Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 46.2. Motor Vehicles
Chapter 10. Motor Vehicle and Equipment Safety
3/4/2024

Article 16. Maximum Vehicle Lengths.

§ 46.2-1112. Length of vehicles, generally; special permits; vehicle combinations, etc., operating on certain highways; penalty.

No motor vehicle longer than 40 feet shall be operated on any highway in the Commonwealth except for buses and motor homes. The actual length of any combination of vehicles, including motor homes and buses, coupled together including any load thereon shall not exceed a total of 65 feet. However, the length of a tractor truck semitrailer combination may exceed 65 feet in length, provided the semitrailer does not exceed 53 feet in length and the distance between the kingpin of the semitrailer and the rearmost axle or a point midway between the rear tandem axles does not exceed 41 feet. The Commissioner of Highways may impose restrictions on the operation of vehicles exceeding 65 feet in length on certain roads, based on a safety and engineering analysis. No bus or motor home longer than 45 feet shall be operated on any highway in the Commonwealth. No tolerance shall be allowed that exceeds 12 inches.

The Commissioner, however, when good cause is shown, may issue a special permit for combinations either in excess of 65 feet, including any load thereon, or where the object or objects to be carried cannot be moved otherwise. Such permits may also be issued by the Department when the total number of otherwise overdimensional loads of modular housing of no more than two units may be reduced by permitting the use of an overlength trailer not exceeding 54 feet. No permit shall be issued by the Commissioner until an engineering analysis of a proposed routing has been conducted by the Commissioner of Highways to assess the ability of the roadway to be traversed to sustain the vehicle's size.

No overall length restrictions, however, shall be imposed on any tractor truck semitrailer combinations drawing one trailer or any tractor truck semitrailer combinations when operated on any interstate highway or on any highway as designated by the Commonwealth Transportation Board. No such designation shall be made, however, until notice of any proposed designation has been provided by the Commissioner of Highways to the governing body of every locality wherein any highway affected by the proposed designation is located.

No individual semitrailer or trailer being drawn in a tractor truck semitrailer trailer combination, however, shall exceed 28 1/2 feet in length, and no semitrailer being operated in a tractor truck semitrailer combination shall exceed 48 feet in length, except when semitrailers have a distance of not more than 41 feet between the kingpin of the semitrailer and the rearmost axle or a point midway between the rear tandem axles, such semitrailer shall be allowed not more than 53 feet in length.

The length limitations on semitrailers and trailers in the foregoing provisions of this section shall be exclusive of safety and energy conservation devices, steps and handholds for entry and egress, rubber dock guards, flexible fender extensions, mudflaps, refrigeration units, and air compressors. The Commissioner of Highways shall designate reasonable access to terminals, facilities for food, fuel, repairs and rest. Household goods carriers and any tractor truck semitrailer combination in which the semitrailer has a length of no more than 28 1/2 feet shall not be denied reasonable access to points of loading and unloading, except as designated, based on safety considerations, by the Commissioner of Highways.

Any person operating a vehicle whose length is not in conformity with the provisions of this chapter on a two-lane highway where passing is permitted shall be guilty of a traffic infraction and fined $250.

Code 1950, § 46-328; 1950, p. 665; 1952, c. 342; 1956, cc. 476, 483; 1958, c. 541, § 46.1-330; 1962, c. 113; 1966, c. 59; 1972, c. 446; 1974, c. 664; 1975, c. 104; 1978, c. 254; 1983, c. 515; 1985, c. 426; 1986, c. 417; 1989, cc. 644, 645, 727; 1993, c. 984; 1994, c. 456; 1995, c. 71; 1997, c. 773; 2001, c. 151; 2003, c. 314; 2005, c. 262; 2006, cc. 210, 232; 2013, cc. 585, 646; 2016, c. 122.

§ 46.2-1113. Length exceptions for certain passenger buses and motor homes.

Passenger buses and motor homes longer than thirty-five feet, but not longer than forty-five feet, may be operated on the streets of cities and towns when authorized pursuant to § 46.2-1300. Passenger buses and motor homes may exceed the forty-five-foot limitation when such excess length is caused by the projection of a front or rear safety bumper or both. Such safety bumper shall not cause the length of the bus to exceed the maximum legal limit by more than one foot in the front and one foot in the rear. "Safety bumper" means any device which may be fitted on an existing bumper or which replaces the bumper and is so constructed, treated, or manufactured to absorb energy upon impact.

Code 1950, § 46-328; 1950, p. 665; 1952, c. 342; 1956, cc. 476, 483; 1958, c. 541, § 46.1-330; 1962, c. 113; 1966, c. 59; 1972, c. 446; 1974, c. 664; 1975, c. 104; 1978, c. 254; 1983, c. 515; 1985, c. 426; 1986, c. 417; 1989, c. 727; 1993, c. 984; 2001, c. 151.

§ 46.2-1114. Length of watercraft transporters; operation on certain highways.

