How far can a ladder or lumber stick out from the rear of a vehicle?

How far can something like a ladder or lumber stick out from the back/rear of my car, truck, or vehicle?

Have you ever wondered what the law is in your state concerning protrusions from a vehicle? Like when you’re hauling a ladder or lumber for that new project. Most states have different rules so it’s important for you to not only have the red flag but to know the limitations of protrusion lengths your state legally permits. If you have something sticking out too far from your car or truck you can be issued a citation or worse, a fine. We’ll go over the basics of having something protruding from the front or back of your vehicle and what the limitations are in your state.

Over loaded van with lumber on top, How much is the legal limit? Find out what your state laws are below. Photo credit.

Let’s first go over some of the basics.

Properly securing your item.

One of the more important things here is to ensure you don’t lose whatever you intend to move. This is why properly securing your long item to the car or truck you intend on transporting it on. When securing lighter items we suggest using a small rope as long as you can tie a good knot. If you’re not the greatest with knots consider double tieing in if this is the only option you have. For heavy items, we suggest using ratchet straps to secure your long item (lumber, poles, pipe, ladders, etc) when possible. We do not recommend using bungee cords for securing anything under any circumstances. They are too stretchy and simply can’t be counted on 100%. The last thing you need is an insurance claim.

Red flag rules.

Do I have to tie a red flag on anything that sticks out of the back or front of my vehicle? The rule of thumb on this is if it sticks out more than 3 feet, yes. It doesn’t matter if it extends 3 feet from the front bumper or 3 feet from the rear bumper down low, or on top on the hood, or in racks. If it protrudes more than 3 feet in either direction, you must attach a red-colored warning flag to each protruding end.

What the laws say about objects protruding from the front or rear of vehicles.

Considering the safety of other motorists as well as public property, there are various laws in place to limit how far an item can overhang or protrude the rear end of vehicles. They also cover properly marking the item being transported at each end. As mentioned earlier if you choose not to properly flag or mark the protrusion you could be subject to a ticket or a fine or both. The USDOT has federal regulations that cover this area of the law. It basically says that if you have something protruding over 3 feet in the front and/or 4 feet from the rear of the car or truck it must be properly marked with a red or orange safety flag. It should be noted that objects protruding more than 4 inches from the sides of a vehicle must be properly marked as well.

Proper marking of objects protruding from the front or rear of your vehicle.

During daylight hours. During daylight hours protrusions can be marked with a red or orange safety/warning colored flag. Flags must be a minimum of 18 inches square.

During nighttime hours. During the hours of darkness, objects protruding from vehicles must be illuminated with a red lamp placed at the far rear extreme of the item protruding from the rear.

Examples of items that may be too long for your car or truck.

  • Lumber
  • Poles
  • Ladders
  • Pipe
  • Building materials
  • Kayaks
  • Canoes
  • Surfboards
  • Nursery stock

    Considering the USDOT doesn’t have authority on state and local roads, let’s look at the individual state laws on items sticking out (protruding) from vehicles.




    Illinois State Shipping Regulations for oversize and heavy haul.

    2021 Shipping laws and regulations for shipping oversize and over-weight loads in the state of Illinois.


    The great state of Illinois official seal.

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

    Locate specialized trucking companies in Illinois.
    Locate pilot car companies in Illinois.
    Order oversize trucking permits.

    Legal load limits in Illinois.
    Illinois DOT legal load size & weight limitations.

    Legal Loads.
    Length:  65’ overall length maximum.
    Width: 8’6” on the interstate and other designated highways, 8’ on non-designated highways.
    Weight:  GVW 80,000,  Single 20,000, Tandem 34,000,   Tridem 42,000
    Height:  13’6” is the maximum allowed height for legal loads.
    Overhang:  3’ front in the front and 3’ off of the rear of the trailer.

    Routine oversize shipping, trucking and transport permits.
    Oversize and overweight trucking permits that are routinely issued by the state of Illinois.

    Length:  Up to 145’ long. Anything longer refer to the superload section below.
    Weight:  Single 24,000, tandem: 48,000, tridum: 60,000, Quadem: 60,00 gross, 5 Axles 100,000 lbs., 6 Axles 120,000 lbs., 7 axels: 120,000, 8 axles: 120,000 lbs.
    Width: 14’6” (any load over 16′ will require special admin approval before a permit is issued).
    Height: 15’ (any load over 16′ tall requires a route survey).

    Superload information:
    Illinois DOT superload information.

