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Local Information > Operational Restrictions
Operational Restrictions
United States and Canada - Regulatory Requirements

Background Information

All cargo shipments moving overland within North America are governed by weight restriction laws established by both federal and local government agencies. The consequences of exceeding the legal limit are fines, liability claims, equipment damage and/or extra costs such as transloading.

Safe Container Act

Beginning April 9, 1997 all containers moving by truck over US highways exceeding 29,000 lbs. of gross cargo weight must be certified. Certification must be passed to the carrier prior to tender of the load for intermodal transport. The certificate must include the following items:

  • Certifying party
  • Date of certification
  • Commodity
  • Container number
  • Gross cargo weight including pallets and dunnage

    Failure to comply with federal law can result in the delay of the shipment. The law now gives the trucker, if fined for an overweight violation due to incorrect or missing information from the issuing party of the container, the right to lien the load to collect the amount of the fine. The liable party is the party that provides false or erroneous certification information, violates state highway weight law or fails to pass on certification information.

    Maximum Payload (USA & Canada)

    To prevent the stressing of Federal Highway Bridges, the Federal Bridge Formula uses the spacing of axles on vehicles to help identify the maximum allowable gross vehicle weight. Various factors such as type of cargo, distribution of cargo within the container and different types of equipment (e.g. steel vs. aluminum containers, flush vs. slider chassis, tractor weight/type, gensets for reefer) will affect the determination of an absolute maximum cargo payload.

    Due to the variety of variables that factor into the bridge formula calculation, we offer the following recommended guideline for the average maximum container payload weights.

    NOTE: Strict adherence to reefer weights. Limit of tare weight shown on container may never be exceeded.

    In the U.S.
                                                                                                                      March 1 - May 1
                                        Suggested Weight          Maximum Weight              Spring Thaw
            20' dry container    39,500 lbs. (17.92MT)    Maximum varies by state                N/A
            40' dry container    44,500 lbs. (20.19MT)    Maximum varies by state*              N/A 
            45' dry container    42,000 lbs. (19.05MT)    Maximum varies by state                N/A
            20' reefer cntr        36,500 lbs. (16.56MT)    Maximum varies by state                N/A
            40' reefer cntr        41,500 lbs. (18.82MT)    Maximum varies by state                N/A

    *Montreal gateway to/from USA maximum = 42,000 lbs (or 19.05MT)

    In Canada
            20' dry container    40,000 lbs. (18.14MT)        46,000 lbs. (20.87MT)              42,000
            40' dry container    44,500 lbs. (20.19MT)        55,000 lbs. (24.95MT)              52,000
            45' dry container    43,000 lbs. (19.50MT)        53,500 lbs. (24.20MT)              50,500
            20' reefer cntr        37,000lbs. (16.89MT)         43,000 lbs. (19.50MT)              39,000
            40' reefer cntr        41,500 lbs. (18.82MT)        52,000 lbs. (23.59MT)              48,000        

    Intermodal Loading Guide
    Click here

    Refrigerated Container Loading Guide
    Click here

    Weight Limitations by State/Province

    Special equipment is available in some North American locations for overweight containers to be handled legally.

    Some states have higher weight limitations with permits. See grid below:

    • Additional weight permits are for 40s only where available.
    • All states are 80,000 G.V.W. except those where Permits are available up to a specified weight limit. Note - G.V.W. means Gross Vehicle Weight and is the weight of the container, cargo and tractor.
    • Any Permit requests are required to be submitted through the Exception Handling Process and an SSR secured for additional costs and special handling. 

