Legal Basis for Truck Restrictions

Feasibility

Legal protection for commerce: Most truck ban requests arise from noise complaints. However, overland trucking is the primary means of moving goods in the United States. Commerce and trade have state and federal legal protection; therefore, restriction of commerce is difficult. It requires substantial supporting evidence such as accident data and a reasonable alternate route.

Legal Trucks

Height: Truck Height is limited to 14 feet. For more information, see Height and Low Clearance.

Width: Truck width is limited to 8.5 feet. For more information, see Vehicle Widths.

Length - Single Unit: The basic length limit for all single unit vehicles is 40 feet; however, length exceptions are given for buses and motorhomes up to 45 feet on certain routes (see 45' Buses and 45' Motorhomes)

Length - Combinations: Combination vehicles coupled together, such as a truck tractor and semitrailer, or a truck tractor, semitrailer and trailer, are limited to 65 feet, or 75 feet, or may be unlimited depending on the route. In addition, legal trucks in California must not exceed a kingpin-to-rear-axle (KPRA) length of 40 feet. See Quick Guide: Truck Lengths & Routes.

Weight: The maximum overall weight limit is 80,000 pounds. The California Vehicle Code (CVC) also specifies maximum axle weight limits as well. Generally, the maximum allowable weights are 20,000 pounds on single axles and 34,000 pounds on tandem axles equipped with the proper tire weight capacity ratings. For weight requirements, see Weight Limitation.

Current State Route Restrictions

Current restrictions: There are approximately 20 State route segments with specific truck restrictions, including number of axles, gross weight, length, and cargo type (e.g. flammables, explosives, radioactive materials). See State route restrictions at Special Route Restrictions, which includes links to the histories of some restrictions.  

Legal Basis

State authority:

Streets & Highways Code (SHC) §124. "The department may restrict the use of, or close, any State highway whenever the department considers such closing or restriction of use necessary: (a) For the protection of the public. (b) For the protection of such highway from damage during storms or during construction, improvement or maintenance operations thereon.” 

SHC §125. “To notify the public that a state highway is close or its use restricted, the department may: (a) Erect suitable barriers or obstructions upon such highway. (b) Post warnings and notices of the condition of any such highway. (c) Post signs for the direction of traffic upon any other highway or detour open to the public travel. (d) Place warning devices on such highway. (e) Assign a flagman to warn, detour or direct traffic on such highway."

CVC §21370. “The Department of Transportation, ..., while engaged in the construction of a state highway ... may restrict the use of and regulate the movement of traffic upon any highway intersecting the project at or near the place of intersection whenever such work interferes with or endangers the safe movement of traffic through the work.”

Legal basis in accordance with CVC for the restriction process:

  • §21101 "Local authorities...may adopt rules and regulations by ordinance or resolution... (c) Prohibiting the use of particular highways by certain vehicles..."  
  • §21104 "No ordinance or resolution proposed to be enacted under Section 21101...is effective as to any highway not under the exclusive jurisdiction of the local authority enacting the same, except that an ordinance or resolution which is submitted to the Department of Transportation by a local legislative body in complete draft form for approval...is effective as to any state highway..."
  • §21105 “No rule or regulation… shall be effective as to boundary line streets where portions thereof are within different jurisdiction unless approved by all authorities having jurisdiction of such portions of the street concerned have approved the same.”

Legal basis in accordance with CVC for the Department varying weight limits:

  • §35650 “The Department of Transportation…shall have authority to declare and to  fix a weight limit greater than the maximum weight limit set forth in this code...”
  • §35651 “Whenever in the judgement of the Department of Transportation any state highway will not with safety to itself sustain the maximum weights…the department shall determine, after a public hearing, the maximum weight which the highway will sustain.”
  • §35652 “The Department of Transportation shall give notice of the time and place of the hearing by posting a notice in the county seat of each county in which any affected portion of the highway is located …Notice of the hearing shall be given for not less than 10 days…”
  • §35653 “The hearing shall be conducted by one or more engineers appointed by the Director of Transportation…Upon the basis of the findings, the Director of Transportation shall declare in writing the maximum weight which can be maintained with safety upon the state highway…” 
  • §35654 “Following the declaration of maximum weight as provided in this article, the Department of Transportation shall erect suitable signs at each end of the affected portion of the highway and at such other points…” 

Legal basis in accordance with CVC for local authorities varying weight limits or restricting vehicles:

