All You Need to Know About Getting Overweight Permits

All You Need to Know About Getting Overweight Permits

You will, in all likelihood, need an overweight permit if you plan to transport a non-divisible shipment that exceeds state-, county-, or township-imposed weight restrictions. However, these limitations tend to vary from one jurisdiction to the next, as do the costs involved in getting these permits. This is because factors such as load dimensions, the weight of the load, and increments in weight might play a role in the fees you need to pay. Consequently, it’s important for you to understand the intricacies involved in getting overweight permits. 

If you’re wondering why you need an overweight permit, it’s because vehicles that carry heavy loads cause damage to roads, and different bodies need to pay for their repair and maintenance. 


Federally Speaking 

While the United States Department of Transportation – Federal Highway Administration does not issue oversize or overweight permits, it has stipulated maximum weights for vehicles that use the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways.  It states that a vehicle is overweight if it meets any of these conditions: 

  • Maximum gross vehicle weight – 80,000 pounds
  • Maximum single axle weight – 20,000 pounds
  • Maximum tandem axle weight – 34,000 pounds

How Overweight Permits Work 

While the federally-prescribed 80,000-pound limit works as an average, bear in mind that guidelines may vary from one state to the next. Addressing weight compliance requires that you consider the number of axles and their spacing as well. Ensuring that you meet all compliance requirements requires the application of a special formula based on these factors. While states provide overweight permits, they also provide overwidth permits for vehicles that exceed the 102-inch federal width limitation. 


Once you receive an overweight and/or oversized permit, your vehicle may legally travel through the given jurisdiction. For example, if you receive a permit from the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), its validity extends to roads that fall under its jurisdiction. If you plan to travel on a local highway as well, you’ll need to get a separate permit from the local governing body, be it a county or a township. There can be exceptions to this rule in some instances. For example, you may not use an NYSDOT overweight permit on the New York State Thruway. 


More often than not, you may get an overweight permit only for a non-divisible load. 

overweight permit application

The Difference Between Divisible and Non-Divisible Loads 

Knowing the difference between divisible and non-divisible loads is important because you usually get an overweight permit only for the latter. A divisible load is one that you may break down into multiple loads within eight hours to get the consignment within standard regulatory limits. However, if the dismantling or dividing of a load affects the structural integrity of the load’s intended purpose, it counts as an exception. Common examples of divisible loads include: 

  • Pallets, crates, and boxes
  • Pipes
  • Scrap metal
  • Fuel
  • Aggregate


A non-divisible load is one that exceeds overweight limits, and it’s not possible to break it down into smaller loads within an eight-hour period. This is also the case if there would be any compromise on its intended use or if the process leads to its devaluation. Common examples of non-divisible loads include: 

  • Construction equipment and components
  • Vehicles with large attachments
  • Vehicles hauling specialized cargo
  • Emergency response vehicles
  • Military vehicles


The main aim of the divisibility requirement is to minimize the risk that arises because of overloading cargo on trailers. If a load is divisible as per the given guidelines, you need to ensure dividing it so that it falls under permissible weight/size limits. If not, you need to apply for a non-divisible overweight permit. Bear in mind that requirements may change from one jurisdiction to the other, so it’s important that you take a close look at the route to determine the regions through which your cargo will pass. 

Who Needs an Overweight Permit? 

If you’re hauling a non-divisible shipment in excess of permitted weight limits for the state, county, or township you travel through, you’ll need an overweight permit from each of the jurisdictions in question. Even though most states follow federal guidelines, not all do, so it’s best to check in advance. 


Hauling overweight cargo without the required permits may lead to even more costs in the form of penalties. Fortunately, Coast 2 Coast Trucking Permits provides comprehensive overweight/oversize permit services. You may also consider investing in an onboard scale system that is capable of determining a vehicle’s approximate loaded weight in real-time. 

oversize permits online

Who Does Not Need an Overweight Permit? 

Vehicles, no matter how heavy they might seem, don’t need overweight permits if they fall within permissible limits. In addition, some states have exceptions based on different factors. For example, you might not need an overweight permit if your vehicle is heading to provide disaster relief. Some states exempt different types of loads, such as forestry and farm equipment.  In some cases, you might need an oversized or overlength permit instead. 


