Hauling an overhanging cargo poses dangers to your vehicle and other road users. To keep the roads safe for everybody, the DOT and states have rules guiding the transportation of loads that hang out of a truck.
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We’ve researched this topic and provided state-by-state rules regarding overhang limits.
Hopefully, this information will keep you and other road users safe and help you avoid traffic fines.
Here’s How Far Something can Hang Uut of a Truck:
The permitted overhang of cargo from the back of a vehicle or trailer in the United States varies based on your state of residency. Trucks are normally allowed to overhang cargo by up to 4 feet from the back under federal size requirements, although state-specific rules may change.
United States Department of Transportation Regulations on Overhanging Cargo
Under the Federal Size Regulations law, the DOT overhang regulations allow trucks to overhang cargo by:
- 3 feet in front
- 4 feet in the rear
- 4 inches by the sides
According to the DOT, a pickup truck, for example, must use proper markings if cargo, such as a ladder, exceeds the stipulated distance.
Furthermore, you must use markings that show the maximum width and length of overhand to warn other road users.
However, states have different rules for overhanging cargo. Below, we look at the overhang laws by state when hauling oversized loads.
|State||Front Overhang||Rear Overhang||Side Overhang||Notes|
|Alabama||5 feet||4 feet||N/A||Requires a red flag or red light for excess overhang|
|Alaska||3 feet||4 feet||Up to 12 feet||Requires “Oversize Load” sign for significant overhang|
|Arizona||3 feet||6 feet||N/A||Exceeding limits is a traffic law violation|
|California||3 feet||4 feet||4 inches||Requires markings for significant overhang|
|Colorado||4 feet||10 feet||N/A||Exceeding limits is a class B traffic offense|
|Connecticut||3 feet||4 feet||6 inches||Markings may be required for significant overhang|
|Delaware||3 feet||6 feet||N/A||N/A|
|Florida||3 feet||9 feet||N/A||Various allowances for different types of cargo|
|Hawaii||4 feet||10 feet||N/A||Markings required for extended cargo|
|Idaho||4 feet||10 feet||6 inches||N/A|
|Kansas||3 feet||4 feet||N/A||Allows more overhang for overall vehicle length ≤ 85 feet|
|Kentucky||3 feet||5 feet||N/A||N/A|
|Louisiana||4 feet||8 feet||N/A||N/A|
|Maine||4 feet||6 feet||N/A||N/A|
|Maryland||3 feet||6 feet||N/A||N/A|
|Michigan||Unrestricted||4 feet||N/A||Requires flagging for rear overhang > 4 feet|
|Minnesota||3 feet||4 feet||6 inches||N/A|
|Mississippi||3 feet||15 feet||N/A||N/A|
|Nebraska||As per the vehicle length limit||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Nevada||10 feet||10 feet||N/A||N/A|
|New Mexico||3 feet||7 feet||N/A||N/A|
|North Dakota||10 feet||10 feet||N/A||N/A|
|Oregon||4 feet||5 feet||N/A||N/A|
|Pennsylvania||3 feet||6 feet||N/A||N/A|
|Rhode Island||3 feet||6 feet||N/A||N/A|
|South Carolina||3 feet||6 feet||N/A||Specific allowances for different trailer lengths|
|Vermont||3 feet||6 feet||Varies||N/A|
|Washington||3 feet||15 feet||N/A||Measure the rear overhang from the center of the last axle|
|West Virginia||3 feet||6 feet||N/A||N/A|
|Wyoming||4 feet||4 feet||N/A||N/A|
|Federal Law||3 feet||4 feet||4 inches||Various exceptions with special permits and escorts|
The following states follow the federal limit of a 3 feet overhang in the front, 4 feet in the rear, and 4 inches to the sides:
- North Carolina
- South Dakota
Many of these states make exceptions in specific cases to allow vehicles to overhang their load beyond the legal limit. But you may require special permits, visual signs, and sometimes escorts.
States also differ in their measurement of the overhang.
Some measure the protrusion from the extreme end of the truck’s bed or bumper. Other states measure from the nearest axle or the last point of support.
What If You Exceed the Overhang Limit?
In most states, you must mark the overextending load with bright signs. The most common signs are a red side marker lamp mounted on the load to show its maximum overhang.
You may need to hang a marker lamp on the sides, the front, and the tailgate of the vehicle in locations that are clearly visible to other road users.
The marker lamps must be illuminated at night or whenever the road condition requires the use of headlamps.
Commercial vehicles transporting a load that protrudes beyond the rear of the vehicle by 4 feet or over the sides by over 4 inches must mark the longest extremity of the load with red or orange fluorescent warning flags measuring at least 18 inches square.
You need only one warning flag if the width of the overhanging load does not exceed 2 feet and two flags if it extends beyond that.
When Do I Need a Red Flag on My Load?
It might feel like you’ve wandered into a game of cargo Tetris when navigating the world of big cargo transport. You may have timber, pipes, or any other long load that will not fit neatly inside the confines of your vehicle.
When this happens, the question of “When do I need a red flag on my load?” emerges.
Picture this – you’ve got your truck loaded and it’s evident that your payload is outgrowing the vehicle. It’s peeking out from the back like it’s trying to make an unorthodox escape, or perhaps it’s attempting to test the lateral boundaries of your truck bed. It’s a problem that necessitates action, so out comes the faithful red flag.
So, when your load extends beyond a specific distance, as stipulated by law, particularly to the rear or sides of your vehicle, you should use the red flags as a modest safety precaution, similar to a ‘Caution: Oversized Load‘ sign, that alerts others to your unusual freight difficulty.
The problem is that the particular conditions for the red flag might differ by state. Some states may mandate the flag for loads that surpass a specific number of feet, but others may focus on inches.
In the end, knowing when to deploy the red flag comes down to following your state’s legislation and safeguarding your own and other road users’ safety. It is not necessarily a theatrical event, but it is unquestionably essential.
How Far Can a Load Hang Off The Back of Semi Trailers and Trailers
In the United States, the permitted overhang of cargo from the back of a trailer varies from state to state, just as the permissible overhang of a vehicle.
These laws are in place to protect road users and accommodate various sorts of cargo.
Generally, for any trailer combination, the Department of Transportation (DOT) allows trucks and trailers to overhang cargo by up to 4 feet from the back under the federal size restrictions law, which acts as a baseline.
This federal policy is followed in the majority of states around the country.
It is critical to pay attention to the laws imposed by the state where you are operating in order to find the exact rear legal overhang limit for your particular situation.
State-specific requirements might change over time, so it’s critical to remain up to speed with the newest information to guarantee legal compliance and, more importantly, road safety.
While every state of the USA allows trucks to carry overhanging loads, many of them will only permit an extension of 3 feet in front and 4 feet beyond the rear limit.
However, almost all of them allow you to extend the overhang with permits and a few don’t even have any limit so long as you stay within your truck’s legal length.
Because laws are fluid, check with the DOT of your state before hauling an oversized cargo with your truck.
Use relevant warning signs and remember to strap your pipes and poles down with bungee cords or ratchet straps, and stay safe on the road!