Carrying A Long Load: Legal Restrictions You May Need To Consider

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Carrying A Long Load: Legal Restrictions You May Need To Consider

10 August 2015
 Categories: Automotive, Articles

A lot of people need to transport longer items from one place to another. Even if you only intend to travel a short distance, it's not a good idea to sling everything in the back of your truck and just hope for the best. Various laws cover the transportation of long goods, and, if you don't meet the regulations, you could face legal penalties. If you need to transport a long load, consider the following legal restrictions.

Hazards you can create

Unusual, heavy or bulky loads can create several hazards on the road. Truck cargo can cause a serious accident if:

  • The vehicle becomes unstable
  • Items fall off, hitting other vehicles or pedestrians
  • The load extends past the truck and hits something or someone else

What's more, if something falls off your truck or comes too close to another vehicle, other drivers are more likely to swerve or suddenly hit their brakes. In any situation like this, the risk of a serious collision increases significantly. As such, state and federal laws aim to enforce safe driving conditions.

Managing overhang

When your load extends over the front or rear of the vehicle, the overhang can cause problems. Other drivers may not see the load (especially if it is narrow), and it's also more likely that you will accidentally strike another vehicle.

State laws generally place restrictions on the amount of overhang permitted. What's more, when the load extends a certain distance, drivers must often highlight the overhang in certain ways.

For example, in California, your load cannot extend past the rear of the vehicle further than a distance that is two-thirds the length of your wheelbase. Additionally, irrespective of whether you have a trailer or just a single truck, the total length of the load cannot exceed 75 feet from the front extremity to the rear.

Also, in California, when carrying a load that extends more than four feet beyond the rear of the vehicle, you must use a special fluorescent red or orange flag or cloth to highlight the extremity to drivers behind you. At night, you must also have two red lights on the end of the load that you can see from at least 500 feet away.

It doesn't matter how far you need to carry the cargo. These restrictions apply as soon as you take the vehicle on a public highway. In some cases, certain exclusions apply. For example, some authorities allow you to carry certain items (like pipes and timbers) that exceed the normal permitted length. Check with your local authority or places that offer bedxtenders for more details.


Many states use tarping laws to make sure truck drivers prevent certain types of cargo spilling on the road. For example, sand, gravel and rock can easily slide off the back of your truck bed, causing a hazard for other drivers and/or damaging other vehicles. Tarping isn't necessarily important if you're only carrying long cargo, but if you're also transporting materials that could spill out, you need to consider how to combine these items safely.

Check state laws for details of restrictions where you live or work. If materials spill out in transit, some state laws will prosecute drivers for littering.

Securing cargo

Federal laws passed in 2002 also mean that you must safely secure any items you carry. According to these regulations, you must make sure that you:

  • Firmly immobilize or secure cargo
  • Fill spaces between cargo with dunnage to prevent cargo slipping around
  • Use chocks, wedges or other devices to prevent cargo roll

Special regulations apply to different cargo types. For example, there are specific rules that relate to paper rolls. As such, you should make sure you follow these guidelines carefully before you transport your cargo. Contact your local FMCSA office more help.

If you need to transport long cargo, you must follow all relevant federal and state safety regulations. Check size restrictions and make sure you safely secure the items, or you could run into trouble with the law.