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Summarized here are the California Vehicle Code (CVC)
sections related to vehicle lengths. Most of the CVC sections on this web page
are paraphrased for brevity. For the full legal wording, please go to the
on-line CVC Length Section 35400.
For a legal explanation of the green STAA vehicles, see these
topics below: VEHICLE COMBINATIONS, EXCEPTIONS - STAA VEHICLES
35400. (a) "A vehicle may not exceed a length of 40
feet." A vehicle is defined in CVC Section 670 as: "...a device by which any person or property may be
propelled, moved, or drawn upon a highway, excepting a device moved exclusively
by human power or used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks." According
to this definition, a vehicle includes a trailer being towed.
(See Single Vehicle diagram)
EXCEPTIONS TO MAXIMUM SINGLE-UNIT LENGTH
The following are not included in the 40'
35400. (b) (1) Auxiliary parts. (See Auxiliary
Parts in a Combination diamgram)
(2) fender and mudguard parts if required. (See Single
(3) (A) An articulated bus or articulated trolley coach not exceeding 60 feet.
(B) An articulated bus or articulated trolley coach with a 36-inch folding device attached to the front for transporting bicycles.
(4) A semitrailer while being towed by a motortruck or truck
tractor, if the kingpin-to-rearmost-axle (KPRA) distance of the
semitrailer does not exceed 40 feet for semitrailers having two or more
axles, or 38 feet for semitrailers having one axle.
(See One Axle Semitrailer
and Two or More Axle Semitrailer diagrams)
(5) A 1-foot front or rear safety bumper on a bus or
(6) A 10-inch crossing arm on a schoolbus.
(7) An 18-inch wheelchair lift on a bus.
(8) A 10-foot bike rack on a bus, if the total
length doesn't exceed 50 feet.
(9) A 40-inch bike rack on a 40' transit bus.
(10) (A) A 45' bus on approved routes. (See 45'
(B) A 36-inch bike rack on a 45' bus on approved routes. (See 45'
Buses with Bike Racks)
(11) (A) A 45' house car (or "motorhome")
on approved routes. (See 45'
EXCEPTIONS - COTTON MODULE MOVER
35400.5. A 48-foot motortruck used as a cotton module mover. (See Cotton Module Movers Exemptions)
EXCEPTIONS - B-TRAIN ASSEMBLY
35401. (b) (2) A B-train assembly is
excluded from the measurement of semitrailer length when used between the
first and second semitrailers of a truck tractor-semitrailer-semitrailer
combination. However, if there is no second semitrailer, it shall be
included in the length measurement of the semitrailer to which it is
attached. (See B-Train Assembly)
A forklift that is lifted off the ground and is being transported on the back of a truck is not included in the length measurement, as it is considered a load. For load overhang requirements, see Overhang.
35401. (a) No vehicle combinations may exceed a total length
of 65 feet. (See California
(b) (1) A combination of vehicles which consists of a truck tractor, a semitrailer, and a semitrailer or trailer, may not
exceed 75 feet, if neither the semitrailers nor the trailer in
the combination of vehicles exceeds 28 feet 6 inches. (See California
21715. (a) No passenger vehicle, or any other motor
vehicle under 4,000 pounds, shall tow more than one vehicle,
except for a tow dolly. (b) No motor vehicle under 4,000 pounds unladen shall
tow any vehicle weighing 6,000 pounds or more gross.
465. A "passenger vehicle" is any motor vehicle, other than a motortruck,
truck tractor, or a bus, as defined in Section 233, and used or maintained for the transportation of persons. The
term "passenger vehicle" shall include a housecar.
362. A "house car" is a motor vehicle originally designed, or permanently
altered, and equipped for human habitation, or to which a camper has been
permanently attached. ...
410. A "motor truck" or "motortruck" is a motor vehicle designed, used, or
maintained primarily for the transportation of property. (A pick up truck meets
471. A "pickup truck" is a motor truck with a manufacturer's gross vehicle weight rating of less than 11,500 pounds, an unladen weight of less than 8,001 pounds, and which is equipped with an open box-type bed not exceeding 9 feet in length. "Pickup truck" does not include a motor vehicle otherwise meeting the above definition, that is equipped with a bed-mounted storage compartment unit commonly called a "utility body."
If a "pickup truck" has a manufacturers gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 11,500 pounds or more, it would not meet the definition of “pickup truck” in Section 471 and would, therefore, be considered a motor truck (see Section 410 above). If the power unit is classified as a motor truck, and the vehicle combination (including any load carried) exceeds 10,000 pounds, then the vehicle must be registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles as a commercial vehicle with a declared operating weight. If the power unit has a GVWR under 11,500 pounds, then it would not be required to declare an operating weight.
DRIVER LICENSING for DOUBLE TRAILERS - CALIFORNIA
12804.9. (b) ..., any applicant for a driver's license shall be required to
submit to an examination appropriate to the type of motor vehicle or combination
of vehicles the applicant desires a license to drive:
(1) Class A includes the following:
(A) Any combination of vehicles, if any vehicle being towed has a gross vehicle
weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds.
