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California Shipping Regulations

Posted by Justin Bates on December 13, 2017 - 8:02 AM
California shipping regulations

Shipping freight to California

California shipping regulations differ from most other states. Factors like emissions, operating hours, shipment size and freight inspections come into play and can present challenges for shippers who aren’t aware and prepared. If you’re operating a commercial truck within the state or shipping oversized freight, international cargo, plants, produce or household goods, certain guidelines, licenses and permits may apply. Understanding and following the guidelines helps ensure compliance.

Guidelines for shipping freight to California

Prepare freight moving into and within California by being conscious of:

Legal load limits

In California, any combination of vehicles coupled together — consisting of a truck and trailer — carrying freight may not be:

  • Longer than 65 feet (for semitrailers) or 75 feet (for doubles)
  • Higher than 14 feet
  • Wider than 102 inches

Review more specific length restrictions, height restrictions and width restrictions.

Weight restrictions state that trucks can’t exceed:

  • More than 20,000 pounds on a single axle
  • More than 34,000 pounds on tandem axles
  • A gross vehicle weight of 80,000 pounds

Review more specific weight restrictions.

Heavy haul restrictions

Freight that goes beyond the parameters of legal load limits is classified as overweight or oversized. In California, heavy haul shipments are considered to have a gross vehicle weight exceeding 80,000 pounds, a length of 135 feet or more, and a width of more than 14 feet. These types of shipments require special equipment, permits and (in some cases) escort vehicles.

Permit and pilot car requirements

Transporting over dimensional shipments or unique freight such as livestock or agricultural products requires a permit prior to travel. For example, a permit is necessary if you’re shipping:

Oversized freight. According to the California Department of Transportation, permits are distributed on a per-shipment basis, are valid for five days, and may be issued for a single trip or for continuous operation. Some heavy shipments require a pilot car or a police escort to help the driver navigate. See if you’ll need a pilot car to transport your freight by reviewing the state’s pilot car requirement or asking your carrier.

Animals. If you’re bringing animals into the state, they’re required to be properly vaccinated and have the appropriate permits. For a comprehensive list of information about moving animals and livestock, visit the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) website.

Travel time restrictions for oversized freight

Standard freight moving through California can travel at any time of the day. However, oversized shipments and other special types of freight may have specific time stipulations. Drivers operating vehicles more than 10 feet wide are subject to curfew restrictions in heavily trafficked metropolitan areas. The movement of freight isn’t allowed Monday through Friday in the following cities (and their surrounding areas) during these times:

Note: Special conditions apply when transporting heavy or oversized loads across the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and during the night and on weekends.

California emissions regulations

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), emissions from diesel engines are one of the state’s largest sources of pollution and a leading cause of cardiovascular health issues. As a result, California officials have vowed to make the state’s air healthier and cleaner and have worked with the EPA to help make that happen. The EPA introduced the Federal Clean Air Act in 1970 and in 2009, granted a waiver imposing stricter emissions regulations on trucking companies. The waiver requires diesel trucks and buses to upgrade their engines in an effort to reduce emissions. Currently, biennial smog inspections are performed on all 1998 (or newer) vehicles that have a gross weight of more than 14,000 pounds and are powered singly or in combination by:

  • Gasoline
  • Propane
  • Natural gas
  • Diesel
  • Methanol/Ethanol fuels

According to the California Air Resources Board, these vehicles must have their engines equipped with a particulate filter — a device that removes soot and other particles from the fuel’s exhaust. These inspections are also required anytime a diesel-powered vehicle is bought or sold in California. The rule doesn’t apply to drayage trucks that transport marine and seaport containers. Read more about the EPA’s SmartWay program.

Household shipping requirements

Moving household goods to California is a bit different than most other states. When transporting outdoor items — such as patio furniture, building material, lawn care equipment, recreational or camping items, outside exercise equipment or children’s toys — you are required to check for gypsy moths. These species are considered one of the most damaging pests to California’s forestland. The USDA estimates that gypsy moth larvae defoliates up to 13 million acres of trees in one season. Because of this, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) requires an inspection of all outdoor household items being moved into the state. If you’re planning to move household goods to California, you can perform a self-inspection or hire a licensed exterminator. This certification form should be included with the paperwork associated with your move.

Guidelines for shipping plants, fruits, vegetables and seeds

Where plants, fruits, vegetables and seeds are grown or harvested can play a big role in whether they’ll be allowed entry into the state. For example, houseplants are allowed to enter as long as they are grown indoors (such as in a home or greenhouse), planted in sterile, commercial potting soil, free from pests, appear healthy, and will remain inside. Citrus plants, pine trees or nut trees aren’t allowed into the state because they pose a potential threat to the ecosystem. 

Other outdoor plants, fruits, vegetables and seeds have stricter restrictions. When shipping these items, it’s important to include a detailed statement about the product’s state or country of origin in order to comply with quarantine requirements. Any item not properly identified could be at risk of non-entry or of being destroyed. See if your goods are approved for entry by viewing this comprehensive list of fruit and vegetable requirements, or consulting the APHIS’s import requirement reference guide.  

Foreign freight entry requirements

Trade is a key contributor to the Californian economy, and Mexico is the state’s top trading partner. With nine points of entry along the border (and 20 international entry points), freight is able to flow freely into the country. If you’re importing goods, it’s important to have the correct documentation because of the state’s various regulations.  

To assure your freight complies with U.S. Customs and Border Protection so it can enter California, you’ll need these basic documents:

  • Bill of lading
  • U.S. customs invoice
  • Commercial invoice
  • Packing list
  • NAFTA Certificate of Origin

Some goods such as food, agricultural products or prescription medications may require special licenses or permits prior to delivery. If you’re moving similar freight and are unsure whether you need a specific license or permit, contact your carrier. 

Choose ArcBest® for your shipping needs

When shipping to California, rely on ArcBest. Choose from a variety of shipping options to solve any logistics needs in order to move your freight safely, efficiently and within compliance. For additional details call 800-610-5544 or leave a comment below.