Federal standards for commercial motor carrier size focus on a vehicle’s weight, length, and width. These standards have existed since 1956 to preserve the integrity of highways built with federal funds. The country also has an interest in ensuring the safety, productivity and mobility of freight commerce.
Oversight of state enforcement of heavy truck size and weight standards in the U.S. is by the National Vehicle Size and Weight Team of the Federal Highway Administration’s Office of Freight Management and Operations. The Team is assisted by the FHWA’s policy and legal staff. Additionally, staff in each of FHWA’s 52 Division Offices provides support to each state. The Washington headquarters also assists with policy questions, clarifications, reporting requirements, training and other related programmatic and administrative issues.
Federal size regulations for commercial motor vehicles are as follows:
Width regulations were increased in 1982 with the passage of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA) from 96 inches to 102 inches (8 feet, 6 inches) which excludes mirrors or other safety devices.
Congress has established minimum length standards for most commercial truck tractor semi-trailers and for twin trailers pulled behind a truck tractor.
- The minimum allowable length limit for a semi-trailer is 48 feet (unless grandfathered in at a shorter length for a particular state.) A state may not impose an overall vehicle length limit on a truck-trailer combination.
- The minimum allowable length for trailers and semi-trailers is 28 feet. States must allow the use of semi-trailers that are 28 feet, 6 inches long that were in use by December 1, 1982. However, the overall length of the combination cannot exceed 65 feet.
Currently, there are no federal vehicle height requirements for commercial motor carriers. Each state has set their own limits, which typically range from 13 feet, 6 inches to 14 feet.
There are federal law provisions that include exemptions and variations that apply to various states, routes, vehicles or operations. For more information, please refer to 23 CFR Part 658 found here.
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