  • §35701 "(a) Any city, or county for a residence district, may, by ordinance, prohibit the use of a street by any commercial vehicle or by any vehicle exceeding a maximum gross weight limit...(b) The ordinance shall not be effective until...signs are erected...(c) No ordinance...shall apply to any state highway...in the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways, except (that) approved by a two-thirds vote of the California Transportation Commission."
  • §35702 "No ordinance proposed under §35701 is effective with respect to any...state highway, until the ordinance has been submitted by the...local authority to, and approved in writing by, the Department of Transportation. ...the local authority shall designate...an alternate route..."
  • §35703 "No ordinance adopted pursuant to §35701 shall prohibit any commercial vehicles coming from an unrestricted street...by direct route to and from a restricted street...for the purpose of making pickups or deliveries..."
  • §35712 "(a) Any county may, by ordinance, prohibit the use of any highway located in an unincorporated residential or subdivision area by any commercial vehicle exceeding a gross weight of 14,000 pounds. (b) Any county of the third class...may...prohibit the use of any highway...by any commercial vehicle exceeding a gross weight of 5,000 pounds."
  • §35714 "No ordinance adopted pursuant to §35712 shall be effective with respect to: ... (c) Any commercial vehicle ... for the purpose of making pickups or deliveries (f) Any state highway, until the proposed ordinance has been submitted by the board of supervisors of the county to and approved in writing by the Department of Transportation. In submitting a proposed ordinance to the department for approval, the board of supervisors shall designate therein, an alternate route for the use of the vehicles which shall remain unrestricted by any local regulation as to commercial vehicles so long as the ordinance proposed shall remain in effect. The approval of the proposed ordinance by the Department of Transportation shall constitute an approval by the department of the alternate route so designated.”
  • §35704-§35721 discuss topics such as exemptions for public utilities, tax funds, hearings, delivery routes, residential areas, signs, other exempted vehicles, and defective roadways.

Legal basis in accordance with CVC for restricting Combination Length to 60 feet:

  • §35401(d) “A city or county may, by ordinance, prohibit a combination of vehicles of a total length in excess of 60 feet upon highways under its respective jurisdiction. The ordinance may not be effective until appropriate signs are erected …, as the local authority determines will best serve to give notice of the ordinance.”

Legal basis in accordance with CVC for restricting KPRA to 38 feet:

  • §35401(e) “A city or county, upon a determination that a highway or portion of highway under its jurisdiction cannot, in consideration of public safety, sustain the operation of trailers or semitrailers of the maximum kingpin to rearmost axle distances permitted under Section 35400, may, by ordinance, establish lesser distances consistent with the maximum distances that the highway or highway portion can sustain, except that a city or county may not restrict the kingpin to rearmost axle measurement to less than 38 feet on those highways or highway portions. A city or county considering the adoption of an ordinance shall consider, but not be limited to, consideration of all the following: (1) A comparison of the operating characteristics of the vehicles to be limited as compared to operating characteristics of other vehicles regulated by this code. (2) Actual traffic volume. (3) Frequency of accidents. (4) Any other relevant data.

In addition, the city or county may appoint an advisory committee consisting of local representatives of those interests that are likely to be affected and shall consider the recommendations of the advisory committee in adopting the ordinance. The ordinance may not be effective until appropriate signs are erected indicating the highways or highway portions affected by the ordinance.

This subdivision shall only become operative upon the adoption of an enabling ordinance by a city or county.”

  • §35401(f) “Whenever, in the judgment of the Department of Transportation, a state highway cannot, in consideration of public safety, sustain the operation of trailers or semitrailers of the maximum kingpin to rearmost axle distances permitted under Section 35400, the director, in consultation with the Department of the California Highway Patrol, shall compile data on total traffic volume, frequency of use by vehicles covered by this subdivision, accidents involving these vehicles, and other relevant data to assess whether these vehicles are a threat to public safety and should be excluded from the highway or highway segment. The study, containing the conclusions and recommendations of the director, shall be submitted to the Secretary of the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency. Unless otherwise notified by the secretary, the director shall hold public hearings in accordance with the procedures set forth in Article 3 (commencing with Section 35650) of Chapter 5 for the purpose of determining the maximum kingpin to rear axle length, which shall be not less than 38 feet, that the highway or highway segment can sustain without unreasonable threat to the safety of the public. Upon the basis of the findings, the Director of Transportation shall declare in writing the maximum kingpin to rear axle lengths which can be maintained with safety upon the highway. Following the declaration of maximum lengths as provided by this subdivision, the Department of Transportation shall erect suitable signs at each end of the affected portion of the highway and at any other points that the Department of Transportation determines to be necessary to give adequate notice of the length limits.

