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Trailer Overhang Regulations: State and US DOT Overhang Laws

February 2, 2024
 By Joe Weaver
Trailer Overhang Regulations: State and US DOT Overhang Laws
Last Modified: February 5, 2024
Trailer overhang regulations can vary widely within the United States. Learn how much overhang you can have on a trailer here.
What Are Overhang Regulations?   |   State and Federal Regulations   |   State by State    |   Midwest   |   Northeast   |   Southeast   |   Southwest   |   West   |   Alaska and Hawaii   |   Canadian Trailer Regulations   |   How Heavy Haul and Oversized can Help

Trailer overhang regulations are essential to ensure safety on the road. However, even seasoned pros have trouble finding the specific regulations governing their vehicle, trailer, and cargo. Most states don’t share the same regulations, so interstate haulers may require multiple permits depending on their haul. Adding wrinkles like daytime and nighttime driving codes, designated highways, and seasonal rule changes only makes things harder.

According to the American Trucking Associations, trailer overhang regulations vary by state, but all dictate how far a load can extend beyond the trailer’s front or rear. These laws are in place to protect highway infrastructure and reduce traffic complications. These should not be confused with laws that govern how wide a load can be.

With two countries, 50 states, and several provinces and territories to cover, let’s get down to the details of trailer overhang laws.

What Are Trailer Overhang Regulations?

Trailer overhang regulations govern how much cargo can hang off the front or back of trailers such as the one seen here.

In the United States, trailer overhang laws refer to the regulations that govern how much a load can overhang the front or rear of a vehicle. However, overhang laws aren’t always consistent from one form of transport to another. For our purposes, “vehicle” refers to a semi-truck and trailer combination unless noted otherwise.

The main purpose of these laws is to balance traffic safety with the need to transport oversize goods. They exist on a state and federal level in the USA and provincial/territorial levels in Canada.

Effective Overhang vs Trailer Overhang

Before we address the numerous trailer overhang laws in the USA, it’s worth noting that the term ‘overhang’ can refer to two different dimensions: effective and trailer overhang.

The differences between the two can be summarized as follows:

Effective Overhang

  • Refers to the part of the load length that extends beyond the wheelbase of the vehicle.
  • Affects how easy it is to drive and steer the vehicle.
  • Impacts overall vehicle stability.

Trailer Overhang

  • Extends past the rear or front of the trailer.
  • Not as much impact on handling (up to a point).
  • Can pose a risk to other road users if not flagged or illuminated for visibility.

This article will focus on trailer overhang from the front and rear of a vehicle as defined above.

State vs. Federal Trailer Overhang Regulations

The Federal Department of Transportation (FDOT) sets minimum legal overhangs as follows:

  • 3 feet to the foremost part of the front overhang.
  • 4 feet to the rearmost portion of the rear overhang.

Essentially, the FDOT minimums are guidelines by which each individual states crafts and enforces its own regulations. 

In theory, anything that exceeds those measurements is illegal unless a permit is obtained. Don’t worry: it’s as messy as it sounds.

What Is Legal Overhang on a Trailer?

Three flat bed trucks, one of which is hauling an oversized load.

As stated previously, the minimum legal overhang for a truck and trailer combination is 3 feet in the front and 4 feet in the rear. Is it actually that simple in practice? Of course not.

Many states allow longer rear and front overhangs. We’ll go over those in more detail soon, but you should consult the DOT regulations for any state through which you’re hauling cargo. Otherwise, you may fall prey to delays and costly fines.

Some general guidelines to use if you plan to exceed the federal minimum length requirement for overhangs are:

  • Use Cargo Flags: For the safety of other drivers, most states that allow longer rear overhangs require a red flag (12”x12” in most cases) to be tied to the rearmost portion of the load. This is sufficient for daytime travel in most areas.
  • Affix Cargo Lights: At night, the flags won’t get the job done. Instead, a red light will need to be affixed to the rearmost part of the rear overhang. Though not every state requires it, an amber light secured to the forward-facing part of the overhang makes for safer driving overall.
  • Oversize Load Banners: Like any over-dimensional load, you may need to use yellow and black oversize load banners. This is a common requirement once you get past 10 feet of rear overhang in many states.
  • Acquire Permits: Oversize loads usually require a special permit from the state(s) through which the load is carried. Excess overhang is no exception.
  • Use Escort Drivers: These are required in many states if a front or rear overhang exceeds 5 to 10 feet.
  • Divisible vs Indivisible Loads: If an over-long load can be broken down into smaller parts, most states will require you to do so. For instance, even though an 86’ utility pole could qualify for an exception, it won’t if it’s a multi-piece design that can be unbolted separated. If it’s one solid piece, permits apply.

When in doubt, check your route. Hauling a load with excess overhang across state lines will require careful planning and scheduling.  

Utility poles frequently require permits because of excessive overhang. Learn more about utility pole transportation here.

Two semi trucks traveling on an icy bridge.

As previously mentioned, states tend to set their own legal amount of overhang. This complicates the hauling process. Some states follow federal guidelines before requiring a permit. Other states have more relaxed regulations, while a few are extremely specific and offer no easily-found round number.

One important note: if your overhang exceeds FDOT regulations or those listed here, then check the DOT website in your state(s). Even better, consider speaking with a heavy haul consultant before hitting the road. 

These state-level regulations displayed below aren’t exhaustive. Subtle variations in cargo can lead to big differences once you enter excess overhang territory. 

Unless otherwise noted, the following rules apply to semi-truck and trailer combinations.


