Bottom Line
Off the Network
A road by any other name

Don & Debbie Morrow
OOIDA Member Columnists

Have you ever noticed the variety of designations, codes, names or even colors that the different states use to identify their roads once you get off the network? It is without a doubt a confusing mess that at the very least brings back fond memories of alphabet soup when we were kids. 

Each class has its own limitations on size and weight. These include any combination of overall length, trailer length, kingpin-to-rear-axle setting, height, width and weight that the individual state feels is important to control. 

There are several states that classify their roads by lane width. 

State lane width restrictions affect not only the width of the truck but also length and even weight in some cases.

Ironically, we have never seen a sign declaring “12-foot lanes.” We wonder if they expect us to carry a tape measure. 

There are advantages in knowing the road classifications and restrictions. You can save time, miles and therefore money by traveling the shortest legal route. Your motor carriers’ atlas may not always show this. 

Here are a few examples:

We once had a load that required us to travel north on U.S. 95 out of Winnemucca, NV. The atlas we were using at the time did not show this as a truck route. After contacting the state of Nevada, we were informed that Nevada allows STAA-dimensioned commercial vehicles to operate on all federal primary highways. This includes U.S. 95. Having this information saved us hundreds of miles. 

The atlas has since been updated to show U.S. 95 as a truck route.

A similar situation occurred with Minnesota 95. 

Our atlas did not show that particular state highway as a truck route. After contacting Mn/DOT, we learned that Minnesota 95 is classified as a 10-ton road. Therefore, it was legal for us to use. 

Road classifications can also force you to add miles in an effort to stay legal. Picking up a load of lumber in Brookings, OR, that is headed for Texas doesn’t leave you with a lot of options on which road to use. 

The shortest route would be to head south on U.S. 101 into California. But based on California’s road classification restrictions, we would not have been legal once we crossed the California border. 

To stay legal, we added more than 200 miles to our route.

Following are a few examples of how similar roads can have very different classifications, depending on what state the pavement is in.

California
• TA (Terminal Access) routes are state and local roads that allow STAA trucks;
• SA (Service Access) routes are state and local roads that allow access up to one mile to terminals, food, fuel, lodging and repairs when consistent with safe operation; and
• California Legal routes do not allow STAA trucks. No signs are posted.

Illinois
• Class I is the national network allowing standard 53-foot semitrailers with kingpin-to-the- center-of-the-rear-axle settings of 45 feet, 6 inches;
• Class II is the same as Class I except for the rules that apply to doubles; and
• Class III are more restricted: width 96 inches; gross weight 73,280 pounds; overall length 65 feet and/or 55 feet from the center of the front axle of the tractor to the center of the rear axle of the trailer; and a 42- foot, 6-inch kingpin-to-center- of-the-rear-axle setting.

Kentucky
• Class AAA: 700 pounds per 
inch of tire width, 65-foot overall length, 96-inch width, steer 12,000 pounds, axle 20,000 pounds, tandem 34,000 pounds;
• Class AA: gross 62,000 pounds;
• Class A: gross 44,000 pounds.

Michigan
Five road classifications are identified along with their capabilities and limitations on what is called the “Truck Operators Map.” Do not get off the interstate without one. Call the state DOT at (517) 373-2120 to ask for one.

Minnesota
Instead of numbers or letters, this state goes by tonnage, such as:
• 10-ton = 80,000 pounds gross;
• 9-ton = 73,280 pounds gross;
• Steers 600 pounds per inch of tire width; others 500 pounds per inch of tire width; 
• 75-foot overall length.

Mississippi
Instead of individual classifications, they simply throw up a sign that says “Low Weight Road Limit.” That means gross 57,650 pounds, 550 pounds per inch of tire width.

Oregon
Don’t count on signs to give you the info in Oregon; you’ve got to have a truck route map. 

Oregon identifies several different road classifications and limitations by color on these truck route maps.

You get this map from oregon.gov/DOT/mct; by asking at the port of entry; or calling the state DOT.

Pennsylvania
“Truckers Guide to Pennsylvania” map identifies several road classifications by color codes. 

Call (717) 787-7445 to get the guide (map). Note: You can also get a trucker’s handbook and a PA STAA truck route map for 102-inch trailers.

Vermont
Classification is posted at the beginning of each road.

Wisconsin
• Class A roads are the national network roads;
• Class B truck routes limit weight to 60 percent of the national network. If your truck is allowed 80,000 pounds on the network, you are allowed 48,000 pounds on a Class B route. Also, you are limited to 65-foot overall length.

No matter where you are in the country, the local officials are just that, local. They know better than you do what the limitations are on the roads in their area. Take the time to know where you are and what’s legal.

Have a safe trip and enjoy the ride.

Information in this column highlights various laws and regulations and is not intended to be comprehensive.

Don and Debbe Morrow, authors of the state-by-state guide for truckers, “For the Long Haul,” may be reached atdmorrow@donde publishing.com.

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