    Length: Any load that is longer than 145′ is considered a superload.
    Width: Any load that is in excess of 14′ 6″ in width is considered a superload.
    Height: Any load that is in excess of 15′ 6″ in height is considered a superload.
    Weight: Any load that exceeds 120,000 lbs on any standard axle configuration whether it’s a 6,7 or 8 axle configuration or not is considered a superload.
    Overhang: Contact them as this varies depending on the route.
    Notes: Spacing between steer and first tandem must be more than 8′ 1″. The spacing before the first axle and the trailer must not exceed 18′ 6″.  All axle spacings combined must not be less than 43′ 6″. Superload permit processing times vary. Expect delays. Before requesting a route you are expected to do as much research on your own as possible. They will refer you to GettingAroundIllinois for construction zones and other closures. 

    Permitted travel times and restrictions in Illinois:
    Illinois travel times and restrictions for oversize loads.

    Travel is permitted from ½ hour before sunrise to ½ hour after sunset  Monday thru Friday and ½ hour before sunrise until 12PM on Saturdays. Loads that are overweight only may travel 24/7 on all days of the week (make certain it is not documented otherwise on your permit before doing so). No travel is permitted on Sundays unless you are below the routine permit standards of no more than 115′ in length, 12′ in width, 13′ 6″ in height (sunrise to sunset rules apply).  No movement is permitted on the major holidays: New Years Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. Travel stops at 12PM on the day before any of these holidays. The Illinois oversize load permit office is closed on MLK Day, Lincoln’s birthday, Washington’s birthday, Columbus Day, Election Day, Veterans Day, and on the day after Thanksgiving. However, travel is not restricted on these days. Always refer to your permit for approved travel times.

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

    A rotating amber light must remain on at all times mounted on top of the cab and be visible from 360 degrees from a minimum of 500′ in direct sunlight. If your overall length is more than 80′ in length you are required to have one amber light over the cab of the truck and one amber light no more than 10′ from the rear of end or trailer/load at the highest point that is practical. Oversize load signs must be a minimum of 7′ in width x 18″ in height, have a yellow background color with black lettering no less than 10″ in height x 1″ thick – we have recently heard 12″ tall x 2″ thick so please clarify and comment below if you know which is correct. Flags are required at all 4 corners of the load and front of the truck and are to be safety red in color and no less than 18″ square. Shipments over 75′ in length, 10′ in width, or 14′ 6″ in height are required to have signs. Signs must be placed on the front and rear extremities of the truck, trailer, or load.

    When pilot cars are required:

    Length: If over 110′ in length you are required to have a minimum of 1 pilot car and in some places 2 pilot cars (higher traffic density or certain times of year). If over 145′ (150′ in some very rural areas) in length you are required to have 3 pilot cars –  yes 3. If over 175′ in length a police escort will be required.
    Width: Up to 14’6” requires 1 pilot/escort vehicle. Over 16’ requires 2 pilot/escort vehicles. Over 18′ in width will require a police escort. 
    Height: Up to 14’ 6” 1 pilot/escort vehicle, over 16’ requires 2 pilot/escort vehicles. Over 18′ in height will require a police escort.
    Weight: No requirements as long as you can maintain minimum speeds. However, on bridge moves that require all other vehicle traffic to be removed will require an appropriate number of pilot cars which is a minimum of 2 and possibly 3 with police escort. All areas are different and require evaluation.
    Note: If you exceed any two dimensions, then you are required to have an additional pilot car. So if you’re over 14′ 6″ tall and 14′ 6″ wide you would be required to have 2 pilot cars.  

    Required pilot car certifications:

    Cars, vans, or trucks may be used as long as the gross weight of the pilot car vehicle is rated at no more than 8,000 lbs. Pilot car driver must be 18 years of age minimum with a valid regular driver’s license. Pilot cars must have a rotating or flashing amber light mounted on the top of the vehicle. Must display a red flag at all 4 outermost points of the vehicle and have “OVERSIZE LOAD” signs that are a minimum size of 5′ wide x 12″ tall and have black lettering no less than 8″ in height. Must have radio and be in constant communication with the driver transporting the shipment at all times. Must have $500,000 per occurrence combined insurance that covers property and body.

    How to apply for trucking permits:

    Illinois Department of Transportation – DOT
    Bureau of Traffic, 2300 S Dirksen Parkway
    Springfield, IL  62764

    Email: dot.permitoffice “at”
    General inquiry phone: 217-782-6273
    Phone: 217-785-1477 or 800-252-8636 within the state.
    Fax: 217-728-3572

    Note: Fee varies depending on dimensions and miles traveled. A permit is valid for 5 days.

    Hours: from 8 AM until 4:30 PM

    Central Time Zone


    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 Illinois State DOT Permits office before commencing movement.