Transporting Lumber in Truck Bed: How Far Can It Stick Out?

Many truck owners wonder if it’s legal to carry long pieces of lumber in truck bed. It can be dangerous to have lumber sticking out, as it can put both the driver and other people on the road at risk. Safety is the main reason why there are rules about how much lumber can stick out of a truck bed. It’s even more dangerous if the lumber is not properly secured.

Carrying lumber in your truck bed is not illegal, but you must follow safety regulations and secure the lumber tightly to prevent it from moving or falling out during transport. Through my research, I have found the answer to help pickup truck owners transport long lumber safely and avoid getting pulled over by the police.

Lumber, as an oversized load, is allowed to extend 3 feet in front, 4 inches on the side, and 4 feet in the rear of the truck bed. It must be clearly marked with flags and red lights for the safety of other drivers.

Many truck beds do not have enough space to fit long lumbers, so they may stick out of the truck bed and pose a safety risk to other drivers. This is why there are laws that regulate this issue. In this article, I will explain your legal rights, including how to secure your lumber, what accessories you can use to safely transport it, and what to do if the lumber is longer than the permitted length.

See Also: Truck Bed Camping Guide

Transporting Long Lumber in Truck Bed

When hauling a load on your vehicle, it’s important to consider the following:

  • The total dimensions of the load allowed on your truck or trailer and the load itself.
  • Legal safety requirements for transporting overhang loads.
  • What to do when your load is too large.

To ensure the safety of other drivers and road users, laws exist to limit the extent to which an item can extend beyond the rear of a truck. Drivers must also mark the overhang to alert other drivers. Failure to do so can result in a traffic ticket or fine. According to the Federal Size Regulation law of the United States Department of Transportation, lumber can extend 3 feet in front of the vehicle, 4 inches on the side, and 4 feet in the rear. If the lumber extends more than 4 feet, it must be properly marked.

For safety, a red marker lamp must be placed on the side, rear, and front of the vehicle. The load should be marked using two lamps at the rear of the vehicle to indicate its length and two red reflectors to show its maximum width. If the load extends more than 4 inches on the sides or more than 4 feet at the rear of the vehicle, an 18-inch square red or orange warning flag must be installed.

During daylight hours, lumber that extends more than 1.5 meters beyond the rear of the vehicle must have a red or orange flag on the back of the load. At night, a load that extends more than 1.5 meters beyond the rear of the vehicle must have a lit red lamp on the back of the load.

Securing Lumber in a Pickup Truck Bed: Tips and Techniques

Using a cargo net or cover alone may not be sufficient when hauling lumber that sticks out of the truck bed. To secure larger items, it is recommended to use high-quality ratchet straps. Use at least four heavy-duty 15-ft ratchet straps with a minimum load limit of 1000-lb and a break strength of 3000-lb. Tie the load down from both sides. If you prefer not to use ratchet straps, you can use rope and bungee cords, but be aware that you will need to drive slowly and the load may be less secure, especially on bumpy roads. The most important is to protect the item from breaking.

When hauling only lumber, it may not be necessary, but if you are also carrying flimsy materials, it’s a good idea to use stretch cling film. When hauling heavy lumber, avoid placing it on the raised tailgate, as it can cause damage. To secure the load, begin by laying two ratchet straps on the bed. Place the heaviest and longest lumber on top of the straps and stack the shorter pieces on top. Secure the bundle to the truck bed with two ratchet straps, and then secure the cab end with additional straps.

Accessories for Easily Transporting Lumber on Your Truck Bed

If transporting lumber and other loads is a regular part of your job, it may be beneficial to install certain accessories to make the process easier.

  • Bed Extenders: You don’t need to purchase a new truck to haul heavy loads. An alternative is to install a bed extender. This allows you to keep the tailgate down and provides additional support to prevent the lumber from falling out.
  • Bed Slides: Truck bed slides can greatly simplify the process of hauling cargo. Instead of climbing into the truck bed, you can easily slide the cargo out.
  • Bed Racks: Rails and extenders may assist with some loads, however, a bed rack is ideal for safely transporting long cargo such as lumber, pipes, ladders, etc. To support heavy loads on top of the truck, you will require a sturdy rack that can hold up to 700 lbs.
  • Cargo Nets: Ensure the safety of your cargo by using cargo nets and covers. Covering lumber with a tarp and using cargo nets for tying it down is a reliable method.
  • Tie-Down Anchors: Rails and racks can be used to tie down and secure items, but for a more professional solution, tie-down anchors installed in the bed floor can be considered. However, this involves drilling into the original metal of the truck which may decrease the value of the vehicle and lead to rusting.

Safety Tips for Driving a Truck with Heavy Loads

Mechanical Failure

Hauling heavy lumber increases the risk of mechanical failure on your truck. If the lumber is resting on the tailgate, it may fall out. If you have an older truck, it’s essential to ensure all parts are in proper working condition. If you’re using a trailer, ensure it’s properly towed and that your tires have enough pressure to handle the extra load.

Bad Road Conditions

When hauling heavy and overhanging lumber, it’s important to exercise extra caution on the road. Potholes or rough patches may cause the lumber to shift or fall from the vehicle. During inclement weather conditions such as rain or snow, it’s best to stick to familiar roads for added safety.

Driving Error

Driving a truck with overhanging lumber can be hazardous if not done with caution. Avoid sharp turns at high speeds, improper lane changes, and lack of awareness of your surroundings. Maintain a safe distance from other vehicles in front of you. Avoid rushing, regardless of the destination. Take extra precautions when the weather is not favorable, such as keeping lights on and driving slowly in foggy conditions.


In conclusion, hauling heavy lumber in a truck bed can be a challenging task that requires careful planning and execution. It’s important to follow the laws and regulations regarding overhang length and marking the load to ensure the safety of yourself and other road users. It’s also crucial to properly secure the lumber using high-quality ratchet straps, cargo nets, and covers, and to take extra precautions when driving, especially on rough or unfamiliar roads, and during inclement weather. Additionally, installing bed extenders, bed slides, and bed racks can make the process of hauling lumber much easier and more efficient. By following these tips and guidelines, truck owners can safely and successfully transport their heavy lumber.

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