Trucking Laws in Michigan

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Freight transportation is vital to the economy here in Michigan. According to the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), 479 million tons of freight with a value of $862 billion were moved through the state in one recent year.

Commercial trucks are large, complicated pieces of machinery, and they require training, experience, and skill to safely operate. Truck drivers and the companies who employ them must adhere to strict safety guidelines for hiring, training, maintenance, loading, and tractor-trailer operation.

Commercial trucking is subjected to significant regulation by the federal government and the state of Michigan. Failure to follow national trucking laws and state regulations can lead to a serious truck accident, causing severe personal injuries for other motorists.

MDOT Weight Restrictions

Unlike some other state and federal laws, Michigan bases its truck weight restrictions on maximum axle loading rather than the standard gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). GVWR typically includes the dry weight of the truck and the weight of cargo, fuel and the driver. Axle weight measures the weight-bearing on a single axle. As a result, Michigan allows trucks to use more axles with lower axle weight ratings to achieve a greater gross vehicle weight than might be allowed in other states.

Since 1982, federal law has required all states to allow commercial trucks with GVWRs of up to 80,000 pounds. The weight is typically distributed over five axles (usually in the common “18-wheeler” set up of a three-axle tractor with an attached tandem-axle semi-trailer).

Federal law uses a grandfather clause that allows some states, including Michigan, to set higher gross vehicle weight limits spread out over more than five axles, provided those states’ laws were on the books prior to 1982.

Since 1967, Michigan law has limited the number of axles on a commercial truck to no more than 11 axles. When properly spaced, Michigan maximum axle loading limits allow a total vehicle weight of up to 164,000 pounds.

Michigan Oversize Regulations

Under Michigan regulations, an “oversized” load is one that exceeds these sizes:

  • Width: 8’6” (or 8’ on non-designated highways)
  • Height: 13’6”
  • Trailer length: 65 feet
  • Front overhang: 3 feet
  • Single axle weight: 20,000 pounds
  • Tandem axle weight: 34,000 pounds
  • Max gross vehicle weight: 80,000 pounds

Michigan law permits oversized loads to be transported only during daylight hours (defined as 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset), Monday through Friday. Movement of oversized loads is not permitted from noon on the day preceding and continuing until daylight of the day after the holidays of New Years’ Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day. Weekend movement may be permitted for oversized loads not exceeding 10 feet in width, 14 feet in height, and 90 feet in length (except that mobile or modular homes may not be moved on weekends).

Trucks transporting oversized loads must have “Oversize Load” signs on the front and rear of the load. They must also carry red or orange flags at the four corners of the vehicle /load combination and at the widest point on each side of the load.

Michigan Frost Laws

In Michigan, seasonal weight restrictions, commonly called frost laws, are imposed on commercial trucks beginning no later than March 1 of every year, until suspended by a county’s road agency. Frost laws are designed to protect local roads from damage by heavy commercial trucks. The damage can be caused when frost begins to thaw and softens the road pavement, making it susceptible to cracking when heavy trucks roll over it.

When frost laws are in effect, commercial trucks traveling on restricted roads must reduce their maximum speed to 35 and must lighten their loads by 25 percent on concrete roads and 35 percent on asphalt or gravel roads.

Michigan DOT Trailer Regulations

Semi-truck trailers must meet the following maximum overall dimension requirements set forth by the Michigan DOT:

  • Width: 96 inches
  • Width (on designated highways): 102 inches
  • Height: 13 feet, 6 inches
  • Length (including load): 53 feet
  • Length (including load) on non-designated highways: 50 feet
  • Length of any other vehicle with or without load: 40 feet
  • Units permitted: Tractor, semi-trailer, and trailer; or tractor and two semi-trailers; or truck and semi-trailer or trailer
  • Front overhang: 3 feet
  • Rear overhang: Unlimited so long as maximum length is not exceeded, but rear overhangs of 4 feet or more must display a red flag and red lantern in the rear

Hours of Service Rules

Michigan has adopted the US DOT’s new hours of service rules for commercial truck drivers:

  • No more than 11 cumulative hours of driving time after 10 consecutive hours off-duty.
  • Drivers may not drive after the end of 14 hours after starting duty following 10 consecutive hours off-duty.
  • No more than 60 hours on duty in any seven-day period, or more than 70 hours on duty in any eight-day period; except that drivers can have 34 consecutive hours off-duty to reset this period even if seven or eight days have not passed.
  • If using a sleeper berth for a rest, drivers must rest at least two hours; however, the driving time prior to and after a rest period added together cannot exceed 11 hours, and the on-duty time prior to and after a rest period added together cannot include any driving time after the 14th hour.
  • Drivers cannot return to normal driving hours until taking at least 10 consecutive hours off duty.
  • In adverse driving conditions, a driver cannot drive for more than 13 hours without 10 consecutive hours off duty, or after being on duty following the end of the 14th hour after coming on duty.

Commercial Driver’s License Requirements

In order to obtain a commercial driver’s license in Michigan, applicants must meet these requirements:

  • At least 21 years old to drive commercial vehicles across state lines; if applicants are between 18 and 21 years old, they will receive a restriction only allowing them to drive commercial vehicles within the state of Michigan
  • Have proof of legal residency in the U.S.
  • Only have a driver’s license from one state
  • No current suspensions, revocations, denials, or cancellations of the applicant’s driver’s license
  • No conviction of any six-point violation in the preceding 24 months
  • No DUI conviction within the preceding 24 months
  • No suspension or revocation of the applicant’s license within the past 36 months
  • Passing all federal and state medical/physical requirements
  • If applicants wish to transport hazardous materials that require a placard, they must be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident and pass a federal security background check

Hurt in an Accident? Contact a Michigan Truck Accident Attorney

If you have been hurt in a crash with a negligent 18-wheeler truck driver, you have the right to seek compensation from the driver, the trucking company, a third-party maintenance company or another trucking entity.

An experienced truck accident attorney with thorough knowledge of trucking laws in Michigan can help you get the maximum compensation possible for your injury claim. At Christensen Law, our team of skilled trial attorneys have a notable track record of success. We know how to handle these types of cases, and we’re ready to put our experience to work for you.

Call us, fill out a contact form, or chat with us live to schedule a free consultation. With four convenient locations across the state, our team will always be right there to assist you.

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