Watercraft transporters shall not exceed a length of 65 feet when operated on any interstate highway or on any highway as designated by the Commonwealth Transportation Board. Stinger-steered watercraft transporters shall not exceed a length of 75 feet when operated on any interstate highway or on any highway designated by the Commonwealth Transportation Board. In addition, watercraft may be transported on a truck/trailer combination no more than 65 feet long when operated on any interstate highway or on any highway designated by the Commonwealth Transportation Board. Any such vehicle shall display a sign of a size and type approved by the Commissioner of Highways warning that the vehicle is an over-length vehicle. However, an additional three-foot overhang shall be allowed beyond the front and a four-foot overhang shall be allowed beyond the rear of the vehicle. Such combinations shall have reasonable access to terminals, facilities for food, fuel, repairs, and rest as designated by the Commissioner of Highways.

1986, c. 72, § 46.1-330.1; 1989, cc. 645, 727; 1994, c. 456; 2013, cc. 585, 646; 2017, c. 554.

§ 46.2-1114.1. Length of automobile transporters; operation on certain highways.

Automobile transporters shall not exceed a length of 65 feet when operated on any interstate highway or on any highway designated by the Commonwealth Transportation Board and stinger-steered automobile transporters shall not exceed a length of 80 feet when operated on the national network of interstate and primary highways as defined in 23 CFR 658.5, as amended. Any such vehicle shall display a sign of a size and type approved by the Commissioner of Highways warning that the vehicle is an over-length vehicle. Notwithstanding the provisions of § 46.2-1120, a four-foot overhang shall be allowed beyond the front and a six-foot overhang shall be allowed beyond the rear of the vehicle. Such combinations shall have reasonable access to terminals, facilities for food, fuel, repairs, and rest as designated by the Commissioner of Highways.

2017, c. 554.

§ 46.2-1115. Lengths of manufactured homes or house trailers.

The actual length of any combination of a towing vehicle and any manufactured home or house trailer, coupled together, shall not exceed a total length of sixty-five feet, including coupling.

Code 1950, § 46-328.1; 1956, c. 86; 1958, c. 541, § 46.1-331; 1985, c. 426; 1989, c. 727; 1996, cc. 39, 146; 1999, c. 77.

§ 46.2-1116. Vehicles having more than one trailer, etc., attached thereto; exceptions.

Except as provided in this section and § 46.2-1117, no motor vehicle shall be driven on a highway while drawing or having attached thereto more than one motor vehicle, trailer, or semitrailer unless such vehicle is being operated under a special permit from the Commissioner of Highways. This limitation, however, shall not apply between sunrise and sunset to farm trailers or semitrailers being moved from one farm to another farm owned or operated by the same person within a radius of 10 miles. This limitation also shall not apply to a combination of vehicles coupled together by a saddle mount device used to transport motor vehicles in a drive-away service when not more than two saddle mounts are used. Vehicles coupled together by not more than three saddle mounts shall not exceed 75 feet when operated on any primary highway as designated by the Commonwealth Transportation Board and shall not exceed 97 feet when operated on the National Network of interstate and primary highways as designated under 23 CFR 658.5, as amended. Use of saddle mounts as provided in this section shall be in conformity with safety regulations adopted by the federal Department of Transportation.

The Commissioner of Highways shall designate reasonable access to terminals and facilities for food, fuel, repairs, and rest.

The governing body of any city may by ordinance permit motor vehicles to be driven on the highways of their respective cities while drawing or having attached thereto more than one other vehicle, trailer, or semitrailer.

Code 1950, § 46-331; 1958, c. 541, § 46.1-335; 1962, c. 575; 1964, c. 286; 1966, c. 373; 1974, c. 580; 1978, c. 254; 1983, c. 515; 1985, c. 426; 1986, c. 72; 1989, c. 727; 1994, c. 456; 1996, c. 340; 2010, c. 24; 2013, cc. 585, 646.

§ 46.2-1117. Tractor truck semitrailer combinations operating on certain highways; access to certain facilities.

A tractor truck semitrailer combination may draw one trailer when operating on any interstate highway and any highway as designated by the Commonwealth Transportation Board. The Commissioner of Highways shall designate reasonable access to terminals, facilities for food, fuel, repairs, and rest, and points of loading and unloading for carriers of household goods.

1983, c. 515, § 46.1-335.1; 1989, c. 727; 1994, c. 456; 2013, cc. 585, 646.

§ 46.2-1117.1. Commercial delivery of towaway trailers.

A. For the purposes of this section:

"Towaway trailer transporter combination" means a combination of vehicles consisting of a trailer transporting towing unit and two trailers or semitrailers that carry no property and constitute inventory property of a manufacturer, distributor, or dealer of such trailers or semitrailers.

"Trailer transporting towing unit" means a power unit that is not used to carry property when operating in a towaway trailer transporter combination.

B. Notwithstanding the provisions of §§ 46.2-1116 and 46.2-1117, a towaway trailer transporter combination may operate with a length of not more than 82 feet and a gross weight of not more than 26,000 pounds. When operating on a highway other than an interstate highway, the operator shall comply with flashing high-intensity amber warning light requirements of § 46.2-1026 if such combination exceeds 75 feet long.

