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California State Shipping Regulations

California 2021 state shipping laws, regulations , rules and limitations for heavy haul trucking and oversize loads. CA DOT – CALTRANS.

California state shipping regulations.

The great state of California official seal.

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

Heavy haul and oversize trucking companies.

Locate trucking companies and pilot car companies in the state of California:

California heavy haul 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 for 18 wheeler semi-trucks:

Length: Many measurements for semitrailers by California DOT seem very short because they’re referring to the distance from the king-pin to the rear axle.  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 of the trailer allowed is 53′ overall as long as it has two axles. If it has only one axle the maximum trailer length is 38′ overall. The maximum overall legal combination length is 65′ for the heavy haul and oversize sector of the trucking industry however there are additional laws for trucks pulling doubles or triples (dry box) that allows them to max out at 75 feet overall. California also has classifications such as a “STAA” vehicle. You can have a look at green truck dimensions at: Truck Map (.pdf)  for further clarification.
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 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 on tridem axle configurations depending on axle spread such as from 10 feet to 10 feet 2 inches (10’2″) tridum 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 ie; car haulers). 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. Note: The comment below on vehicle shipping overhang. We welcome your comments below to help others in clarification of rear overhang.

Routine oversize and heavy haul trucking permits.

Oversize and heavy haul trucking permits that are routinely issued by California DOT:

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 its 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 tridum axles. Quadem axles are not recognized  for over weight 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 or 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 amount of front or rear overhang and the route (color; see maps link above). Some shipments may be forced to be loaded onto stretch trailers. See the above folder on left titled “California overhang in depth” for more information.
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 feet and 6 inches is documented as 9 feet.

California overhang 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 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 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 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 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.

California permitted travel times and restrictions for heavy haul and oversize loads:

Let’s start by clarification of daylight hours; the basic rule is 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 or escorts are required.

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 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 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.
Notes: Keep in mind these are basic rules for oversize and heavy haul trucking in California. California state shipping regulations continuously change due to construction, project completions and policy modifications. Always refer to your oversize trucking permit before traveling.

Pilot car and escort vehicle 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: Inour 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.

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:
Fax line:
Permit office hours:

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

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.

Cities we service in California:


Additional info.

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. I pull a 9 axle Cozad. The drives and 3rd tandems are 102″. The 1st and 2nd tandems, and the deck are 120″. There are “oversize” banners and 2 18″ flags mounted mounted on the front bumper of the truck and the back bumper of the very end of the trailer. I’ll put magnet or bungee flags on any parts of the load that hang over the 120″. Now for my question: I got upgraded from the old Freightliner Classic to a newer Peterbilt 386. The Pete has a round bumper with no easy looking place to mount front flag holders. A google search of where I legally needed flags led me here. It reads like I need the flags on the “shipment” or the load, not necessarily the nose and rear of the entire truck and trailer. Will I be better off mounting the flags on the 4 corners of the 120″ deck, or, like it has been, at the extreme ends of the truck and trailer?

  2. I have a cement plant tollway I’m 96100 gross front axel is 14160 drives is 48100 back axel is 33960 ca is saying I have to have more then 34000 back their the back wheels does not move what can I do

  3. Hi,have a question,had discussion with my dispatch,about the 41ft,yes with 53 ft trailer,can I put the axel anywhere as long do not exceed 41ft,sorry for my English…and if you have the regulation about it can you send it to me please,thanks

    • Absolutely not. California has very strict regulations when it comes to axle spacings. I am unable to answer your question entirely as I do not know your entire configuration. I would suggest you stop into the closest California scale house when you have time and speak to the California DOT inspectors. Hopefully they can have a quick look at your entire tractor/trailer configuration and let you know precisely what you can and can’t do. I’m sure this isn’t exactly the answer you were looking for but hopefully it helps you solve your question legally.

  4. 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.

    AutoTrans, Inc.

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