This subdivision shall only become operative upon the adoption of an enabling ordinance by a city or county.”

  • §35650 “The Department of Transportation, whenever it determines after an engineering investigation that any highway under its jurisdiction will with safety to itself sustain vehicles and loads weighing more than the maximum weight limits set forth in this code, shall have authority to declare and to fix a weight limit for the highway greater than the maximum weight limit set forth in this code. Thereafter it shall be lawful to operate or move vehicles and loads of a gross weight upon the highways designated, equal to but not in excess of the maximum weight limit fixed by the department.”

Legal basis in accordance with CVC for restrictions on crossings:

  • §23334 "The Department of Transportation may adopt rules and regulations...for the control of traffic on any vehicular crossing to aid and insure the safe and orderly flow of traffic, and shall, so far as practicable, notify the public of the rules and regulations by signs on the vehicular crossings"

Crossings in the CVC: The Caldecott Tunnel, which connects Oakland with Contra Costa County; is restricted by § 31301, "(a) No person shall transport any explosive substance, flammable liquid, liquefied petroleum gas or poisonous gas in a tank truck, trailer, or semitrailer through the Caldecott Tunnel...Route 24...at any time other than between the hours of 3 a.m. to 5 a.m.” 

Vehicular crossings: §23254 defines "vehicular crossing" as "any toll bridge or toll highway crossing and the approaches thereto, constructed or acquired by the Department of Transportation under the provisions of the California Toll Bridge Authority Act."

NATIONAL NETWORK ROUTE RESTRICTIONS

Federal law: The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Title 23, § 658.11 covers requirements for additions, deletions, exceptions, and restrictions on the National Network.

Federal Highway Administration (FHWA): Requests for restrictions on the National Network must be submitted in writing to the appropriate FHWA Division Office.

CFR -- Federal approval:  §658.11(d) states: "Deletions and use restrictions--Federal-aid interstate. (1) The deletion of, or imposition of use restrictions on, any specific segment of the Interstate Highway System on the National Network, except as otherwise provided in this part, must be approved by the FHWA. Such action will be initiated ... on the request of the Governor or the Governor's authorized representative of the State in which the Interstate segment is located. Requests from the Governor or the Governor's authorized representative shall be submitted along with justification for the deletion or restriction, in writing, to the appropriate FHWA Division Office for transmittal to Washington Headquarters."

CFR -- Justification:  §658.11(d)(2) "The justification accompanying a request shall be based on the following: (i) Analysis of evidence of safety problems supporting the deletion or restriction as identified in §658.11(c). (ii) Analysis of the impact on interstate commerce. (iii) Analysis and recommendation of any alternative routes that can safely accommodate commercial motor vehicles of the dimensions and configurations described in §658.13 and §658.15  and serve the area in which such segment is located. (iv) Evidence of consultation with the local governments in which the segment is located as well as the Governor or the Governor's authorized representative of any adjacent State that might be directly affected by such a deletion or restriction."

National Network routes: To determine whether the route is National Network, open the Truck Route List (XLSX), find the route number and route segment, and look for the NN in the Column titled "Desig" (for "Designation").

Peak-hour Truck Restrictions

Peak-hour truck restrictions: California does not currently have any truck restrictions during certain hours. State and federal law forbids highway restrictions to truck access except for "safety and engineering" reasons. There is no mention in the law of time limitations. However, a peak-hour truck restriction would hinder trucks from making deliveries and would probably, therefore, be considered a restriction under the law. In order to enact a time restriction, it would seem necessary to validate a safety issue by traffic study.

Studies of peak-hour restrictions: The California Legislature commissioned the "Urban Freeway Gridlock Study," dated 1988, to investigate the impact of large trucks on peak-period freeway congestion and explore management techniques to reduce congestion. The study focused on freeways in the Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego metropolitan areas. The study's conclusions were that a peak-period truck ban would not provide significant relief from peak-period congestion, and that a peak-period ban is unlikely due to provisions of the federal Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982 (STAA) and subsequent court decisions.