in CaliforniaPilot cars (escort vehicles) are required to have a minimum of one flashing or strobing amber light mounted at the highest point of the vehicle. The 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. The 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”, “WIDE LOAD” 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. The 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 handheld sign with the words “stop” on one side and “slow on the other, an emergency colored vest/shirt/jacket with reflective stripe and a red emergency flag of no less than 24” in either direction. Note: In our professional opinion all pilot cars and escort vehicle operators have items in addition to the above: 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 Flags, Lights, and Markings in CaliforniaTruck, trailer, and shipment required signs, banners, and flags. All trucking companies that are hauling oversize and overweight shipments must have an 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; “WIDE LOAD”, “OVERSIZE LOAD”, “LONG LOAD”, “EXCESSIVE FRONT OVERHANG”, “EXCESSIVE REAR OVERHANG”. If the shipment is over 100′ overall then the “LONG LOAD” sign 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 the 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 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.
Heavy Haul Trucking and Oversize Load Permit Limitations in California
Shipments in excess are classified as “superloads”.
- The Maximum Weight: Steering axle, 12,500 pounds. Single axle, 20,000 pounds. Tandem axle, 46,000 pounds. Try to maximal, 60,000 pounds. Trunnion axle, 10 feet wide 60,000 pounds. Quad axles are not recognized for heavy haul weights. Gross weight on five axles 112,500 pounds. Six axles hundred and 17,450 pounds. Seven and eight axles 158,000 pounds to 181,000 pounds which will be subject to inspection for heavy haul shipments. You may not move a heavy haul shipment on tandem axles that have more than an 8-foot spread. You may not move a heavy haul shipment on tridem axles that exceed a 10-foot spread.
- The maximum length: 135 feet.
- The maximum width: 15 feet.
- The maximum height: Any shipment in excess of 17 feet tall will require a route survey prior to movement and must be accompanied by a pilot car equipped with a height pole set at 3 inches above the load clearance height during movement. All shipments that are over height must be on a lowboy, double drop, or otherwise special lowered deck trailer. CalTrans will permit shipments that are taller under special circumstances. The state of California has two different regions that use the state-wide color route classification system that includes maps for shipments and pilot car company operators. You will need to check your permit for these route color classifications to determine if you need pilot cars or escorts. There are so many requirements we could not possibly list here. For additional information please refer to the CalTrans links above.
Heavy Haul and Oversize Trucking Shipments Are Classified as Superloads in California
Any shipment that is in excess of 15 feet wide is classified as a superload. Any shipment that exceeds the weights and dimensions listed above will more than likely be classified as a superload. In many circumstances, certain routes will require that you file for a superload permit while other routes may require you to file a standard permit. For more information please refer to the above section on super loads as well as the CalTrans links. While performing our research we found it difficult to obtain information on California superload shipments as the term “superload” is not as widely used in this state as in other states.
Heavy Haul and Oversize Load Sign, Flags, and Lights in California
Any shipment being moved in the state of California that is in excess of 8’6″ wide or 80 feet in length or more than 10 feet of overhang will need to use the appropriate warning signs. Warning signs shall be posted on the front and the rear of the shipment and need to specify “LONG LOAD” or “OVERSIZE LOAD” or “WIDE LOAD” or “EXCESSIVE FRONT OVERHANG” or “EXCESSIVE REAR OVERHANG”. The applicable warning sign must be used whenever you are transporting oversize shipments. At times when a shipment is oversize and long but under 100 feet in length, an “OVERSIZE LOAD” sign should be displayed. However, if the shipment is in excess of 100 feet long then a “LONG LOAD” sign is required. All signs must display black letters on a yellow background. The letters must be 10 inches in height and a minimum of 1 and 5/8 inches wide. All signs will need to be mounted at least 18 inches above the surface of the road on both the front and the rear of the entire combination of signs and flags required on vehicles that are over the legal width (8’6”). Flags are required whenever any shipment extends beyond 4 feet or more from the end of the trailer. For night movements you will need to use both safety lights and flags. Two safety lights and two flags are required for night shipments that are in excess of 12 feet in width. These lights are to be no more than 6 candlepower lights that are clearly visible from both the side and the rear of the shipment for 500 feet. If the shipment has a front overhang you may be required to use white lights visible from 500 feet in combination with flags on the front of the load. As stated above the flags will need to be red or fluorescent orange in color and square, with each side of the square a minimum of 16 inches. Any revolving amber lights on any towing unit must be completely covered when not engaged in transporting a permitted shipment.
Pilot Car and Escort Vehicle Requirements in California. Do I Need One?
