Routing Restrictions for Motor Carriers

Routing Restrictions for Motor Carriers

Copyright 2006, Traffic World, Inc.


I have an interesting situation that I would like your opinion on.

I''m an agent for several carriers. Over the last few months I have moved 30 to 40 loads for a customer into a resort area in California. They were legal loads requiring a 48-foot trailer.

Last week one of my carriers loaded one such shipment and when the driver was in Arizona, he called the state of California to ask the best route into the resort. He was told that the route we had been using was restricted as to length and he would be subject to a fine.

After several days the carrier transferred the load in order to deliver. Previous loads were delivered without any problems and the drivers say there are no signs on the highway depicting any restrictions. This carrier wants to deduct $800 from my commission.

My question is, who is responsible for determining restricted highways - the shipper selling the product, who has no knowledge of highway regulations, or the carrier or carrier''s driver before accepting the load?


So the carrier wants to penalize you for not pre-checking its routing. Would it perhaps also like you to wash its trucks and check the tires?

Of course the responsibility for checking highway restrictions lies with the carrier -- not the driver, carrier management. The shipper certainly isn''t expected to do it. Nor does it matter to the average shipper what route the carrier uses; it simply wants the goods delivered in a timely manner, and for all it cares the carrier can fetch them in by hot-air balloon so long as it gets the job done. Nor are you, a third party, responsible for being the carrier''s nanny and doing its work for it, or subject to "penalties" for failing to do so.

But there''s a bit more to this. I have no idea to whom this enterprising driver spoke on the phone, but the whole thing is a classic illustration of why one shouldn''t believe everything one is told. You named the road in question, and so far as I can determine there are no unusual restrictions on it at all.

Local governments can''t restrict state roads without the prior approval of the California Department of Transportation. CalTrans (as it likes to call itself) maintains a register of such restrictions for public inspection, and it took me a whole minute to dig that up on the Internet using a basic search engine. There are only about 20 such special restrictions, just two relate to length, and none applies to the road you identified.

Let me go a bit further. Under California law there''s an overall length limit of 65 feet for single-trailer combination vehicles; vehicles meeting that standard are called "California Legal." Since your carrier was using a 48-foot trailer it should easily qualify. CalTrans also looks at the distance between the unit''s kingpin and the trailer''s rear axle (abbreviated KPRA), which it limits to 40 feet; again, the unit used by the carrier should qualify since that measurement was specifically designed to accommodate 48-foot trailers.

There are also detailed descriptions of numerous highway segments. The road you named is split into four such segments, the first three of which are designated "terminal access," meaning carriers may traverse them in "California Legal" vehicles to reach their destinations. I suspect the final segment, about eight miles long, is the key one, since it serves a lake area which is likely the site of your resort; that''s designated "CL-40," for "California Legal" equipment with a maximum KPRA of 40 feet or, in other words, state standard.

Finally, there are requirements in state law and CalTrans regulations that restricted routes are to be posted (signed), which you say this road isn''t.

In sum, either the driver was given bum information or he misunderstood what he was told. Perhaps he mistook the 40-foot KPRA limit for the length of the unit. Or maybe the person with whom he spoke made that error. Or who knows what else.

No matter how it happened, what ensued was as nonsensical an overreaction as anyone could ask to meet. Apparently everybody at the carrier took this driver''s word as gospel, never thinking to double-check (I wonder if they let the driver make financial decisions for them as well). Then they kicked it around aimlessly for a few days, still not verifying anything, before arbitrarily deciding to transload into smaller units.

Now this carrier wants you to foot the bill for it''s gullibility?

Give the carrier these facts. Tell it to double check on the CalTrans Web site if it needs to. And tell it to bloody well give you your $800.

After that you might want to consider doing business with a better class of carrier -- or anyhow those with at least a bit more managerial sense than God gave geese.

-- Consultant, author and educator Colin Barrett is president of Barrett Transportation Consultants. Send your questions to him at P.O. Box 76, Morganton, Ga. 30560; phone, (706) 374-7201; fax, (706) 374-7202; e-mail, Contact him to order the 536-page compiled edition of past Q&A columns, published in 2001, at $80 plus shipping.