    State/Province G.V.W. * G.V.W. w/ Permit Single Axle Tandem Axle

    Alabama

    80,000

    100,000

    20,000

    34,000

    Alaska

    80,000

    n/a

    20,000

    34,000

    Alberta

    86,000

    n/a

    56,000

    86,000

    Arizona

    80,000

    n/a

    20,000

    34,000

    Arkansas

    80,000

    n/a

    20,000

    34,000

    British Columbia

    86,000

    n/a

    56,000

    86,000

    California **

    80,000

    n/a

    20,000

    34,000

    Colorado

    80,000

    n/a

    20,000

    34,000

    Connecticut

    80,000

    n/a

    20,000

    34,000

    Delaware

    80,000

    90,000

    22,000

    34,000

    Florida

    80,000

    95,000

    20,000

    34,000

    Georgia

    80,000

    100,000

    20,000

    34,000

    Idaho

    80,000

    105,000

    20,000

    34,000

    Illinois

    80,000

    n/a

    20,000

    34,000

    Indiana

    80,000

    n/a

    20,000

    34,000

    Iowa

    80,000

    n/a

    20,000

    34,000

    Kansas

    80,000

    n/a

    20,000

    34,000

    Kentucky

    80,000

    n/a

    20,000

    34,000

    Louisiana
    ***50 mile radius of port

    80,000

    95,000

    n/a

    40,000

    Maine

    80,000

    99,000

    20,000

    34,000

    Manitoba

    82,700

    n/a

    20,000

    35,000

    Maryland

    80,000

    90,000

    22,000

    40,000

    Massachusetts

    80,000

    99,000

    20,000

    34,000

    Michigan

    80,000

    n/a

    20,000

    34,000

    Minnesota

    80,000

    n/a

    20,000

    34,000

    Mississippi

    80,000

    95,000

    20,000

    34,000

    Missouri

    80,000

    n/a

    20,000

    34,000

    Montana

    80,000

    105,000

    20,000

    34,000

    Nebraska

    80,000

    n/a

    20,000

    34,000

    Nevada

    80,000

    n/a

    20,000

    34,000

    New Brunswick

    97,000

    n/a

    19,900

    39,700

    Newfoundland

    97,000

    n/a

    19,900

    39,700

    New Hampshire

    80,000

    99,000

    20,000

    34,000

    New Jersey

    80,000

    90,000

    20,000

    34,000

    New Mexico

    80,000

    n/a

    20,000

    34,000

    New York

    80,000

    88,000

    20,000

    34,000

    North Carolina

    80,000

    94,000

    94,500

    34,000

    North Dakota

    80,000

    n/a

    20,000

    34,000

    Nova Scotia

    97,000

    n/a

    19,900

    39,700

    Ohio

    80,000

    n/a

    20,000

    34,000

    Oklahoma

    80,000

    95,000

    20,000

    40,000

    Ontario

    97,000

    n/a

    19,900

    39,700

    Oregon

    80,000

    105,000

    22,400

    36,000

    Pennsylvania

    80,000

    90,000

    20,000

    34,000

    Prince Edward Island

    97,000

    n/a

    20,000

    40,000

    Quebec

    90,961

    n/a

    39,682

    46,296

    Rhode Island

    80,000

    99,000

    20,000

    34,000

    Saskatoon

    86,000

    n/a

    56,000

    86,000

    South Carolina

    80,000

    100,000

    20,000

    48,000

    South Dakota

    80,000

    n/a

    20,000

    34,000

    Tennessee

    80,000

    90,000

    20,000

    34,000

    Texas

    80,000

    n/a

    20,000

    34,000

    Utah

    80,000

    n/a

    20,000

    34,000

    Vermont

    80,000

    99,000

    20,000

    34,000

    Virginia

    80,000

    90,000

    20,000

    34,000

    Washington

    80,000

    105,500

    20,000

    34,000

    West Virginia

    80,000

    88,000

    20,000

    34,000

    Wisconsin

    80,000

    n/a

    20,000

    34,000

    Wyoming

    80,000

    n/a

    20,000

    34,000

    * Gross Vehicle Weight in lbs.
    ** see the chart for Long Beach/Los Angeles Maximum Weight
    *** within 50 miles radius of the ports you can run heavier but outside the 50 mile radius, GVW is 80,000.

    Export Intermodal cargo moving over Los Angeles/Long Beach Gateway

    In order to ensure over the road safety on OOCL export containers, rail billing requests received that exceed the following cargo weight limitations will be subject to rejection:

    a) 20' (general purpose) in excess of 44,000 cargo weight lbs
    b) 20' (reefer) in excess of 41,500 cargo weight lbs
    c) 40' (general purpose) in excess of 44,500 cargo weight lbs
    d) 40' (reefer) in excess of 41,500 cargo weight lbs
    e) 45' in excess of 41,500 cargo weight lbs

    Rail billing request must be made at least two business hours prior to delivery to rail ramp. Please email rail billing request containing cargo weight details as follows:

    For dry cargo email: railbill@oocl.com
    For hazardous cargo: hazbill@oocl.com
    For refrigerated cargo: rfrbill@oocl.com

    Any rail bill request received in excess of OOCL’s allowable weight limit will be rejected and message sent back to sender within one hour of email receipt advising of our inability to process.