(B) Any vehicle towing more than one vehicle.
15278. (a) A driver is required to obtain an endorsement issued by the department to operate any commercial motor vehicle that is any of
the following: (1) A double trailer. (2) ...
To apply for a commercial driver license, see the DMV website.
DRIVER LICENSING for DOUBLE TRAILERS - NONRESIDENTS
12502. (a) The following persons may operate a motor vehicle in this state
without obtaining a driver's license under this code: (1) A nonresident over the
age of 18 years having in his or her immediate possession a valid driver's
license issued by a foreign jurisdiction of which he or she is a resident, ....
(b) Any person entitled to the exemption contained in
subdivision (a), while operating, within this state, a commercial
vehicle, as defined in subdivision (b) of Section 15210, shall have in his or her possession a current medical
certificate of a type described in subdivision (c) of Section 12804.9, which has been issued within two years of the date of operation of
15210. (b) (1) "Commercial motor vehicle" means any vehicle or combination
of vehicles which requires a class A or class B license, or a
class C license with an endorsement issued pursuant to paragraph (4) of
subdivision (a) of Section 15278.
In summary, nonresidents may tow two trailers with a
non-commercial license IF their base state allows it. IF the vehicle is commercial, the driver would also need a valid medical certificate per 12502 CVC.
For a valid medical certificate, see the DMV website.
35401.5. (a) A combination of vehicles consisting of a truck tractor and semitrailer, or of a truck tractor,
semitrailer, and trailer may exceed the length limits (single-unit:
40' maximum; single-trailer: 65-foot; doubles: 65-foot or 75-foot maximum)
on the National Network and Terminal Access routes (see Truck Route Map),
(1) The length of the semitrailer in exclusive combination
with a truck tractor does not exceed 48 feet. The semitrailer is not more than 53 feet in length, with
two or more rear axles and a maximum 40' KPRA, or with a
single axle and a maximum 38-foot KPRA. (For purposes of this
paragraph, a motortruck used in combination with a semitrailer,
when that combination of vehicles is engaged solely in the transportation of motor vehicles, camper units, or boats, is considered to be a truck
(2) For doubles, neither the semitrailer nor trailer exceeds 28 feet 6 inches.
(These are called "STAA" trucks. For an overview history trucks, see Truck Lengths & Maps and STAA diagram.
(b) Subdivisions (b), (d), and (e) of Section 35402 do not
apply to combinations of vehicles operated subject to the exemptions provided by
(c) STAA vehicles may also use highways which provide
reasonable access to terminals and facilities for purposes limited to fuel, food, lodging, and repair when that access is safe and when the
facility is within one road mile of identified exits. (See Service Access Routes)
TERMINAL ACCESS APPLICATIONS
(d) The Department of Transportation or local authorities may
establish a process whereby access to terminals or services may be
applied for upon a route not previously established as an access route.
The denial of a request shall be only on the basis of safety and an
engineering analysis. If a written request has not been acted upon
within 90 days of receipt by the department or the local
agency, the access shall be deemed automatically approved. Thereafter, the route
shall be deemed open to all other STAA vehicles. The Department of
Transportation or local authorities may provide signing, mapping, or a
listing of highways to indicate terminal access routes. "Terminal"
means either of the following: (1) A facility where freight originates,
terminates, or is handled in the transportation process. (2) A facility where a
motor carrier maintains operating facilities. (See Terminal Access Application
35401. (e) Any city or county may restrict the kingpin to rearmost axle distance to 38 feet,
but not less, on those highways under its jurisdiction. (See Two
or More Axle Semitrailer diagram)
35401. (f) The Department of Transportation may recommend
restricting the maximum kingpin to rear axle (KPRA) lengths on
certain highways, but to not less than 38 feet. By January 1,
1989, the Department shall erect advisory signs on state
highways that cannot safely accommodate trailers or semitrailers of the maximum
kingpin to rearmost axle distances permitted. (See Two
or More Axle Semitrailer diagram)
35401. (d) Any city or county may prohibit a
combination of vehicles of a total length in excess of 60 feet upon highways under its jurisdiction.
35405. A rear fairing installed on the back of a semitrailer for aerodynamic purposes, up to five feet in length, is not included in the length measurements of the semitrailer or the vehicle combination. (See CVC Section 35405.)
35401. (b) (3) A vehicle combination may have a total length
of not more than 75 feet, if it is an agricultural
product hauler, and complies with a number of requirements. (See Agricultural Product Haulers
EXCEPTIONS - TOW TRUCKS
35401. (c) A tow truck is exempt from the
65-foot maximum combination limit when operating with an annual
transportation permit, within a 100-mile radius, and in combination
with a disabled and/or abandoned vehicle.
