Transportation

 

Overview

North Carolina has laws regulating the maximum weight, height, and width of vehicles, as well as hauling permits.  However, the law does create some limited exceptions for farmers transporting agricultural products.  This section provides a general overview of North Carolina transportation law and agriculture-specific exclusions.

 

Definitions

Farmer – A farmer, as defined by North Carolina transportation law, is “any person engaged in the raising and growing of farm products on a farm in North Carolina not less than 10 acres in area, and who does not engage in the business of buying products for resale.”  N.C.G.S. § 20-88(b)(2).

 

Legal Issues

Weight Restrictions

Size Restrictions

 

Transportation Links

Haulin’ Ag – A Guide to Transporting Farm Products & Equipment in North Carolina (a publication of North Carolina Farm Bureau)

 

Applicable Law

Property-Hauling Vehicles – N.C.G.S. § 20-88

Size of Vehicles and Loads – N.C.G.S. § 20-116

Weight of Vehicles and Loads – N.C.G.S. § 20-118

 

FAQs

Weight Restrictions

 I have a (commercial) property-hauling vehicle.  Do I need to register it with the DMV?

Yes.  Commercial vehicles and trailers must be registered with the DMV, subject to some exemptions discussed below.  N.C.G.S. § 20-50.  Annual registration fees for property-hauling commercial vehicles are required.  The fees are based on the gross weight of the vehicle, including the weight of the truck, trailer, and load.  N.C.G.S. § 20-88(b).  Additionally, either annual or multiyear registration fees are required for trailers or semi-trailers.  N.C.G.S. § 20-88(c). 

 The registration fees are lower for farmers due to an agricultural exemption, and there are some purposes for which the registration fee may be excluded altogether (see below).  N.C.G.S. § 20-88(b).  If you qualify for the agricultural exemption, you will receive a license plate that shall be displayed on your farm vehicle.  N.C.G.S. § 20-88(b)(3).  The following annual registration fees, based on the type of vehicle and its weight, apply:

 

Schedule of Weights and Rates

Vehicle Weight

Rates Per Hundred Pound Gross Weight

General Rate

Farmer Rate

Not over 4,000 pounds

$0.59

$0.29

4,001 to 9,000 pounds inclusive

$0.81

$0.40

9,001 to 13,000 pounds inclusive

$1.00

$0.50

13,001 to 17,000 pounds inclusive

$1.36

$0.68

Over 17,000 pounds

$1.54

$0.77

 

N.C.G.S. § 20-88(b).  The minimum fee is $24.00 per year at the farmer rate and $28.00 per year at the general rate.  N.C.G.S. § 20-88(b).  The fee for a semitrailer or trailer is $19.00 per year, or a multiyear plate and registration is available for trailers and semitrailers for $75.00.  A multiyear plate and registration card for a semitrailer or trailer are valid until the owner transfers the semitrailer or trailer to another person or surrenders the plate and registration card to the DMV. A multiyear plate may not be transferred to another vehicle.  N.C.G.S. § 20-88(c).

 

The following are exempt from registration:

  • Farm tractors and trailers on any trip within 10 miles from point of loading, and not exceeding 35 miles per hour when used to transport his own farm implements, farm supplies, or farm products from place to place on the same farm, from one farm to another, from farm to market, or from market to farm.    N.C.G.S. § 20-51(5).
  • Any trailer or semitrailer attached to a licensed motor vehicle when driven by a farmer to transport crops or farm equipment from place to place on the same farm, from one farm to another, from farm to gin, from farm to dryer, or from farm to market, and when not operated on a for‑hire basis.  N.C.G.S. § 20-51(6).
  • Tobacco trailers or tobacco trucks when transporting or otherwise handling tobacco.  N.C.G.S. § 20-51(7).
  • Agricultural spreader vehicles not exceeding 35 miles per hour and within 50 miles of its supply source of fertilizer and other products.  The driver must be properly licensed to operate an agricultural spreader, and the spreader must be insured under a motor vehicle liability policy in the amount required under N.C.G.S. § 20‑309.  Additionally, if the spreader has a gross weight rating exceeding 10,000 lbs then it must display a valid federal safety inspection decal.  N.C.G.S. § 20-51(16).

 

How is weight determined for the purpose of licensing?

