California SUV Ban Hidden in Plain Sight

040804_Sign_6K1.jpgTwo years ago, Slate had a piece noting that California weight restrictions against vehicles over 6,000 lbs prohibited SUVs from many streets, but nobody realized it because people thought the signs were for delivery trucks. (A Hummer H2 weighs 8,600 lbs.) It seems most of the ordinances were written with trucks in mind, not SUV’s, and so the secret SUV-ban went unenforced.

From the article:

This isn’t an arbitrary weight limit. 6,000 pounds has long been a recognized dividing line between light and heavy trucks. (For example, the Clean Air Act defines "heavy duty vehicle" as a truck with a gross vehicle weight "in excess of six thousand pounds.") But local officials either don’t realize they’ve banned big SUVs, or they’re hoping no one will make a stink. …

[T]hese weight limits generally predate the 1990s SUV craze that lured suburbanites out of their lighter sedans and minivans. It’s the vehicles that have changed, not the law. These ordinances remain on the books and they’re not obscure. They’re clearly marked on signs in many California cities.

Since this piece is a bit dated, it is unclear whether authorities actually started banning SUV’s, started rewriting laws, or continued to ignore the problem. Does anybody know if there are any New York-area equivalents?

  • mike

    I believe the Brooklyn Bridge has a similar limit of 6000 pounds. Can someone verify this?

  • NY seems to care more about “commercial” versus “passenger” more than just weight. But I did find this on the State DMV site:

    You can get passenger class plates for a light-duty pick-up truck that has an unladen weight of 5,500 lbs. or less.

    The agency that controls a parkway decides if pick-up trucks with passenger class plates are allowed on the parkway. To make sure you can drive your pick-up truck on a parkway, contact the agency that manages the parkway. Some parking regulations and traffic regulations in New York City depend on the type of vehicle plates on your vehicle. Passenger class plates on your pick-up truck can change how NYC regulations affect you. Contact New York City about their regulations.

    I looked on the NYC page, but nothing so far…

  • I’ll check on the Brooklyn Bridge on my way home tonight-
    If its visible from the bike lane I’ll see it.

  • Yes,
    The Brooklyn Bridge does not allow trucks over 3 Tons, which would mean that all those municipal workers would be ass out.

    The list of technically prohibited vehicles would include:
    Hummers (maybe not the H3, I’m not sure)
    GMC Yukons
    Ford Expeditions/Excursions
    Chevrolet Suburbans
    Cadillac Escalades
    BMW X5 (by a mere 8 pounds!)

    Would be a great campaign in the press, no?

  • I remember reading the Slate article when it came out. I was, at the time at least, really excited that there was a law on the books that would theoretically limit the profusion of large SUVs. I had hoped that, owing to Slate’s coverage, the law might be enforced. Has it been? Did California decide to make good on enforcement?

    –Steve (

  • Just scanning for stuff on the NY DMV site. People with ordinary Class D licenses can now drive any vehicle up to 26,000 lbs.

    Under a NYS law that took effect on July 26, 2005, the DMV will eliminate the Non-CDL Class C license. In addition, the gross vehicle weight rating and gross vehicle combination weight rating of vehicles that a driver can operate with a Class D license has increased.

    A driver with a Class D license can now operate a passenger vehicle, a limited use automobile, or:

    A truck with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,000 lbs. or less. (Before, a Class D driver could only operate a vehicle with a GVWR of 18,000 lbs. or less.).

    That’s insane.

  • Anon

    Someone should start taking photos of big SUVs crossing the bridge, including the license plates, and post online and send to the tabloids, the DOT, and the NYPD. Maybe something something could come of it.

  • The Lowly Pedestrian

    Part of the reason there is a huge truss on the underside of the Brooklyn Bridge on the Manhattan side is because the Brooklyn Bridge had to be retro-fitted in the late 90s because too many larger vehicles were using it (the average weight of.)

    Does anyone know if the truss was put in there in order to allow heavier vehicles to technically use the bridge?


  • I saw the sign!
    Brooklyn Bridge Weight Limit 3 Tons

  • AD

    3 tons = 6,000 lbs.
    According to the Slate article, the following vehicles are therefore banned from the Brooklyn Bridge: The Chevy Suburban and Tahoe, the Range Rover, the GMC Yukon, the Toyota Land Cruiser and Sequoia, the Lincoln Navigator, the Mercedes M Class, the Porsche Cayenne S, and the Dodge Ram 1500 pickup (with optional Hemi), and of course, the Hummer.

  • I just sent a letter to the Commissioner of DOT…

    here it is:

    Dear Commisioner,
    I am concerned that the 3 ton weight limit at the Brooklyn Bridge is not being enforced, and therefore compromising the structural longevity of the bridge.

    I ride over the Brooklyn Bridge daily on my way to work and I always see the following vehicles that exceed the 3 ton limit: Chevy Suburban and Tahoe, Range Rover, GMC Yukon, Toyota Land Cruiser and Sequoia, Lincoln Navigator, Mercedes M Class, Porsche Cayenne S, Dodge Ram 1500 pickup (with optional Hemi), Hummer (H1 and H2).

    It is important to note that some of the vehicles almost double the 3 ton limit!

    Is this a concern to the Department of Transportation? And if not, who is resposible for the safety limits on the Brooklyn Bridge because I would like to contact them.

    Thank you very much for your time.

    You can get the link to send your own letter here:


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