Types of Overweight Permits 

Depending on the route your vehicle will travel and who owns the road, you might need state-level, country-level, and township-level permits. For instance, if your route involves traveling on just an interstate highway, you’ll need no more than a state-level permit. 


However, there’s a good chance that your journey’s starting and ending points might involve traveling on county or city roads, in which case you’ll need additional permits. These come from counties, cities, and townships that govern traveling on roads within their respective jurisdictions. 


Depending on the state or jurisdiction in which you plan to travel, you might be able to get different types of overweight permits. For example, Tennessee provides annual overweight permits based on different weights that include up to 100,000 lbs, up to 120,000 lbs, up to 140,000 lbs, a fixed load of 150,000 lbs, up to 155,000 lbs, and up to 165,000 lbs. It also offers special annual permits for: 

  • 14′ mobile homes
  • 16′ mobile homes
  • Roof trusses
  • Seed cotton modules
  • Ocean-going containers
  • Tow trucks
  • Non-commercial boats


Similarly, Texas offers annual overweight permits for: 

  • Cranes
  • Cylindrical bales of hay
  • Envelope – company specific
  • Envelope – truck specific
  • Milk transport
  • Implements of husbandry
  • Manufactured housing
  • Ready-mixed concrete
  • Timber


Some states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maine, and also offer turnpike permits that allow overweight/oversize vehicles to travel on turnpikes for an additional fee. You may also need to abide by various safety rules and time restrictions in these scenarios. 


A few states such as Washington and North Carolina also offer superload permits based on weight and other dimensions. For example, Washington State considers non-divisible loads of over 200,000 lbs, 125 feet in length, 16 feet wide, or 16 feet high as superloads. With North Carolina, the limits change to a gross weight of 132,000 lbs and widths that exceed 15 feet. 

oversize permit services

What Information Do Overweight Permits Contain? 

The overweight permit you receive contains different types of information. This includes: 

  • Your company’s details
  • Its USDOT number
  • Valid through dates
  • Details of the vehicle
  • A description of the load
  • Start and end destinations within the jurisdiction 
  • The travel route


Penalties for Not Having a DOT Overweight Permit 

If the department of transportation from any jurisdiction stops an overloaded vehicle that belongs to you or your company and is traveling without the required DOT overweight permit, you might need to apply for the permit and pay fines as well.  


How much you need to pay depends on the jurisdiction in question. On average, these may vary from a few cents to a few dollars per additional pound that’s over the prescribed limit.  For example, a violation on a state road in Tennessee would result in a fine of $25 plus $.03 per pound for the first 3% over the maximum limit and $25 plus $.05 per pound for the remainder. 


Officers with different departments of transportation carry out roadside inspections for which they use portable or weigh-in-motion scales. Unfortunately, since state regulations can be difficult to keep up with or comprehend, instances of violations continue to remain fairly common. In addition, a DOT officer holds the right to mark an overweight truck as out of service (OOS).  If this happens, it can have a significant financial impact on your business. 

Managing Load Distribution 

Managing your overweight vehicle’s weight and load distribution requires that you know a few important details about the vehicle as well as the load. 

  • The empty vehicle’s weight. You may check this at a CAT Scale.
  • The load’s weight. This typically comes with the load’s documentation.
  • The weight your vehicle can handle. Understanding the arrangement of trailer axles is important when it comes to achieving suitable weight distribution. In addition, split tandems and triaxle sets are capable of handling more weight.
  • Configuration of the load. You need to determine how you’ll configure the load after accounting for your vehicle’s weight and the weight it can handle.
  • State-specific axle requirements. Since axle requirements may vary from one jurisdiction to another, it’s important to address this aspect ahead of time.



Driving an overweight vehicle requires getting an overweight permit first, failing which you might need to pay a fine and incur additional costs. While weight limits tend to vary from one state to another, there’s a good chance you’ll need a permit if the total weight of your loaded vehicle exceeds 800,000 pounds. There is no federally issued overweight permit that you may use across the U.S., and you need to get one from each jurisdiction that’s part of the route you plan to travel. Issuing authorities may include states, counties, as well as townships. 


Since getting multiple permits can be time-consuming and laborious, you may consider working with a business that specializes in this realm. However, since there are a number of companies that provide overweight and oversize permit services, it’s important for you to select one that’s reputed and reliable. 

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