Legal Axle Weight Limits for Trucks: Heavy Haul Weight Limits by State

Legal Axle Weight Limits for Trucks: Heavy Haul Weight Limits by State

The backbone of our economy — the heavy haul trucking services — serves as the lifeline for transporting essential goods across long distances. However, with great power comes great responsibility, and ensuring the safety of both drivers and infrastructure requires stringent regulations on truck weight, with a particular focus on axle weight distribution.

These regulations are based on broader area results in a more evenly distributed force, reducing its severity. Adding more axles and space helps accommodate greater load weight on the truck and trailer.

This guide by our team at Cowtown Express explores the intricacies of axle weight limits, navigating through both the federal framework and unique state-specific variations to give you the knowledge you need for smooth and compliant journeys.

Heavy Haul Weight Limits by State

Understanding Axle Weight Limits: Federal Bridge Formula

One of the key considerations in heavy haul shipping is understanding axle weight limits. At the federal level, the maximum gross vehicle weight for a semi-truck and trailer combination is set at 80,000 lbs, without the need for a special permit.

This federal limit is meticulously determined using the Federal Bridge Formula, which dictates how this weight is distributed across the truck's axles based on the distance between them. This ensures a balanced weight distribution to effectively minimize stress on bridges and roads.

Federal Bridge Formula

W=500(LN/N-1 + 12N + 36)

Understanding Axle Weight Limits: Federal Bridge Formula

Here's the key part: two consecutive sets of tandem axles (think double axles close together) are allowed a maximum gross weight of 34,000 lbs each, but with a catch: the overall distance between the first and last axle in these sets must be at least 36 feet.

In simpler terms, the formula prevents overloading specific sections of a truck, which could put undue stress on bridges and roads. By spreading the weight out more evenly across longer distances, the risk of damage is minimized.

What Are Axle Groups?

What Are Axle Groups?

Trucking weight limits are typically categorized based on the type of axle. Steer axles, located at the front of the semi-truck, typically support a total weight of 12,000 to 15,000 lbs between them. A standard semi-truck features two drive axles, with each axle's tires not to exceed 17,000 lbs in weight. This results in a combined total of 34,000 lbs for the two drive axles. Breaking it down, this equates to approximately 6,750 lbs per front tire and 4,250 lbs per drive-axle tire weight.

Federally mandated maximum weights for the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways:

  • 80,000 lbs gross vehicle weight.
  • 20,000 lbs single axle weight.
  • 34,000 lbs tandem axle weight.

Trucking DOT Axle Weight Limits by State

Remember, states have the authority to set stricter limits based on their unique infrastructure and traffic patterns. So, before embarking on your journey, familiarize yourself with the specific axle weight limits for each state you'll be traversing. This knowledge is your shield against hefty fines and ensures you're a responsible citizen of the road.

ALABAMA 20,000 lbs. 34,000 lbs. 42,000 lbs. 80,000 lbs.
ALASKA 20,000 lbs. 38,000 lbs. 42,000 lbs. Per FBF
ARIZONA 20,000 lbs. 34,000 lbs. Per state weight table 80,000 lbs.
ARKANSAS   20,000 lbs. 34,000 lbs. 50,000 lbs 80,000 lbs.
CALIFORNIA 20,000 lbs. 34,000 lbs. Undefined 80,000 lbs.
COLORADO 20,000 lbs. 36,000 lbs. Per FBF 80,000 lbs.
CONNECTICUT 22,000 lbs. 36,000 lbs. Per FBF 80,000 lbs.
DELAWARE 20,000 lbs. 34,000 lbs. 60,000 lbs. 80,000 lbs.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA   21,000 lbs. 37,000 lbs. Per state weight table 79,000 lbs.

Why Axle Weight Limits Matter

Axle weight limits aren't just bureaucratic hurdles — they're critical safeguards for safety and infrastructure. Overloaded trucks pose a triple threat:

  • Increased stopping distances: Imagine a loaded elephant trying to stop on a dime — that's the risk with overloaded trucks, significantly raising the risk of accidents.
  • Tire blowouts: Excessive pressure can lead to tire blowouts, potentially causing loss of control and endangering everyone on the road.
  • Bridge and road damage: Those behemoths put immense strain on bridges and pavements, accelerating their deterioration and costing taxpayers dearly in repairs.

Tips for Compliance with Axle Weight Limits

Compliance with axle weight limits and effective truck weight management are essential for a successful and legally sound heavy haul operation. Here's your comprehensive guide to ensuring your journey is smooth and compliant:

#1. Knowledge of Truck Weight Limits

Regardless of your truck's type, whether it's a dry van trailer, a step-deck, or a flatbed trailer, the type of truck involved does not impact the total weight calculation. The actual carrying capacity of your truck is determined by subtracting the combined weight of the truck and trailer from the federal limit of 80,000 lbs.

In practice, this often results in an actual carrying capacity of approximately 43,000 to 48,000 lbs. To consistently adhere to the national maximum gross weight allowed for your semi-truck, your truck's weight, free of a load, should remain under 32,000 lbs. This understanding is fundamental for maintaining compliance, ensuring safety, and efficiently managing the weight of your heavy haul shipments.

#2. Regular Weigh-Ins

Regular weigh-ins are your first line of defense against exceeding axle weight limits. Utilize certified scales both before and after loading your cargo. This practice provides real-time data on your truck's weight, helping you stay within legal boundaries throughout your journey.

#3. Strategic Load Distribution

Tips for Compliance with Axle Weight Limits

Achieving balanced weight across all axles is paramount. Mastering load distribution is a critical skill for heavy haulers. Properly distribute your cargo to ensure that no single axle or axle group carries too much weight. This not only ensures compliance but also enhances the safety and stability of your truck on the road.

#4. Securing Permits

For shipments that exceed standard weight limits, securing the necessary permits is essential. Overweight permits are required when your cargo exceeds the legal weight restrictions set by federal and state regulations. Planning ahead and obtaining these permits in advance can help you avoid fines and potential delays during your trip.


Truck weight restrictions are a common concern for any heavy-haul trucking company. However, these companies prioritize compliance with axle weight regulations to ensure your goods reach their destination safely and efficiently. Regardless of the axle weight limits varying from state to state, they prioritize safety and infrastructure preservation.

Contact us today to receive a quote for your next shipment, knowing that your cargo will be transported with utmost care and in full compliance with legal weight limits.

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