Per California Vehicle Code (CVC), loads extending to the front and rear of a vehicle, trailer or semitrailer have maximum limits. The CVC Length Section is 35400. Following is a selective paraphrase of the CVC. It is not guaranteed and may be subject to change.
To the Rear:
Per CVC Section 35410, the load upon a vehicle, trailer or semitrailer shall not extend to the rear beyond the last point of support for a greater distance than that equal to two-thirds of the length of the wheelbase. The wheelbase of a semitrailer shall be considered as the distance between the rearmost axle of the towing vehicle and the rearmost axle of the semitrailer.
Maximum Length for Vehicle and Load:
Per CVC Section 35411, the load upon any combination of vehicles shall not exceed 75 feet measured from the front extremity of the front vehicle or load to the rear extremity of the last vehicle or load. The load upon a STAA vehicle, when the overall length of the combination of vehicles exceeds 75 feet, shall be confined within the exterior dimensions of the vehicles. For the definition of a STAA vehicle, see the green truck dimensions at: Truck Map Legend (PDF) .
Lamp or Flag on Projections:
Per CVC Section 24604, whenever the load upon any vehicle extends, or whenever any integral part of any vehicle projects, to the rear four feet or more beyond the rear of the vehicle, as measured from the taillamps, there shall be displayed at the extreme end of the load or projecting part of the vehicle:
- a single solid red or fluorescent orange flag or cloth not less than 18 inches square if the projecting load is two feet wide or less. Two warning flags or cloths are required if the projecting load is wider than two feet. Flags or cloths shall be located to indicate maximum width of loads that extend beyond the sides or rear of the vehicle.
- during darkness, in addition to the required taillamp, two red lights with a bulb rated not in excess of six candlepower plainly visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the sides and rear.
Length Exemption for Poles, Timbers, Pipes, etc:
Per CVC Section 35414, except where a load can be transported consistent with the limitations on vehicle and load length specified in other sections of the CVC length chapter, the vehicle length limitations of the CVC length chapter do not apply when only poles, timbers, pipes, integral structural materials, or single unit component parts such as missile components, aircraft assemblies, drilling equipment, and tanks not exceeding 80 feet in length are being transported upon any of the following:
- a pole or pipe dolly in connection with a motor vehicle, or
- a semitrailer, except for the limitations provided in Section 35410 (may extend up to two-thirds of the wheelbase), or
- a semitrailer and a pole or pipe dolly used in connection with a truck tractor to haul flexible integral structural material.
Poles and the tools and materials incidental to the work to be performed may be transported on a pole or pipe dolly transporting not more than three poles not exceeding 80 feet in length and when used by:
- public utility companies or local public agencies engaged in the business of supplying electricity or telephone service, or
- the Department of Transportation, or
- a licensed contractor in the performance of work for a utility, the department, or a local public agency,
when such transportation is between a storage yard and job location where such tools and materials are to be used, in which event the limitations of this chapter as to length of vehicles and loads shall not apply.
A forklift that is lifted off the ground and is being transported on the back of a truck is considered a load. The forklift is, therefore, subject to the load requirements in Section 35410 re. 2/3 of the wheelbase. For length requirements, see Vehicle Lengths.
To the Side(s):
Per CVC Section 25104(b), any vehicle defined in Section 34500 transporting a load that extends beyond the sides of the vehicle by more than four inches shall display a solid red or fluorescent orange flag or cloth not less than 18 inches square at the extreme end of the load if the projecting load is two feet wide or less. Per CVC Section 24604, two warning flags or cloths are required if the projecting load is wider than two feet. Flags or cloths shall be located to indicate maximum width of loads that extend beyond the sides of the vehicle.
Front Loads / Extensions
To the Front of a Vehicle:
Per CVC Section 35406 (a), the load upon any vehicle, or on the front vehicle of a combination of vehicles, shall not extend more than three feet beyond the foremost part of the front tires of the vehicle or the front bumper of the vehicle, if it is equipped with a front bumper.
To the Front of a Trailer:
(This statement is not taken directly from the CVC.) A load can extend off the front of a trailer with no length limitation as long as it does not interfere with the safe operation of the tractor, e.g. air hoses, turning movements, etc.
Vehicle Hauling Exemption for Front Load:
Per CVC Section 35406 (b), when the load is composed solely of vehicles, the load upon the front vehicle of a combination of vehicles shall not extend more than four feet beyond the foremost part of the front tires of the vehicle or the front bumper of the vehicle, if it is equipped with a front bumper.
Boom and Mast Exemption for Front Extension:
Per CVC Section 35407, length limits in Section 35406 do not apply to the booms or masts of shovels, cranes or water well drilling and servicing equipment carried upon a motor vehicle if the following conditions are met:
- The booms or masts do not extend more than two-thirds of the wheelbase beyond the front tires of the vehicle.
- The projecting structure or attachments are securely held in place to prevent dropping or swaying.
- No part of the structure that extends beyond the front tires are less than seven feet from the roadway.