2017, c. 554.

§ 46.2-1118. Connection between vehicles; tow trucks towing vehicles by means of a wheel lift apparatus.

The connection between any two vehicles, one of which is towing or drawing the other on a highway, shall consist of a fifth wheel, drawbar, trailer hitch, or other similar device not to exceed 15 feet in length from one vehicle to the other. Any such two vehicles shall, in addition to such drawbar or other similar device, be equipped at all times when so operated on the highway with an emergency chain or cable that is structurally adequate to securely stop and hold the trailer being towed.

The fifth wheel, drawbar, trailer hitch, or similar device must (i) be structurally adequate for the weight being drawn, (ii) be properly and securely mounted, (iii) provide for adequate articulation at the connection without excessive slack at that location, and (iv) be provided with a locking device that prevents accidental separation of the towed and towing vehicles. The mounting of the fifth wheel, drawbar, trailer hitch, or similar device on the towing vehicle must include reinforcement or bracing of the frame sufficient to produce strength and rigidity of the frame to prevent its undue distortion.

The foregoing provisions of this section shall not apply to (i) any farm tractor, as defined in § 46.2-100, when such farm tractor is towing any farm implement or farm machinery by means of a drawbar coupled with a safety hitch pin or manufacturer's coupling device or (ii) any tow truck towing a vehicle by means of a wheel lift apparatus that employs a safety strap to hold two of the towed vehicle's wheels within a wheel lift cradle in a manner consistent with instructions of the manufacturer of such wheel lift apparatus.

For the purposes of this section, "tow truck" means any motor vehicle that is constructed and used primarily for towing, lifting, or otherwise moving illegally parked or disabled vehicles.

Code 1950, § 46-332; 1958, c. 541, § 46.1-336; 1982, c. 189; 1985, c. 426; 1989, c. 727; 2003, c. 414; 2010, c. 614.

§ 46.2-1119. Tow dolly and converter gear.

No axle-like device, commonly called a "tow dolly," used to support the front or rear wheels of a passenger vehicle or pick-up or panel truck for towing purposes, and no axle-like device, commonly called "converter gear," on which is mounted a fifth wheel used to convert a semitrailer to a full trailer, shall be considered vehicles. Either such device, when used on the public highways, shall be equipped with a safety chain or chains of a strength to restrain the device and vehicle being towed, should the connection fail. In addition, either device, when moved on the public highway, shall be equipped with rear marker lights or reflectors when towed without a load. When a tow dolly or converter gear is used to tow a vehicle, the towed vehicle must comply with all requirements of law pertaining to towed vehicles.

1984, c. 182, § 46.1-336.1; 1989, c. 727.

§ 46.2-1120. Extension of loads beyond front of vehicles.

A. As used in this section, "self-propelled pole carrier" means a motor vehicle that is (i) operated by a public utility company as defined in § 56-265.1, or its agents, (ii) designed to carry a pole at a height of at least five feet when measured from the bottom of the brace used to carry the pole, and (iii) carrying no more than two utility poles.

B. Except as provided in subsection C, no vehicle shall carry any load extending more than three feet beyond the front of such vehicle.

C. Any utility pole carried by a self-propelled pole carrier may extend beyond the front overhang limit set by this section if the pole is no more than 55 feet in length, the pole cannot be dismembered and does not extend more than 10 feet beyond the front bumper of the vehicle, and either:

1. Between sunrise and sunset, the front of the pole is marked by a flag of the type required under § 46.2-1121 on the rear of certain loads; or

2. Between sunset and sunrise, operation of the vehicle is required to make emergency repairs to utility service, and the front of the pole is marked by a light of the type required under § 46.2-1121 on the rear of certain loads.

Code 1950, § 46-329; 1958, c. 541, § 46.1-333; 1989, c. 727; 2013, cc. 242, 385.

§ 46.2-1121. Flag or light at end of load.

A. Whenever the load on any vehicle other than a commercial motor vehicle extends more than four feet beyond the rear of the bed or body thereof, there shall be displayed at the end of the load, in such a position as to be clearly visible at all times from the rear of the load, a red flag, not less than 12 inches, both in length and width.

B. Any commercial motor vehicle transporting a load that extends beyond the sides of the vehicle by more than four inches or more than four feet beyond the rear of the vehicle shall have the extremities of the load marked with a red or orange fluorescent warning flag. Any such warning flag shall be at least 18 inches, both in length and width. If the projecting load is two feet wide or less, there shall be at least one flag at the extreme rear. If the projecting load is wider than two feet, there shall be at least two warning flags at the extreme rear. Any such flag shall be located to indicate the maximum widths of any load that extends beyond the sides or rear of the commercial motor vehicle.

C. On any vehicle subject to the provisions of subsection A or B, between sunset and sunrise, there shall be displayed at the end of the load a red light plainly visible in clear weather at least 500 feet to the sides and rear of the vehicle.

Code 1950, § 46-304; 1958, c. 541, § 46.1-300; 1989, c. 727; 2022, c. 50.