If you need to register your vehicle (that is, if you don’t fall under an agricultural exemption), then for the purpose of licensing, the weight of the vehicle shall be the empty weight of the vehicle plus the heaviest load to be transported as declared by the operator.  N.C.G.S. § 20-88(a).  Any determination of weight shall be made only in units of 1,000 pounds or major fraction thereof, weights of over 500 pounds counted as 1,000 and weights of 500 pounds or less disregarded.  This value determines the rate at which your registration fee will be assessed (see table above).  Even though a vehicle may be capable of carrying a heavier load than the operator declared, if generally may not be used to haul more than its licensed weight.

 

What is the maximum weight for vehicles in North Carolina?

A single axle weight cannot exceed 20,000 pounds and a tandem axle weight cannot exceed 38,000 pounds.  N.C.G.S. § 20-118(b)(1)-(2).  To find what your vehicle’s maximum gross weight is, use the chart below and follow the guidelines according to the number of axles on the vehicle and the distance between the two farthest axles. A vehicle may not be driven on a highway if the vehicle’s gross weight exceeds its declared gross weight.  N.C.G.S. § 20-88(k).

 

 Gross Weight Restrictions 

Distance between axles (ft)

Maximum Weight in Pounds for any Group of Two or More Consecutive Axles

2 axles

3 axles

4 axles

5 axles

6 axles

7 axles

<8

38,000

38,000

-

-

-

-

8

38,000

42,000

-

-

-

-

9

39,000

42,500

-

-

-

-

10

40,002

43,500

-

-

-

-

11

-

44,000

-

-

-

-

12

-

45,000

50,000

-

-

-

13

-

45,500

50,500

-

-

-

14

-

46,500

51,500

-

-

-

15

-

47,000

52,000

-

-

-

16

-

48,000

52,500

58,000

-

-

17

-

48,500

53,500

58,500

-

-

18

-

49,500

54,000

59,000

-

-

19

-

50,000

54,500

60,000

-

-

20

-

51,000

55,500

60,500

66,000

-

21

-

51,500

56,000

61,000

66,500

-

22

-

52,500

56,500

61,500

67,000

-

23

-

53,000

57,500

62,500

68,000

-

24

-

54,000

58,000

63,000

68,500

74,000

25

-

54,500

58,500

63,500

69,000

74,500

26

-

55,500

59,500

64,000

69,500

75,000

27

-

56,000

60,000

65,000

70,000

75,500

28

-

57,000

60,500

65,500

71,000

76,500

29

-

57,500

61,500

66,000

71,500

77,000

30

-

58,500

62,000

66,500

72,000

77,500

31

-

59,000

62,500

67,500

72,500

78,000

32

-

60,000

63,500

68,000

73,000

78,500

33

-

-

64,000

68,500

74,000

79,000

34

-

-

64,500

69,000

74,500

80,000

35

-

-

65,500

70,000

75,000

-

36

-

-

66,000

70,500

75,500

-

37

-

-

66,500

71,000

76,000

-

38

-

-

67,500

72,000

77,000

-

39

-

-

68,000

72,500

77,500

-

40

-

-

68,500

73,000

78,000

-

41

-

-

69,500

73,500

78,500

-

42

-

-

70,000

74,000

79,000

-

43

-

-

71,500

75,000

80,000

-

44

-

-

72,000

75,500

-

-

45

-

-

72.000

76,000

-

-

46

-

-

72,500

76,500

-

-

47

-

-

73,500

77,500

-

-

48

-

-

74,000

78,000

-

-

49

-

-

74,500

78,500

-

-

50

-

-

75,500

79,000

-

-

51

-

-

76,000

80,000

-

-

52

-

-

76,500

-

-

-

53

-

-

77,500

-

-

-

54

-

-

78,000

-

-

-

55

-

-

78,500

-

-

-

56

-

-

79,500

-

-

-

57

-

-

80,000

-

-

-

 

N.C.G.S. § 20-118(b)(3).  These requirements do not apply to a vehicle hauling crops from a farm to a market within 150 miles of the farm.  N.C.G.S. § 20-118(c)(12)(a).  In that case, the vehicle must not exceed a single-axle weight of 22,000 pounds, a tandem axle weight of 42,000 pounds, or a gross weight of 90,000 pounds.  N.C.G.S. § 20-118(c)(12)(d).

 

The Department of Transportation may also impose weight restrictions on “light traffic” roads that are lower than the statutory limits.  N.C.G.S. § 20-118(b)(4).  However, if you are transporting agricultural products or equipment and there are no roads between your origin and destination that are not classified as light-traffic, the light-traffic restrictions will not apply.  N.C.G.S. § 20-118(c)(5).

