How Far Can Lumber Stick Out of Your Truck Bed?


Here is all detail about how far can lumber stick out of your truck bed? It is a common question among truck owners who want to carry heavy lumber on their truck bed but are afraid that they might be breaking some laws. A log of wood sticking out of the truck bed is a dangerous undertaking; it not only puts your life but other road user’s life in danger. Safety of the road is the primary concern behind letting your lumber stick out of the truck. It gets even more dangerous it the lumber is secured and fastened properly.

Although carrying your lumber this way is not completely illegal, you do have to follow some safety rules and make sure the lumber is secured tightly to the truck bed so that they don’t move or slide out in transition. I’ve done some research and found out the answer to the question to help pickup truck owner carry long lumber safely and without getting pulled over by a cop.

Lumber Stick Out of Your Truck Bed

How Far Can Lumber Stick Out of Truck Bed? Oversized loads such as lumber can overhang a truck bed by 3 feet to the front, 4 inches to the side and 4 feet to the rear. It should be marked with flags and red lights for the safety of other drivers.

All truck bed doesn’t have enough space to fit long lumbers perfectly. Which means it is going to stick out of the truck bed and that concerns the security of other drivers. Which is why we have laws which specifically regulates this problem. Here I will explain to you what are your legal rights. What can you do to secure your lumber? What accessories you can use to safely carry your lumber? And what you can do if the lumber is longer and it sticks out longer than the permitted length?

Hauling Long Lumber on Your Pickup Truck Bed

You must consider the following points while hauling a load on your vehicle

  • The total dimension of the load permitted on your truck or trailer plus the load
  • Legal safety requirement which carrying overhang loads
  • What to do when your load is too big

Considering the safety of other drivers and road users, there are various laws in place to limit how far an item can overhang the rear end of the truck. You will also have to mark the overhang to alert other drivers. Failing to do so will result in a traffic ticket or fine. According to the United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Size Regulation law, your lumber can overhang 3 feet in front of the vehicle, 4 inches on the side and 4 feet in the rear. If your lumber overhangs more than 4 feet, it must be properly marked.

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On the side, rear, and front there must be a red marker lamp. The load must be marked using two lamps to the rear of the vehicle to indicate its length and two red reflectors indicating the maximum width. If the load extends to the sides by more than 4 inches or over the rear of the vehicle by more than 4 feet a red or orange warning flag should be installed. The warning flag must be at least 18 inches square.

  • During the daytime, lumber that overhangs the rear of the vehicle hauling it by 1.5 meters or more must have a red or orange flag on the back of the load.
  • During the nighttime, a load that overhangs the rear of the vehicle hauling it by 1.5 meters or more must have a lit red lamp on the back of the load.
  1. Red marker lamp –
    For red marker lamps, I recommend “
    Partsam” which comes with a package of 5 Amber and 7 Red marker lamps, enough for a truck carrying heavy lumber.
  2. Warning flag
    I use Vulcan orange safety flag which meets strict DOT and CVSA requirements and they are available in 18 x 18 inches, which is a necessary requirement.
  3. Red reflectors
    I frequently haul heavy objects, which is why I always have a pair of stick-on red flectors and also a roll-on red reflector tape.

How to Fasten or Secure the Lumber in the Pickup Truck Bed?

Many truck owners use cargo net or cover but that’s not enough when lumber is sticking out of the truck. You should use high-quality ratchet straps to tie down larger items. Ensure that it is tied down from the two sides. Get a minimum of four heavy-duty 15-ft ratchet straps. It should have a minimum load limit of 1000-lb, and a break strength of 3000-lb. If you don’t want to buy ratches you can still use rope and bungee cord but for that, you will have to drive slowly and it could be a trouble if you hit any bumps. Then again you have to protect your item from breaking.

If you are hauling only lumber, it’s not a problem, but if you are hauling other flimsy material you should use a stretch cling film. If you are carrying heavy lumber don’t rest on the raised gate; it will damage the gate. Start by laying two ratchet straps on the bed, then load the heaviest and the longest lumber over the straps and keep stacking shorter ones on top of it. Achor the bundle to the truck bed with two ratchet straps. Then secure the cab end, with straps as well.

  1. 15-ft ratchet straps – I’ve been using these 1 inch Double J hooks ratchet straps for a few months and haven’t found any issues. I think they are the best pair of straps for the price.
  2. Rope & bungee cord – For bungee cords, I bought these set of 24 cords with hooks and I use them for carrying lighter loads on my truck as well as a motorcycle. For rope, I got this roll of 100 feet Polypropylene Rope.
  3. Stretch cling film – I got these 18″ Stretch Film/Wrap at a bargain and they are as good as their reviews.

What Accessories You Can Use to Carry Lumber Easily on Your Truck Bed?

If hauling lumber and other loads are going to be your everyday job, you will have to consider installing a few accessories to make things easier.

Bed Slides

Truck bed slides will significantly make hauling cargo easier. Instead of climbing on the truck you can simply slide the cargo out easily. I have fitted a CargoGlide 2200 to my 2017 Chevy Colorado.