StateOverhang Regulations
Illinois3 feet front.
4 feet rear.
Indiana3 feet front.
4 feet rear.
Iowa3 feet front.
4 feet rear.
KansasOn a 59’6” trailer, overall length must not exceed 85’.
Michigan3 feet front. 
No rear limit as long as legal trailer length of 59’6”  is not exceeded.
Minnesota3 feet front.
No rear limit as long as legal trailer length of 59’6”  is not exceeded.
Missouri3 feet front.
4 feet rear.
NebraskaFor stinger-steered vehicles, front can’t exceed 4’, rear can’t exceed 6 feet. Otherwise, overall semi-trailer length must not exceed 75 feet.
North DakotaOverall trailer length with overhang must not exceed 75 feet on a 53-foot trailer.
Ohio3 feet front.
4 feet rear.
South Dakota3 feet front.
5 feet rear overhang on a 48’ trailer. 
Wisconsin3 feet front.
4 feet rear.


StateOverhang Regulations
ConnecticutAny trailer length exceeding 48 feet will require a permit. If you have one inch of overhang on a 48-foot trailer, you’ll need a permit. If you have 8 feet of overhang on a 40-foot trailer, no permit is necessary.
Delaware3 feet front.
6 feet rear.
District of ColumbiaOn a 48-foot semi-trailer:3 feet front.5 feet rear.
Maine3 feet front.
4 feet rear. 
Maryland3 feet front.
6 feet rear. 
Massachusetts3 feet front.
4 feet rear.
New Hampshire3 feet front.
4 feet rear.
New Jersey3 feet front.
4 feet rear.
New York3 feet front.
4 feet rear.
Pennsylvania3 feet front.
6 feet rear.
Rhode Island3 feet front.
4 feet rear.


StateOverhang Regulations
Alabama5 feet front.
5 feet rear.
Arkansas3 feet front.
4 feet rear.
Florida3 feet front.
4 feet rear.
Georgia3 feet front.
4 feet rear.
KentuckyOn a 48-foot trailer: 3 feet front, 5 feet rear on interstates and designated highways.
On all other state-maintained highways: 3 feet front.4 feet rear.
Louisiana4 feet front.
8 feet rear.
Mississippi3 feet front.
4 feet rear.
Forest products may overhang up to 28 feet (daylight transit only).
North Carolina3 feet front.
4 feet rear.
South Carolina3 feet front.
10 feet rear on 48-foot and 53-feet trailers.
Tennessee3 feet front.
On a 50-foot trailer: up to 5 feet total overhang.
VirginiaAuto and watercraft transporter: 3 feet front, 4 feet rear.
Stinger-steered transporter: 4 feet front, 6 feet rear.
West Virginia3 feet front.
6 feet rear.


StateOverhang Regulations
Arizona3 feet front.
6 feet rear.
New Mexico3 feet front.
6 feet rear.
Oklahoma3 feet front.
4 feet rear.
Texas3 feet front.
4 feet rear.


StateOverhang Regulations
California3 feet front.
4 feet rear.
Colorado4 feet front.
10 feet rear.
Idaho3 feet front.
4 feet rear.
MontanaOn stinger-steered boat and automobile transporters: 4 feet front, 6 feet rear.
Other combinations of vehicles are limited to a total length of 75 feet.
Nevada10 feet front.
10 feet rear.
Total truck and trailer length must not exceed 70 feet.
Oregon4 feet front.
5 feet rear.
UtahSemi truck and trailer: 3 feet front, 6 feet rear
Stinger-steered automobile transports: 4 feet front, 6 feet rear.
Wyoming3 feet front.
4 feet rear.

Alaska and Hawaii

StateOverhang Regulations
Alaska3 feet front.
10 feet rear.
Hawaii3 feet front.
4 feet rear.

Canada Trailer Overhang Regulations

Canada uses a hodgepodge of measuring formats, including the metric system for distances. Keep in mind that a meter is roughly equivalent to 3.281 feet in the imperial system. 

For those shipping large goods to our neighbor to the north, the following regulations apply.

Province or TerritoryOverhang Regulations
AlbertaMust not exceed a total length of 23 meters.
British Columbia1 meter front.
1.85 meters rear.
ManitobaMust not exceed a total length of 25 meters.
New BrunswickEscort vehicles required for front and rear overhangs in excess of 3.05 meters.
Newfoundland and Labrador1 meter front.
2 meters rear.
Northwest TerritoriesAny load over 25 meters requires a permit. 
NunavutPermit required for any truck and trailer combination that exceeds 21.5 meters.
Nova Scotia1 meter rear.
2 meters front.
Ontario4.65 meters rear on total length of 25 meters.
Front not specified.
Quebec4 meters rear.
Front not specified.
Saskatchewan300 x 300 mm flag required during daylight hours on overhangs exceeding one meter.
Red lights visible up to 200 meters on either side of the extreme end of the overhang are required at night.
YukonNo limits as long as overall length doesn’t exceed 23 meters.

Remember: if you’re still unsure whether your load will require an overload permit, consult the relevant state’s DOT guidelines. You can also schedule a consulting session with one of our experts in oversized hauling.

How Heavy Haul and Oversized can Help Your Business

There’s no shortage of opportunities for error when it comes to interpreting trailer overhang regulations. If you’re having difficulty making sure your oversized load is compliant with travel regulations, we’re here to help.

Heavy Haul and Oversized offers logistics solutions for all of your over-dimensional transport needs. We have the experience and equipment it takes to safely, legally, and efficiently move the largest payloads.

Our services include:

Call the heavy haul experts at (866) 829-9830 or get a risk-free quote online today. No job is too big for Heavy Haul and Oversized.

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