 

What if my agricultural vehicle exceeds the maximum weight?

 The normal penalty for your vehicle exceeding the maximum weight is assessed based on how far above the licensed weight the vehicle is.  For the first 1,000 pounds or less in excess of the licensed weight, the penalty is four cents (4¢) per pound.  For the next 1,000 pounds, the penalty is 6 cents (6¢) per pound.  After that, the penalty is ten cents (10¢) per pound.  N.C.G.S. § 20-118(e)(1)

For a vehicle transporting agricultural products or equipment (those listed in N.C.G.S. § 20-118(c)(5)), the penalty is one half the normal penalty.  N.C.G.S. § 20-118(e)(4).

 

Size Restrictions

What is the maximum height for vehicles?

 The maximum height for a vehicle is 13 feet, 6 inches.  N.C.G.S. § 20-116(c).

 

What is the maximum width for vehicles?

The total width of a vehicle shall not be greater than 102 inches (8 feet, 6 inches).  When transporting hogsheads of tobacco, a tolerance of 6 inches is allowed.  When transporting sheet or bale tobacco, the load must not exceed 114 inches (9 feet, 6 inches).  N.C.G.S. § 20-116(a)

Self-propelled farm equipment, including cotton module haulers, is allowed up to 10 feet in width.  N.C.G.S. § 20-116(j).  Self-propelled farm equipment between 10 feet and 25 feet is allowed with the following conditions: (a) during daylight hours only, (b) equipment must display a 3'x4' red flag mounted to a 4' pole at the front and rear of the equipment, (c) if traveling more than 10 miles, a flag vehicle with flashing lights must be positioned in front and behind the equipment, (d) equipment must be operated to the right of the center line when meeting opposing traffic, and (e) equipment must be folded to its minimal width.  N.C.G.S. § 20-116(j).

 

What is the maximum length for vehicles?

A single vehicle having two or more axles shall not exceed 40 feet in length including bumpers, except when transporting unprocessed cotton from farm to gin or unprocessed sage from farm to market.  In that case, the maximum length is 50 feet.  N.C.G.S. § 20-116(c).

 

Is there any way to use an oversized vehicle or transport oversized loads?

Yes.  Annual oversize permits for hauling farm equipment up to 14 feet are available from the Department of Transportation at no charge.  N.C.G.S. § 20-119(g).  For nonagricultural vehicles, a single trip permit is available for a fee of twelve dollars ($12.00) for each dimension over lawful dimensions, including height, length, width, and weight up to 132,000 pounds. For overweight vehicles, the applicant shall pay to the Department for a single trip permit in addition to the fee imposed by the previous sentence a fee of three dollars ($3.00) per 1,000 pounds over 132,000 pounds.  N.C.G.S. § 20-119(b).

Generally, an oversized vehicle requires an escort for oversized/overweight loads.  However, hauling ag equipment from the dealer to the farm or farm to dealer is allowed under permit without an escort, as long as the vehicle does not exceed posted bridge and load limits.  (N.C.G.S. 20-119 (g)(1)).

 

Securing Cargo

How must I secure cargo that I am transporting?

Under North Carolina law, vehicles must be loaded to keep the load from blowing, drifting, falling, leaking, or otherwise escaping from the vehicle.  N.C.G.S § 20-116(g)

This is not applicable to transportation of seed cotton, poultry or livestock, silage, or other feed grain used to feed poultry or livestock.  N.C.G.S. § 20-116(g)(4)

Federal regulations apply to farm vehicles that cross state lines or exceed 26,000 pounds when operating solely within the state.  The federal regulations are much more specific and detailed than the state regulations, so it is important to be familiar with their overall structure, 49 CFR 393.100-393.136, available here

In general, though, under federal regulations, cargo must be contained and secured in such a way as to prevent the loss of any part of the load and prevent any shifting of the load that could affect the vehicle’s stability.  49 CFR 393.100.  The systems and devices used to secure cargo must meet minimum performance criteria for breaking strength and working load limit, typically 50% of the weight of the load.  49 CFR 393.102.  Heavy equipment (>10,000 pounds) must be secured with a minimum of four tiedowns as close to the front and rear of the equipment as possible. Accessory equipment must be lowered and separately secured to the trailer.  49 CFR 393.120.

 

 

 

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