Truck Height

Last Edited: July 23, 2017 // by TruckerScape, Inc.

As mentioned in the Vision tip, an important advantage the height of my truck affords is a good view of road conditions and traffic ahead of me.  There are a couple of disadvantages, one being the possibility of my 13 foot 6 inch high trailer hitting some overhanging object such as a bridge or an overhead wire.  Low bridges and other overhead obstacles are a more frequent problem in the East.

According to the New York City DOT (Department of Transportation), “There are several hundred low vertical clearance structures in New York City, including elevated rail lines, tunnels, bridges, highway ramps, buildings over highways and other obstructions.  DOT has prepared maps of low vertical clearances on the limited access highway system.”¹  Per NYC DOT instructions, I am very careful to stay on through truck routes in New York City boroughs, and I don’t depend solely on GPS because it may not route me properly.

To quote passages from a pamphlet accompanying NYC DOT’s 2015 New York City Truck Route Map:  “GOT STUCK? (With photo of topped trailer) Truck Drivers:  Don’t let this happen to you.”   “Commercial Vehicles, Trucks and Tractor Trailers are Not Allowed on New York State Parkways.  It’s the Law!  Be Prepared for your Trip.”  “Note:  DO NOT rely solely on GPS units or online mapping services.  They may incorrectly route you onto a parkway.  Always obey posted signage.”²

In Chicago I have direct experience with problems that the El (elevated train) overpasses pose.  I have had to turn around from a couple of low El overpasses when dock site directions failed to guide me around them.  My atlas lists various highways and streets by state that are off limits to big trucks due to low clearances and other factors.  In older communities low-hanging overhead wires and telephone poles leaning over streets can be hazards.

Another disadvantage of trucks such as mine is their relatively high center of gravity.  Freight loads stacked to the ceiling raise the center of gravity further and make the trailer more apt to tip over in an accident or if driven too aggressively.  Trucks that run off a highway frequently roll over.  You may have observed a cleanup operation at a rollover, in which a wrecked tractor trailer has to be towed and spilled freight has to be hauled away in another truck.

Memo to Self:  Watch those traffic lights!  The sight line out of my truck cab is closer to level with traffic lights than the sight line from a personal vehicle.  Viewed from a distance, the lights tend to blend in with a background of objects on the horizon such as the road, buildings, and trees.  Looking up at the lights from your vehicle, you are more likely to see them clearly against a sky background….advantage, 4-Wheelers!


A 13 foot 6 inch trailer is too tall for New York State parkway overpasses and various overhead obstacles on other highways and streets.

When approaching a low bridge or other overhead obstacle, get out of the way of a truck driver whose truck will not clear and who has to back up and/or turn around.



²New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) pamphlet accompanying NYC DOT’s 2015 New York City Truck Route Map; Updated September 2009; “GOT STUCK? (With photo of topped trailer) Truck Drivers:  Don’t let this happen to you;” et al

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