45' Buses (Overview)


45' Bus: On this web page, a 45' bus refers to a bus that is longer than 40 feet but not more than 45 feet. (Note: A vehicle combination, e.g. a bus towing a vehicle or trailer, may be up to 65 feet length. If the single-unit bus is 40 feet or less in length, the combination is not subject to the 45' motorhome restrictions.)

Bus: CVC Section 233 defines "bus" as: "(a) …any vehicle… …designed, used, or maintained for carrying more than 15 persons including the driver." Or, "(b) A vehicle designed, used, or maintained for carrying more than 10 persons, including the driver, which is used to transport persons for compensation or profit, or is used by any nonprofit organization or group..." Tour buses are also commonly referred to as "coaches," "motorcoaches" and "motor carriers of passengers." This web page deals with buses operating as "passenger transportation vehicles" as defined by CVC 464.

Tour bus: CVC 612 states: "Tour bus" means a bus designed for carrying more than 16 passengers and the driver, which is operated by or for a charter-party carrier of passengers, as defined in Section 5360 of the Public Utilities Code (PUC). This definition includes operation of a "passenger stage corporation" as defined in PUC 226, or any carrier of passengers required to register with the California Public Utilities Commission pursuant to PUC 3902.

KPRA: Kingpin-to-rearmost-axle distance on a truck tractor-semitrailer.

CVC: California Vehicle Code.


The basic California length law for vehicles is 40 feet unless specifically exempted. The law exempts buses up to 45 feet, but only on certain routes. In recent years, the tour bus manufacturing industry increased its standard bus length from 40 feet to 45 feet to increase capacity, and to accommodate requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The California Bus Association estimates that 78% of new bus sales are 45-foot models. These longer buses can operate safely on many highways, but may encounter problems on narrow two-lane roads with tight curves or without shoulders.

Therefore, Caltrans restricts certain route segments to buses over 40 feet long.

Legal History

Vehicle Length: The basic vehicle length limit in California is stated in the CVC Section 35400(a): "A vehicle may not exceed a length of 40 feet."

Federal Law: In 1991, the federal Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) required states to allow buses up to 45 feet long on National Network (NN) highways, which are comprised of primarily interstates. ISTEA allowed states to determine which routes off the NN that 45' buses may use to pick up or deliver passengers.

State Law: The federal ISTEA allows 45' buses in California on the National Network (NN) and mandates that the buses be allowed reasonable access to points of loading and unloading. In 1995, at the request of bus companies and bus associations, Caltrans reviewed the viability of allowing 45' buses on routes beyond the NN using an engineering analysis. The California law that allows buses up to 45 feet is CVC Section 35400(b)(10)(A).

Access Routes

The following sources illustrate the routes that allow 45' buses:

On-Line Map: By district. Green routes allow 45' buses, and red routes prohibit them.

Stopping for Services: 45' buses may exit the designated route for fuel, food, and lodging provided the access is signed and the service is within one road mile of the "identified" exit. The exit must be signed to show that the service route has been evaluated and approved by State and local engineers. This "Service Access" sign shows an "S" on the back of a truck, as illustrated below. These signs were intended for large trucks, and are located primarily on the interstates.

California Sign Code: G66-55 (CA)


For more information on service access, see the web page Service Access Routes.