- The driver's vision is not impaired by the projecting or supporting structure.
Log Loader Exemptions for Front Extension:
Per CVC Section 35407.5, the front extension limitations in Section 35406 and Section 35407 (a) and (d) (see numbers 1 and 4 above) do not apply to the booms or masts of a self-propelled heel-boom log loader first sold in this state prior to January 1, 1988, if all of the following conditions are met:
- A system of mirrors or other view enhancements permits the driver to see in any area blocked from view.
- The log loader is operated together with a four-wheeled lead vehicle which remains a reasonable distance ahead to guide the movement of the log loader.
- Two-way radio communication equipment is maintained in good working condition on the log loader and the pilot car, and is used between those vehicles during movement upon any highway.
Camera Exemptions for Front Extension:
Per CVC Section 35409, any motor vehicle used for:
- taking photographs, motion pictures, or television pictures, or
- teaching safe driving
may be equipped with a dismountable platform or other device extending forward of either the fenders or cab structure or radiator, whichever extends farthest toward the front of such vehicle, for a distance not exceeding five feet while such vehicle is in use for such purpose. Any device used for the sole purpose of teaching safe driving shall be of a type authorized by the Department of the California Highway Patrol and the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Container overhang requirements for intermodal containers involved in both Interstate commerce (that crosses state lines) and Intrastate (within California) are as follows:
- On container chassis: All lower corners of the intermodal container must be secured to the container chassis.
- On vehicles other than container chassis: Loaded containers may Not extend out the front or the rear of the trailer. All lower corners of the intermodal container must rest upon the vehicle.
- On vehicles other than container chassis: Empty containers -- The amount of overhang for the empty container on the trailer may not exceed five feet on either the front or rear of the trailer.
To read the law directly, see:
Federal law: Protection Against Shifting and Falling Cargo regulations contained in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Title 49, Part 393, Section 126 (c) and (d).
State law: State law refers to the federal regulations. See the California Code of Regulations (CCR): Title 13, Div 2, Chap 7, Article 1, Section 1300 (b), which is copied here in part: "... Incorporation by Reference. Motor carriers and drivers engaged in interstate and intrastate commerce shall comply with the federal Protection Against Shifting and Falling Cargo regulations contained in Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 393, ... ."
35402. (a) Any extension or device used to increase the carrying capacity of a vehicle shall be included in measuring the length of a vehicle. ...
35402. (a) ... A drawbar
- shall not be included in measuring the length of a vehicle but
- shall be included in measuring the overall length of a combination of vehicles.
18-Inch Extensions, Loaded, Front & Rear -- Auto Transporters
35402. (b) Extensions up to 18 inches in length on each end of a vehicle or combination of vehicles used exclusively to transport vehicles shall not be included in measuring the length of a vehicle or combination of vehicles when the vehicles are loaded. For more information, see the web page: "Auto, Boat, & Camper Transporters Exemption."
18-Inch Extensions, Loaded, Front & Rear
35402. (c) An extension of up to 18 inches in length on the last trailer in a combination of vehicles transporting loads shall not be included in measuring the length of a vehicle or combination of vehicles when the vehicles are loaded. Additionally, an extension of not more than 18 inches in length on the front of the first trailer in a combination of vehicles transporting loads shall not be included in measuring the length of a vehicle or combination of vehicles when the vehicles are loaded and on highways off the National Network. To determine which routes are NN, click here for the Truck Route List (XLSX) in Excel and look for NN in the column "Type."
3-Foot Extensions for Pushing Gravel-Loaded Vehicles
35402. (d) Any extension or device which is not used to carry any load and which does not exceed three feet in length, added to the rear of a vehicle, and is used exclusively for pushing the vehicle or a combination of vehicles that is designed and used exclusively to transport earth, sand, gravel, and similar materials, shall be included in measuring the length of the vehicle but shall not be included in measuring the overall length of the combination of vehicles.
(This exemption for 3-foot extensions is not allowed on STAA vehicles per CVC Section 35401.5(b).)
2'-6" Fifth Wheel / Drawbar
35402. (e) To extend the length of the combination by not more than 2 feet 6 inches,
- a truck semitrailer combination (not a truck tractor and semitrailer combination) may use a sliding fifth wheel, or
- a truck tractor, semitrailer, trailer, and a truck-trailer combination may use a sliding drawbar,
while traveling 35 miles per hour or less on any highway, freeway onramps and offramps, and freeway connectors, but not a freeway.
The sliding fifth wheel or drawbar shall not be included in measuring the overall length of the combination of vehicles if
(1) the pivot point of the semitrailer connection is more than two feet to the rear of the center of the rearmost axle of the motortruck, or
(2) if the distance from the pivot point to the center of the rearmost axle of the semitrailer does not exceed 34 feet.
(This exemption for 2'6" fifth wheel or drawbar is not allowed on STAA vehicles per CVC Section 35401.5(b).)
10-Inch Safety Devices
35403. Safety devices which are required to be mounted upon a vehicle may extend beyond the permissible vehicle length up to 10 inches.
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