When a shipment is over 12 feet wide depending on the routes, one or two pilot cars or escort vehicles are required. When a shipment is 120 feet and up to 135 feet long depending on the location and route, one or more pilot cars or escorts may be required. If the shipment is over 100 feet in length in Los Angeles County or in the city of Los Angeles you will be required to have one front and one rear pilot car or escort vehicle. Any shipment that is in excess of 18 feet or more in height will require a utility clearance and a survey of a route done by a pilot car or escort vehicle equipped with a high pole. For shipments that have 30 feet or more of front overhang, one pilot car will be required. For shipments with 25 feet of overhang beyond the rear of the trailer may require one or more pilot cars or escort vehicles. Be sure to use the above links to print a CalTrans route classification map to determine if you are moving on a red, blue, green, yellow, or brown route for escort/pilot requirements. Pilot car requirements in the state of California required by CalTrans on oversize and some heavy-haul shipments are extremely complicated. At times on some routes with a rear overhang that is over 25 feet, some areas may require two rear pilot cars or escort vehicles while on other routes one. Some route colors only allow a single pilot car or escort vehicle to operate on them. Be 100% certain you have done your homework when it comes to operating a pilot car or escort vehicle in the state of California. Failure to comply will likely result in a hefty fine.
Requirements for Escort and Pilot Car Vehicle Operators in California
All pilot cars and escort vehicles must be a minimum of 60 inches wide. All escort vehicles and pilot cars must display at least one red warning flag on each side of the vehicle. The flag will need to be a minimum of 16 inches and in the shape of a square. All flags need to be mounted so that they are visible from both the front and the rear of the vehicle. You must remove all flags when you are not operating in the capacity of an escort or pilot car driver. The vehicle must be equipped with a stop slow sign, at least one orange safety vest, shirt, or jacket, a 124-inch handheld warning flag that is square, and two-way communication radio. All escort vehicles and pilot cars are required to be equipped with a flashing amber warning light. Flashing amber warning lights will need to be visible from the front, rear, and side of the pilot car or escort vehicle. All pilot cars and escort vehicles will need to display a company’s sign on the side of the vehicle and nice clean and legible lettering which includes your contact information. All escort vehicles and pilot cars will need to display legible signs that state the oversize load visible from the front and the rear. This sign will need to be above the pavement a minimum of 4 feet and be completely legible from 45° from either side when read from the front or the rear. All lettering must be a minimum of 6 inches tall on a yellow background and be black in color with a minimum thickness of 1 and 5/8 of an inch. All signs must be a minimum of 440 square inches.
At no time is a stop slow sign to be used from the window of a moving vehicle. All warning lamps will need to be covered when the pilot car or escort vehicle is not working.
Travel Times in California
The 24 hours a day seven days a week policy has been replaced with a 3 AM policy for movements during dark hours. When filing for permits be sure to request as much travel time as you wish as all they can do is modify it in accordance with their regulations. However, if an escort or pilot car vehicle is required you will be subject to various curfews. If travel time is restricted note that sunrise means one-half hour before the sun rises and sunset means up to one-half hour after the sunset. Shipments that are in excess of 12 feet in width are prohibited from traveling during the early morning hours and late afternoon hours in the greater San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco areas. Slow-moving vehicle emblems must be displayed whenever a vehicle will be operated at speeds of less than 25 mph shipments that are 10 feet or more wide are not permitted to travel Monday through Friday during the following times in the following cities.
- Greater Los Angeles: 6-9 am and 3-6 pm.
- Greater Sacramento: 7-9 am and 4-6 pm.
- Greater San Diego: 7-9 am and 4-6 pm.
- Greater San Francisco in the Oakland Bay Bridge: 6:30-9 am and 3:30 – 6:30 pm.
- San Francisco city limits: 7-9 am and 4-6 pm.
A California Highway Patrol is required when shipments in excess of 15 feet wide travel on two-lane roads and up to 16 feet wide on yellow routes. Again depending on the size of your shipment and the desired route of travel, there are all kinds of variances in travel times. There is even a subsection for what is called “variance loads” when a shipment is over 15 feet wide, 17 feet tall, or over I hundred and 35 feet long or for hauling special equipment that exceeds the department standard method of weight classification which will need to be up proved by a special processing unit.
Written route surveys are required under many circumstances from the applicant. The California Highway Patrol in coordination with the district traffic manager will determine the required hours of travel. If you are required to have an inspection performed by the permit office inspectors you can reach the vehicle inspectors at one of the following numbers:
Southern California: 909-223-8860.
Central California: 916-215-7937.
Northern California: 530-941-0121.
Inspections usually require a minimum of 20 days before they are performed. If you need to speak to a headquarters equipment engineer you can call 916-653-4385.
General contact information for heavy-haul and oversize trucking permits.
For service north of the Kern County or San Luis Obispo County lines the general phone number is 916-322-1297.
For service south of the Kern County or San Luis Obispo County lines the general phone number is 909-383-4637. You can also contact them by email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
California DOT Locations and Contact Information
California DOT (CalTrans) contact information and other helpful links.
California Department of Transportation – CalTrans
PO Box 942874, room 4105
Sacramento, CA 94274-0001
Telephone helpline: 916-322-1297
Fax line: 916-322-4966
Permit office hours: 8 AM until 5 PM – PACIFIC TIME ZONE
California Department of Transportation – CalTrans
464 West 4th Street, MS #618
San Bernadino, CA 92401
Telephone helpline: 909-383-4637
Fax line: 909-388-7001
Permit office hours: 8 AM until 5 PM – PACIFIC TIME ZONE
Order California heavy haul and oversize trucking permits.
CalTrans oversize and overweight shipping manuals.
Loads of contacts at the Caltrans oversize permit offices.
California traffic and road conditions reports.
California state shipping regulations.