EXCEPTIONS - AUTO, BOAT, & CAMPER TRANSPORTERS
35401.3. (a) A combination of vehicles designed and used to transport motor vehicles, camper units, or boats, which consists of a motortruck and stinger-steered
semitrailer, shall be allowed a length of up to 70 feet, or 75 feet,
depending on certain conditions. (See Auto,
Boat, & Camper Transporters Exemption)
EXCEPTIONS - HOUSEHOLD GOODS MOVERS
(f) The limitations of access do not apply to licensed carriers of household goods when directly enroute to or from a
point of loading or unloading of household goods, if travel on highways other
than those specified in subdivision (a) is necessary and incidental to the
shipment of the household goods. (For more information, see Household
Goods Movers and Licensed
Carriers of Household Goods: Truck Tractor & Semitrailer diagram)
EXCEPTIONS - MOTORSPORTS EVENTS
(g) (1) The Department of Transportation or local authorities
may issue a permit authorizing a combination of vehicles consisting of a STAA
vehicle with a KPRA of not more than 46 feet on trailers used in connection with motorsports. (See Motorsports
EXCEPTIONS - LIVESTOCK HAULERS
35401.7.(a) The limitations of access specified in
subdivision (d) of Section 35401.5 do not apply to licensed carriers of livestock on certain routes and under certain circumstances. (See Livestock
EXCEPTIONS - AGRICULTURAL BIOMASS HAULERS
35401.8. (a) A combination of vehicles designed and used to
transport agricultural biomass may extend to a total combined
length of 75 feet, under certain circumstances. (See Agricultural Biomass Exemption)
35402. (a) Any extension used to increase
the carrying capacity of a vehicle shall be included in measuring the length of
a vehicle. However, a drawbar shall be included in measuring
the overall length of a combination of vehicles, but not the length of a
vehicle. (For more information, see Overhang
-- Load Length and Extension Limits)
(b) Extensions up to 18 inches in length on auto haulers (car carriers) shall not be included when loaded. (See Auto, Boat, &
Camper Transporters Exemption)
(c) An extension of up to 18 inches on the last trailer shall not be included, or
on the front of the first trailer, depending on the route used.
(See Overhang --
Load Length and Extension Limits)
(d) Any extension not used to carry
a load and not exceeding three feet on the rear of a
vehicle for pushing the vehicle or a combination that is for to transporting earth, sand, gravel shall be included in the
length of the vehicle but not the overall length of the
combination of vehicles. (See Overhang
-- Load Length and Extension Limits)
(e) A truck semitrailer combination, but not
a truck tractor and semitrailer combination, may use a sliding fifth
wheel, or a truck tractor, semitrailer, trailer, and a truck-trailer combination may use a sliding drawbar,
to extend the combination by not more than 2 feet 6 inches while traveling 35 miles per hour or less on any highway,
freeway onramps and offramps, and freeway connectors, but not a freeway. The sliding fifth wheel or drawbar shall not be included in the
overall length of the combination, under certain conditions. (See Overhang -- Load Length
and Extension Limits)
35403. Safety devices which are required to
be mounted upon a vehicle may extend beyond the permissible vehicle length up to 10 inches. (See Overhang
-- Load Length and Extension Limits)
35406. The load upon any vehicle or the
front vehicle of a combination of vehicles, shall not extend more than
three feet beyond the foremost part of the front tires of the vehicle or the front bumper of the vehicle, or four
feet, if the load is composed solely of vehicles.
(See Overhang -- Load
Length and Extension Limits)
35407. Section 35406 does not apply to booms or masts of shovels, cranes or water
well drilling and servicing equipment carried upon a motor vehicle in
certain conditions (See Overhang -- Load Length and Extension Limits)
35407.5. Certain requirement in the previous two sections do
not apply to the booms or masts of a self-propelled heel-boom log loader first sold in this state prior to January 1, 1988, in certain conditions. (See Overhang -- Load Length and Extension
35408. A front bumper may not project more
than two feet forward of the fenders or cab structure or
35409. (a) Any motor vehicle used for taking photographs, motion pictures, or television pictures or for
teaching safe driving may be equipped with a device extending forward five feet. (See Overhang -- Load Length and Extension Limits)
LOAD LENGTHS TO REAR
35410. The load shall not extend to the rear more than two-thirds of the wheelbase. The wheelbase of a
semitrailer is the distance between the rearmost axle of the towing vehicle and
the rearmost axle of the semitrailer. (See Overhang -- Load Length and Extension Limits)
35411. The load upon any combination of vehicles shall not
exceed 75 feet. (See Overhang -- Load Length and Extension Limits)
35414. (a) Poles, timbers, pipes, integral structural
materials, or single unit component parts may not exceed 80
feet when transported upon certain equipment. (b) A public
utility company or local public agency may transport up to three poles not exceeding 80 feet on a pole or pipe
dolly. (See Overhang
-- Load Length and Extension Limits)
35404. Any county having a population in excess of 4,000,000
and having within its limits a natural island with an area in
excess of 20,000 acres may prohibit the use of any highway or
lane (1) by any vehicle exceeding an overall length of 170 inches and an overall width of 65 inches, or (2) by any such vehicle
and all vehicles driven by internal combustion engines.