20-115.1. Limitations on tandem trailers and semitrailers on certain North Carolina highways.

(a) Motor vehicle combinations consisting of a truck tractor and two trailing units may be operated in North Carolina only on highways of the interstate system (except those exempted by the United States Secretary of Transportation pursuant to 49 USC 2311(i)) and on those sections of the federal-aid primary system designated by the United States Secretary of Transportation. No trailer or semitrailer operated in this combination shall exceed 28 feet in length; Provided, however, a 1982 or older year model trailer or semitrailer of up to 28 1/2 feet in length may operate in a combination permitted by this section for trailers or semitrailers which are 28 feet in length.

(b) Motor vehicle combinations consisting of a semitrailer of not more than 53 feet in length and a truck tractor may be operated on all primary highway routes of North Carolina provided the motor vehicle combination meets the requirements of this subsection. The Department may, at any time, prohibit motor vehicle combinations on portions of any route on the State highway system. If the Department prohibits a motor vehicle combination on any route, it shall submit a written report to the Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee within six months of the prohibition clearly documenting through traffic engineering studies that the operation of a motor vehicle combination on that route cannot be safely accommodated and that the route does not have sufficient capacity to handle the vehicle combination. To operate on a primary highway route, a motor vehicle combination described in this subsection must meet all of the following requirements:

(1) The motor vehicle combination must comply with the weight requirements in G.S. 20-118.

(2) A semitrailer in excess of 48 feet in length must meet one or more of the following conditions:

(a) The distance between the kingpin of the trailer and the rearmost axle, or a point midway between the two rear axles, if the two rear axles are a tandem axle, does not exceed 41 feet.

(b) The semitrailer is used exclusively or primarily to transport vehicles in connection with motorsports competition events, and the distance between the kingpin of the trailer and the rearmost axle, or a point midway between the two rear axles, if the two rear axles are a tandem axle, does not exceed 46 feet.

(3) A semitrailer in excess of 48 feet must be equipped with a rear underride guard of substantial construction consisting of a continuous lateral beam extending to within four inches of the lateral extremities of the semitrailer and located not more than 30 inches from the surface as measured with the vehicle empty and on a level surface.

(c) Motor vehicles with a width not exceeding 102 inches may be operated on the interstate highways (except those exempted by the United States Secretary of Transportation pursuant to 49 USC 2316(e)) and other qualifying federal-aid highways designated by the United States Secretary of Transportation, with traffic lanes designed to be a width of 12 feet or more and any other qualifying federal-aid primary system highway designated by the United States Secretary of Transportation if the Secretary has determined that the designation is consistent with highway safety.

(d) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsections (a) and (b) of this section which limit the length of trailers which may be used in motor vehicle combinations in this State on highways of the interstate system (except those exempted by the United States Secretary of Transportation pursuant to 49 USC 2311(i)) and on those sections of the federal-aid primary system designated by the United States Secretary of Transportation, there is no limitation of the length of the truck tractor which may be used in motor vehicle combinations on these highways and therefore, in compliance with Section 411(b) of the Surface Transportation Act of 1982, there is no overall length limitation for motor vehicle combinations regulated by this section.

(e) The length and width limitations in this section are subject to exceptions and exclusions for safety devices and specialized equipment as provided for in 49 USC 2311(d)(h) and Section 416 of the Surface Transportation Act of 1982 as amended (49 USC 2316).

(f) Motor vehicle combinations operating pursuant to this section shall have reasonable access between (i) highways on the interstate system (except those exempted by the United States Secretary of Transportation pursuant to 49 USC 2311(i) and 49 USC 2316(e)) and other qualifying federal-aid highways as designated by the United States Secretary of Transportation and (ii) terminals, facilities for food, fuel, repairs, and rest and points of loading and unloading by household goods carriers and by any truck tractor-semitrailer combination in which the semitrailer has a length not to exceed 28 1/2 feet and a width not to exceed 102 inches as provided in subsection (c) of this section and which generally operates as part of a vehicle combination described in subsection (a) of this section. The North Carolina Department of Transportation may, on streets and highways on the State highway system, and any municipality may, on streets and highways on the municipal street system, impose reasonable restrictions based on safety considerations on any truck tractor-semitrailer combination in which the semitrailer has a length not to exceed 28 1/2 feet and which generally operates as part of a vehicle combination described in subsection (a) of this section. "Reasonable access" to facilities for food, fuel, repairs and rest shall be deemed to be those facilities which are located within three road miles of the interstate or designated highway. The Department of Transportation is authorized to promulgate rules and regulations providing for "reasonable access." The Department may approve reasonable access routes for one particular type of STAA (Surface Transportation Assistance Act) dimensioned vehicle when significant, substantial differences in their operating characteristics exist.

(g) Under certain conditions, and after consultation with the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations, the North Carolina Department of Transportation may designate State highway system roads in addition to those highways designated by the United States Secretary of Transportation for use by the vehicle combinations authorized in this section. Such designations by the Department shall only be made under the following conditions:

(1) A determination of the public convenience and need for such designation;

(2) A traffic engineering study which clearly shows the road proposed to be designated can safely accommodate and has sufficient capacity to handle these vehicle combinations; and

(3) A public hearing is held or the opportunity for a public hearing is provided in each county through which the designated highway passes, after two weeks notice posted at the courthouse and published in a newspaper of general circulation in each county through which the designated State highway system road passes, and consideration is given to the comments received prior to the designation.

(4) The Department may designate routes for one particular type of STAA (Surface Transportation Assistance Act) dimensioned vehicle when significant, substantial differences in their operating characteristics exist.

The Department may not designate any portion of the State highway system that has been deleted or exempted by the United States Secretary of Transportation based on safety considerations. For the purpose of this section, any highway designated by the Department shall be deemed to be the same as a federal-aid primary highway designated by the United States Secretary of Transportation pursuant to 49 USC 2311 and 49 USC 2316, and the vehicle combinations authorized in this section shall be permitted to operate on such highway.

(h) Any owner of a semitrailer less than 50 feet in length in violation of subsections (a) or (b) is responsible for an infraction and is subject to a penalty of one hundred dollars ($100.00). Any owner of a semitrailer 50 feet or greater in length in violation of subsection (b) is responsible for an infraction and subject to a penalty of two hundred dollars ($200.00).

(i) Any driver of a vehicle with a semitrailer less than 50 feet in length violating subsections (a) or (b) of this section is guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor punishable only by a fine of one hundred dollars ($100.00). Any driver of a vehicle with a semitrailer 50 feet or more in length violating subsection (b) of this section is guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor punishable only by a fine of two hundred dollars ($200.00).

(j) Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, a manufacturer of trailer frames, with a permit issued pursuant to G.S. 20-119, is authorized to transport the trailer frame to another location within three miles of the first place of manufacture to the location of completion on any public street or highway if the width of the trailer frame does not exceed 14 feet and oversize markings and safety flags are used during transport. Trailer frames transported pursuant to this subsection shall not exceed 7,000 pounds, and the vehicle towing the trailer frame shall have a towing capacity greater than 10,000 pounds and necessary towing equipment. The transport of trailer frames under this subsection shall only be done during daylight hours. (1983, c. 898, s. 1; 1985, c. 423, ss. 1-7; 1989, c. 790, ss. 1, 3, 3.1; 1993, c. 533, s. 10; c. 539, s. 354; 1994, Ex. Sess., c. 24, s. 14(c); 1998-149, s. 6; 2007-77, ss. 2, 3; 2008-160, s. 1; 2008-221, ss. 3, 4.)