When to Put a Red Flag on Rear Protruding Loads in Washington

Yesterday, my wife and I bought a backyard sunshade umbrella from an area home improvement store. We were lucky enough to get the last one - you know the one that is put together and on display on the floor. The person that helped us with the purchase mentioned that such items that were on display get a 20% discount. We really made out! Twenty percent off AND it's already assembled!

We only needed to get the umbrella home.

We borrowed the truck from the in-laws and put the assembled umbrella onto the back of the truck.

The back hung out just a bit, so I tied a red plastic “flag” onto the back.

When purchasing the umbrella, I asked our sales person, Sarah,  if she knew how long something can hang out the back before needing a red flag tied onto it. She mentioned that it would need a red flag, if it protruded more than six feet.

The umbrella only hung over about a couple feet off the back of the truck, but we still put a flag on it for safety. 

Coming to work today, I did some research. Some states do indeed allow items to hang out the back, up to six feet without a flag.

However, in Washington State (RCW.46.37.140), You'll need a flag if your load protrudes more than 4 feet out the back:

On any vehicle having a load that extends more than four inches beyond its sides or more than four feet beyond its rear, there must be displayed red or orange fluorescent warning flags, not less than eighteen inches square, marking the extremities of such loads.

Your load in Washington State that requires a flag, also must have a red lamp or red flag with reflective material if hauled 30 minutes after sundown or 30 minutes before sunrise. Other drivers need to readily see your protruding load!

The maximum length of something protruding off the back of your vehicle in Washington State (With red flags or lights/lamps) is 3 feet in the front and up to 15 feet in the back.

State regulations don’t mention you using your flashers or hazard lights while carrying a longer load. But it’s useful for calling attention to your long load for the vehicles behind you. You may not need to drive more slowly than the posted speed limit. However, staying in the right-hand lane when possible, taking turns carefully, and minding your turning radius will help you get to your destination safely.

Also, make sure your load is properly tied and secured - This is a HUGE safety issue. Make sure your load is secure enough to withstand sudden stops or swerves.

INFO SOURCE: Washington State Legislature (updated in 2022)


Added tip from Next Level Carpentry:

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