The Georgia Department of Transportation (DOT) is in charge of the state's roads, bridges and interstate highways as well as alternative ways of getting from one place to another. Trains, transit, waterways, bicycle and pedestrian paths, aviation: if it's in the state of Georgia, the Georgia DOT plans, designs, constructs, maintains and improves it. As part of its responsibility to keep transportation safe in the state, the Georgia DOT has implemented commercial vehicle regulations that apply to many types of trucks, vans and buses. Anyone who resides in Georgia needs a basic understanding of the DOT public safety regulations.
Georgia Department of Transportation
The mission of the Georgia Department of Transportation is to provide Georgians with a transportation system that is safe, sustainable and innovative. This involves putting together transportation plans and financing their implementation. The DOT is involved with the state's roads and bridges, major highways, waterways, railroad lines, urban transit systems, air travel facilities and bicycle/pedestrian paths.
As part of regulating transportation on the highways, the Department sets safety standards for commercial vehicles. These are intended to prevent such vehicles from causing harm to other vehicles or to the public, but also to protect Georgia's roads and highways. The types of commercial vehicles impacted by these regulations include trucks, vans, school buses, fire trucks, logging trucks, construction vehicles and garbage trucks. Anyone who operates a commercial vehicle in Georgia must comply with these regulations. Penalties apply to those who fail to do so.
Applicability of Georgia Commercial Vehicle Laws
Georgia laws that govern the movement of goods and materials are contained in the Georgia Code Title 32-6. The section is entitled Highways, Bridges and Ferries, Regulation of Maintenance and Use of Public Roads Generally. Article 2 of this section sets out the state limitations on the size and weights of commercial vehicles and their loads.
By the terms of the law, these regulations apply only to vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 10,001 lbs. or more that are used for business purposes, including nonprofit business purposes. The GVWR refers to the maximum total weight of the vehicle. This includes not just the standing weight of the vehicle, but also the maximum potential weight of its cargo, passengers and fuel. The GVWR is supplied by the vehicle manufacturer.
Commercial Vehicle Weight Standard
Vehicles with a GVWR of over 10,001 lbs. are classified as commercial motor vehicles in Georgia state for the purposes of DOT safety regulations. The weight standard is applied to single vehicles like trucks, vans and buses carrying more than 15 riders. It also applies to vehicle combinations like a truck that is pulling other equipment.
The only vehicles considered commercial vehicles for DOT safety regulations to which the GVWR does not apply are those transporting hazardous materials for a business purpose. These vehicles are classed as commercial vehicles subject to the regulations regardless of their GVWR.
The 10,001 lb. GVWR level safety regulations have been in the federal regulations for many years and were adopted in Georgia in 1972 for for-hire carriers. As of 1984, the Georgia DOT applies them to both private and for-hire companies. To some extent, Georgia DOT regulations incorporate and duplicate the federal regulations.
Commercial Vehicle Mandates
All of the vehicles in Georgia that fall into the commercial vehicle category must comply with state identification requirements. That is, the commercial vehicles must have a vehicle identification number as well as a United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) number.
Drivers of these vehicles are required to submit a letter of application for a Skill Performance Evaluation. Part of the application packet must be a medical examination report as well as a medical exam certificate. This is part of the federal regulations and also Georgia DOT regulations. Other documents that must be included with the application are a copy of the driver's motor vehicle driving record for the prior three years from each state in which the driver has a license or permit.
In addition, each commercial vehicle in Georgia must be equipped with requisite brakes, lights and reflectors, carry a fire extinguisher and display reflective triangles. Trailers towed by commercial vehicles in Georgia must also have brakes, including operative service brakes on all wheels, a parking brake system, an emergency brake system and a breakaway braking system. Surge brakes are not permitted for vehicles that move across state lines. Even if trailers stay in Georgia, surge brakes are not permitted if they carry interstate freight or passengers.
Georgia Axle Weight Limits
The Georgia Department of Transportation limits both the weight and the height of commercial vehicles on state highways. The maximum legal axle weight is 20,340 lbs. as calculated for tandem axle load. A tandem axle means any two or more axles within 96 inches of each other. The maximum load on a tandem axle is 40,680 pounds. If the gross weight of the vehicle exceeds 73,280 lbs. or the length exceeds 55 feet, the tandem weight limit is 34,000 lbs.
State law also regulates the maximum total gross weight for a vehicle and load. The maximum permitted is 80,000 lbs. on any highways that is not an interstate highway. This is reduced to 70,000 lbs. for a vehicle with four axles.
Georgia Vehicle Height/Width Limits
The Georgia DOT also sets height and width limitations for vehicles on state roads. A vehicle and its load cannot be higher than 13 feet 6 inches and cannot be wider than 8 feet 6 inches. Generally, the length of a trailer is 53 feet, but single-piece loads can be transported on extendable semitrailers up to 75 feet if they are not loaded end to end, and the overall length does not exceed 100 feet. Twin-trailer combinations are allowed with 28-foot trailer units without length limit, and there is no limit on the overall length.
Can oversize trucks – those exceeding weight or size limits – operate on Georgia highways? This is possible if they apply for oversize truck permits. The permit gives them a window of time to drive on Georgia roads but extra insurance is required and a permit fee must be paid.
Georgia Driver Hours of Service Rules
Georgia DOT regulations limit the number of hours a commercial truck driver (operating a vehicle with a GVWR of 10,001 lbs. or more) can be on duty. A commercial vehicle driver is permitted to work an 11-hour shift if they have been given 10 consecutive hours off duty. After 14 hours of being on-duty, driving or not, the driver must go off duty. A driver cannot be on duty more than 70 hours in the current eight-day period if they work with a company that has vehicles operating every day. If the company does not operate vehicles every day, the driver may not exceed a total of 60 hours on duty in the current seven-day period.
The use of alcohol by commercial drivers is also limited in Georgia. A driver may not carry any alcoholic beverage in or on the vehicle or trailer unless they are part of the legitimate manifested cargo. Nor can a driver operate a commercial vehicle with any measurable amount of alcohol in their system. Even consuming alcohol within four hours of the beginning of a shift is a violation.
Penalties for Breaking Rules and Regulations
Fines are the primary penalties for breaking height or weight regulations in Georgia pursuant to a complex formula for determining fines set out in Georgia Code Section 32-6-27. The statute provides that a person who violates the load limitation provisions will be conclusively presumed to have damaged the public roads, including bridges, of Georgia. It sets out a schedule of fines that will be assessed under different circumstances. The basic fine is set at five cents per pound for all excess weight over the allowed weight limitations, including any applicable variances.
The laws further provide that if a person violates any of these regulations that do not set out a specific penalty, whether or not the statute states that the violation is unlawful, they are guilty of a misdemeanor.
- Georgia Department of Public Safety: Frequently Asked Questions
- JUSTIA: GA Code Section 32-6-26 (2020)Highways, Bridges and Ferries
- Georgia Department of Public Safety: Laws
- Georgia Department of Transportation: Oversize Permits
- Georgia Department of Transportation: About GDOT
- FMCSA: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) Certification
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.