What is heavy haul, wide load and oversize load?

In California the legal (no permit required) load width maximum is 8’6”, the legal load height maximum is 14’, the legal overall maximum semitrailer length is 65’ and the legal gross vehicle weight is 80,000 lbs.

At this point you must be aware these numbers are to be used only as an indicator to raise a red flag when your freight exceeds these maximums when placed on any type of flatbed trailer. This should warn you that your load may require a permit to be transported. Great Western Transportation knows permit requirements for California, all US states and Canadian provinces, so one call to Great Western Transportation will immediately answer your freight shipping questions.

So let’s look at some heavy haul, oversize and overweight freight cases.

1-Your non-divisible precast cement bridge girder weighs 59,000 lbs, thus in this case you will be overweight! Why it only weighs 59,000 lbs you may ask, but the additional weight of the tractor trailer of 32,000 lbs to 38,000 lbs (this is an average weight of a common tractor trailers), on the low end will be 91,000 lbs and on the high end will be 97,000 lbs. There is also a second issue that has to be addressed with this load, and that is the fact common flatbed trailers are rated to carry up to approximately 48,000 lbs, so a specialized type of trailer will have to be utilized. This is where the term heavy haul comes to play. This type of trailer in trucking industry speak is called a heavy haul trailer. These are trailers built to transport loads above the 48,000 pound mark. Common weight hauling capacity of these trailers is 40,000 to 120,000 pounds. A permit will be required for the cement bridge girder load to be transported in California.

2-Your non-divisible prefabricated roof truss is 10’ wide! This is considered an over width load when on a trailer, since the maximum legal width of a load is 8’ 6”. If the roof truss weighs 30,000 lbs it can be transported by a standard flatbed trailer, as the average maximum trailer weight capacity is 48,000 lbs. This is not a heavy haul load, since no special flatbed trailer is required, but transporting the roof truss will require a permit.

3-Your non-divisible crane arm is 13’ wide at its widest dimension. At first you may say that’s OK, because the maximum height is 14’, but it is oversize! The trailer is generally 1.5 feet to 2 feet off the ground at the bed level, this is where the crane arm will be placed, thus it is 14.5’ or 15’ off the ground in terms of height.

Lets clarify what non-divisible means in California, according to the CA DOT.

Non-divisible means any load or vehicle **exceeding applicable length, width, height, or weight limits** which if separated into smaller loads or vehicles would:

1. Compromise the intended use of the vehicle, i.e., make it unable to perform the function for which it was intended;

2. Destroy the value for the load or vehicle, i.e., make it unable to perform the function for which it was intended;

So in our cases above, the load could not have been divided or split up to reduce the overall dimensions or weight. In all cases, the cement bridge girder, the roof truss and the crane arm cannot be broken down into smaller pieces.

When applying for a California permit the word non-divisible is replaced by non-reducible, according to the CalTrans Transportation Permits page:

To be eligible for an oversize or overweight (or “extralegal”) permit, the main criterion is that the load be non-reducible, that is, that it cannot be reduced down and transported in a legal vehicle.

California Permits

Oversize and over width permits are required for freight that is over the dimensional maximums in terms of width, height and length when loaded on a trailer. Overweight permits are required for loads that put the gross vehicle weight over the maximum weight limit. The process of getting a CA DOT Transportation Permit is fairly complex and is out of the scope of this article. However some of the basic dimension and weight questions the State of California Department of Transportation will ask are:

  • Dimensions of Load
  • Loaded Height
  • Loaded Width
  • Loaded Overall Length
  • Loaded Overhang
  • Weight Class

California Oversize Signs

All trucking companies in California involved in hauling oversize and overweight shipments must have amber colored strobe or flashing lights on top of the tractor trailer. Plus signs or banners that describe the exact nature of the shipment, these are:


To summarize, a heavy haul load is one that requires a special type of trailer that can support the weight of the load, and it will most likely due to dimensions require an oversize permit and an overweight permit if GVW (gross vehicle weight) is over 80,000 lbs.

For all your heavy haul, oversize or wide load shipping needs in: Los Angeles, Fresno,Sacramento, Roseville, Northern California and Southern California contact Great Western Transportation.