    Should you have any questions or require assistance with regards to this advisory or your shipment needs, please do not hesitate to contact OOCL Customer Service in USA or Canada at 1-888-388-6625.

    Prohibited Hazardous Intermodal Shipments

    Please be advised that BNSF has a new listing of prohibited commodities that cannot be accepted by BNSF. The listing includes poisonous gas, flammable, non-flammable tank commodities that will no longer be accepted with or without Department of Transportation exemption or Federal Railroad Administration approval. There are different categories for Trailers and Containers, and Tank Containers. This new ruling is effective July 1st, 2008.

    Please find below a link to the BNSF site showing the list of prohibited hazardous Intermodal shipments: Click here

    BNSF Container Blocking and Bracing Guidelines

    When shipping intermodal on the BNSF, the shipper has certain obligations to safely load contents, as stated in BNSF Intermodal Rules & Policies Guide.

    BNSF Container Blocking and Bracing guidelines may be found at: BNSF loading-and-shipment-safety

    For Canada,  the guideline may be found at: CP Rail Intermodal

    Shipment Weight Limitations Within Canada - Rail Specific

    Canadian Pacific Railroad (CPRR)

    20’ maximum cargo weight: For CY service only, Maximum cargo weight is 47,900 lbs (44,900 lbs for 20' Tank) or Maximum gross weight of 52,900 lbs for a 20-foot container. Any container, including a Tank container, with gross weight exceeding 52,900 lbs, will not be moved.

    40/45’ maximum cargo weight: For CY service only, cargo heavier than 60,000 lbs. but not more than 65,000 lbs in a 40-foot or 45-foot container may be subject to a surcharge by the Canadian Pacific Railroad. Maximum cargo weight is 65,000 lbs for a 40-foot or 45-foot container. Any container loaded with more than its marked carrying capacity will not be moved.

    Canadian National Railroad (CNRR)

    20’ maximum: For CY service only, cargo heavier than 47,900 lbs. (44,900 lbs for 20' Tank) but no more than 55,000 lbs (53,000 lbs for 20' Tank) may be subject to a surcharge by the Canadian National Railroad. Maximum cargo weight is 55,000 lbs for a 20-foot container (53,000 lbs for 20' Tank). Any container loaded with more than its marked carrying capacity will not be moved.

    40/45’ maximum: For CY service only, cargo heavier than 60,000 lbs. but not more than 65,000 lbs in a 40-foot or 45-foot container may be subject to a surcharge by the Canadian National Railroad. Maximum cargo weight is 65,000 lbs for a 40-foot or 45-foot container. Any container loaded with more than its marked carrying capacity will not be moved.

    Quebec Spring Thaw

    Please see the Provincial Website for more information.

    DURING THIS PERIOD, THE MAXIMUM PAYLOAD MUST BE REDUCED FOR ALL SHIPMENTS MOVING BY TRUCK

    a) CPRR & CNRE also restrict acceptance of rail shipments with Montreal destination to the maximum highway weight limit during the spring thaw period.

    Between Quebec and Ontario (Intra-Canada Truck Moves) (NOTE 1)

    20'GP

    42,000 lbs

    20'RF

    39,000 lbs

    40'GP

    52,000 lbs

    40'HQ

    52,000 lbs

    45'HQ

    52,000 lbs

    40'RQ

    48,000 lbs

    BETWEEN QUEBEC AND UNITED STATES (TRUCK MOVES) (NOTE 1)

    20'GP

    36,000 lbs

    20'RF

    33,000 lbs

    40'GP

    38,000 lbs

    40'HQ

    38,000 lbs

    45'HQ

    38,000 lbs

    40'RQ

    35,000 lbs

    NOTE 1: Above are cargo weight limits for truck moves ex-Montreal.   Loads exceeding the above weights may incur extra costs that will need to be guaranteed prior to the delivery.  The additional costs may include extra miles driven, partial de-vanning to reduce load to legal weight limits and/or fines.  Also note that delays may be experienced should weight exceed legal limits.

    Note:  The following cargo weight can be handled by Highland Transport (HITD) during the Quebec Spring Thaw period:

    BETWEEN TORONTO AND MONTREAL (INTRA-CANADA)

    20'GP

    43,000 lbs

    40'GP

    54,000 lbs

    40'HQ

    54,000 lbs

    40'RQ

    48,000 lbs

    Intra-Canada, Refrigerated shipment cargo weight needs to be reduced to 48,000 lbs to accommodate the weight of clip-on genset (w/fuel) equipment.

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