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What are the rules regarding transporting fuel cans?

Question: I see vehicles go by with extended carriers attached to their hitch with several full gas cans. We discuss what could happen if a driver was not paying attention and ran into one such vehicle. How safe can this be? Is there any laws in place that makes this unlawful?

Answer: There is no law against having fuel containers on an extended carrier for non-commercial type vehicles. With that being said, I agree with you that it could be a very dangerous situation if a crash would occur.

I've investigated and witnessed vehicle fires and they tend to burn very fast when ignited by an outside source, electrical problem or engine fire. I have seen rear-end collisions where the fuel tank was ruptured and gasoline was dispersed at the scene, making it a very dangerous situation. Newer vehicles are designed to keep the fuel from leaking out of the gas tank in the event of a crash by placing the tank in the safest location possible on the vehicle.

When it comes to gas cans/tanks that are placed on a cargo type carrier on the rear of a vehicle, it offers little to no protection if they are struck by another vehicle. If this occurs, fuel will most likely spill out of the tanks and potentially cause a fire to both vehicles.

There are laws that pertain to an extended carrier:

• The carrier and cargo must not block the rear view of the taillights and license plate

• The external cargo carrier must not extend four feet or more beyond the bed or body of the vehicle. If it does, the load/carrier must have an additional rear light(s) when lights are required and when lights are not required, it must have a red, yellow or orange flag or cloth not less than 16 inches square.

I would also like to mention that there is a law for anything that is sticking over the sides of the vehicle that extends beyond the line of the fenders on the driver's side and extends more than six inches beyond the line of the fenders on the passenger's side.

Remember to secure any load on a vehicle. Please make sure the load is tied or strapped down so it will not illegally shift over the sides or rear of the vehicle or fall onto the road.

Please place items like gas cans in an area where they have some protection if a crash would occur.

If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Trp. Jesse Grabow — Minnesota State Patrol at 1000 Highway 10 West, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501-2205. (You can follow him on Twitter @MSPPIO_NW or reach him at,