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Bed Extenders

You don’t have to buy another truck to carry heavy loads. Instead, you could install bed extender. Keep the tailgate down and provide additional support to your lumber from falling out. For long lumber, kayak and furniture I use the ECOTRIC hitch mounted extender rack.

Bed Racks

Rails and extenders may help you with some loads, but bed rack will enable you to safely transport long cargo such as lumber, piping, ladders, etc. To carry a heavy load on top of the truck you will need a heavy-duty rack that can hold up to 700 lbs of weight. I got these AA-Racks, which are enough for the kind of loads I carry.

Cargo Nets & Covers

Protect your cargo from flying away by using cargo nets and covers. They will keep your cargo intact as well as provide weather-resistance. I prefer to put on a cover or tarp on my lumber and to tie it down with need cargo nets. We recently bought 4’x6′ bungee cargo net and it has been serving really well; I also got the weather-proof LCGP Truck Cover

Tie-Down Anchors

You can use the rails and racks to tie down and secure items. If you need a more professional solution, you should consider installing tie-down anchors on the bed floor. But, you will have to drill into the original metal of the truck and may devalue the vehicle and cause it to rust. You can get tie-down anchors at a cheap price, but if you need something robust and heavy-duty, you could buy Bull Ring anchor points. However, do check out if it fits your truck model. If you didn’t find one for your model you can use these inexpensive universal anchor points.

How to Drive Safely with Heavy Loads on the Truck Bed?

Heavy lumber carrying trucks have a reputation for being a significant source of accidents on the road because of mistakes that are preventable. Here are a few reasons:

Mechanical Failure

When you are hauling heavy lumber there is always a chance of a part of your truck coming off. If you are resting your lumber on the tailgate, it may fall out. Especially if it’s an old truck make sure, all truck parts are perfectly functional. If you are using trailers, make sure it is towed perfectly. Make sure your tires have enough pressure to carry extra load than usual.

Driving Error

If you are driving a truck with overhanging lumber, it can be dangerous if you are not careful. Avoid sharp turns at high speed, improper lane changes, and not being aware of the surrounding. Keep the proper distance from other vehicles in front of you. Don’t drive in a hurry be it for work or for home. Be extra careful and take additional measure when the weather condition is not in your favor. Keep your lights on and drive slowly when there is fog.

Poor Road Conditions

Sometimes lumber can become heavy and when it’s overhanging, you have to be extra careful of the road. A pothole or a rough patch on the road may cause the lumber to shift or even fall from the vehicle. When it’s raining, or snowing, you should only take the road you know well.

What are Some Lumber Hauling Best Practices?

Check the weight restriction of your truck

If you are moving any significant amount of weight, we advise you to check the payload limits of your truck. The GVWR or Gross Vehicle Weight Rating will be printed on the factory label. If you can’t find the label, check with the owner’s manual. It is better to make multiple trips can damaging your suspension and shocks.

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Keep heavier items near the cab

If you have some small wood logs, you should keep it near the cab. If there is too much weight on the back axle, the front axle may not get enough traction to drive.

Keep larger items to the sides

If you have any larger logs that will fit in the truck bed, we suggest you keep it near the bed rails and away from the center. Also fasten it securely to the truck bed, so that it doesn’t slide while driving.

Plan a safe route

When hauling heavy lumber, you have to extra careful when driving. Take the route you know well; you don’t want unnecessary bumps, potholes, and rough patches.


Park your truck in a safe, public and well-lit place. If possible, minimize your stops even in bad weather conditions. This way, you will prevent theft from your truck.

Related Questions

Do I have to attach a red flag if I carry lumber on top of the cab using racks?

If your lumber sticks out more than 3 feet from the tailgate you have to hand red flag even if you carry it on your truck cab using bed racks.

How much lumber can my truck bed hold?

How much lumber you can carry depends on the payload capacity of your truck bed, which depends on the make and model of your truck. A half-ton truck can typically carry between 1000 lbs and 3000 lbs depending on your manufacturer. A three-quarter ton truck can carry from 3000 lbs to 4000 lbs depending on your manufacturer. A one-ton pickup can carry nearly 6000 lbs depending on your manufacturer.

Can heavy lumber affect my truck’s stability and truck components?

If you are carrying lumber within the payload capacity of your truck bed, you shouldn’t have a problem. However, you have to mind the turns and corners because of your overhang cargo. Moreover, if it’s tied-down and securely well, you should have a smooth journey. However, if you plan to max out your truck bed payload capacity you should consider upgrading your suspension, leaf springs, bolts, etc. to decrease the load on the rear axle.


Lumber hauling is pretty common in our country, but it involves some risks nonetheless. If you are carrying lumber for the first time on your truck, all you have to do is take the first trip and then you will know what to do. If you have a smaller truck and still need to haul some heavy lumber, we suggest you hire professionals to carry it to your home. Hauling is not a big deal if you follow the aforementioned steps.

Jackson Reid
Jackson Reid
With a wrench in one hand and a trucker's hat on my head, I've been knee-deep in the world of trucks for over a decade. From tinkering in greasy garages to cruising down open highways, my life has been one big trucking adventure. I've hauled, repaired, and revved up more rigs than I can count, and now I'm revving up your truck knowledge with articles that'll steer you right.

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