In most states, roads and highways have weight limits for portions of the roadway. Loads that exceed the weight limit are known as an oversized load or overweight load. Roadways also have a load per axle weight limit. If the load is over the load per axle weight, but not the overall weight, it is still considered an oversized load. There are many loads that would be considered an oversized load including:
- Construction machines
- Pre-built homes
- Construction elements
- Wind turbine propellers
State laws for oversized loads
All oversized or overweight loads must use banner signs, safety flags, escort vehicles and wide load banners. The legal dimensions and weight can vary from state to state. Vehicles that exceed the dimensions set by the state are required to obtain a special oversize load permit to travel legally. These permits cost an extra fee and have set routes and times in which the vehicle can travel.
Permits are not sold at the federal level; instead they are sold separately from state to state. If you are traveling through more than one state, you would need to purchase a permit through each state in which you will be driving through.
Federal maximum weights
Along with state laws for oversized and overweight loads, there is a federal mandate for maximum weights. These include 80,000-pound gross vehicle weight, 20,000-pound single axle weight, and 34,000-pound tandem axle weight. Federal weight compliance also takes into consideration the axle spacing. The number of axles and the spacing of the axles carrying the vehicle load is important to protect bridges.
Oversized and overweight loads take a toll on the roads but they also pose a higher risk of danger when traveling. Accidents associated with oversized loads happen for several reasons including:
- The weight of the truck to shift to the rear, making it difficult to control the vehicle’s movement and speed
- Truck tire’s blow out more frequently
- Higher center of gravity, increasing the likelihood of rollovers
Since there are these higher risks, the penalties are greater for oversized and overweight loads. New penalties for single weight violations came into effect September 2013. These weight violations include a gross weight of 10,000-pounds over the legal limit ranged from $500 to $1,000 for first time offenses.
A sliding scale is used on vehicles that are over the legal limit, but no more than 10,000-pounds. However, when repeat offenses occur, the fines are doubled. If the load is unpermitted, fines will be assessed to the trucking company.