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What Is a High Profile Vehicle? (Explained)

Updated: Jan 14

Many people have reported seeing signs along fast and open roads like motorways and freeways advising "high profile vehicles" of strong winds during bad weather. But what exactly qualifies as a high profile vehicle?

In this article, we will discuss what a high profile vehicle is, why they're more at risk to strong winds, and how to drive them safely in harsh weather.

Table of Contents:

What Is a High Profile Vehicle?

Any vehicle with high-sides, lots of surface area, and that is big is typically considered high-profile, in this context a high profile vehicle does not mean it is expensive or flashy like a supercar.

A high profile vehicle is one with large surface areas, such as trucks, RVs, SUVs, pickup trucks, and other large and tall vehicles. They are typically more vulnerable to wind gusts and may put them at risk of toppling over.

The risk to high profile vehicles depends on the following factors.

  • Their centre of gravity

  • Their surface area

  • How tall they are

  • How narrow or wide they are

  • Wind speeds

High-profile vehicles must take special measures, such as slowing down or stopping somewhere built up.

There may be regulations (depending on country) governing whether or not a high-profile vehicle may be allowed to drive during bad weather.

What Is Considered a High Profile Vehicle?

Many vehicles are considered to be large and susceptible to high wind gusts, such as the following.

  • Trucks, semi-trucks and box trucks (lorries)

  • SUVs, pickup trucks and vans

  • RVs and campers

  • Trailers

a white truck driving on a road

Trucks, Semi-Trucks & Box Trucks (Lorries)

Most trucks are considered high profile trucks, they have high sides and a large surface area.

Due to their dimensions and large side surface area, trucks continue to have a high relative risk of being affected by strong gusts of wind.

The majority of semis tow trailers with a surface area of around 450 square feet that are typically more than 50 feet long and 9 feet high. If a strong gust of wind hits this it will have a very powerful sideways force on the vehicle.

The semi-truck is perhaps the most vulnerable to wind gusts; some have even been known to topple over on fast open roads (it doesn't happen often, but it occurs).

a black SUV in a showroom

SUVs, Pickup Trucks & Vans

Although SUVs, pickup trucks, and vans don't have the same amount of surface area large trucks have, they are still tall and have a lot of surface area, making them more vulnerable to wind gusts than most other vehicles.

It's very rare for an SUV, pickup truck, or van to topple over but they do have a higher centre of gravity and more surface area than most other cars and strong winds can easily cause them to sway to one side and move over the road.

an RV in a snowy area with two people looking ahead

RVs & Campers

An RV (camper) is basically a large box on wheels, they have lots of surface area, they are tall and they are also lighter than most other trucks. RVs are also at high risk of swaying, being pushed sideways, and potentially toppling over in high winds.

RVs and campers are considered light high profile vehicles.


A trailer that is either large or tall can be just as vulnerable to high winds as a high profile vehicle.

Avoid driving in bad weather conditions and strong winds with a trailer, especially if it's large, tall, has flat surfaces (instead of metal mesh type surfaces) or lightweight.

Risks to High Profile Vehicles

The risk varies depending on the type of vehicle you drive, its size, weight, surface area, etc.

For example, if you drive an SUV you'll be less vulnerable to wind gusts than a semi-truck, but you'll still be at more risk than the average sized car.

Crosswinds & Strong Wind Gusts

Crosswinds and strong sideways wind gusts can pose a hazard to high profile vehicles. These wind gusts might appear suddenly, they can without any apparent cause.

Wind gusts can cause a high-profile vehicle to:

  • sway to one side

  • move over the road

  • topple over in rare cases

High winds are characterised as air currents with gusts above 30 mph (50 km/h), or a 7 on the Beaufort Wind Force Scale.

High winds may have other hazards such as the following:

  • Strong winds have the potential to blow loose items, tree branches, dirt and gravel, and other objects, onto roadways.

  • Small trees and shrubs at the side of the road may fall and land on the roadway if the wind is strong enough.

  • High winds may cause dust and dirt to be kicked up, decreasing visibility and potentially causing objects to hit your windscreen and windows.

  • Rain and heavy winds make the situation worse since high-profile vehicles are more likely to skid across the road.

How to Drive Safely in High Wind Conditions

It's advised to avoid driving a high profile or large vehicle in strong winds, but if you must you should drive slower, put your hazard warning lights on, add weight to the vehicle if possible, and avoid open roads without tree cover.

If you have loose items in your truck bed or out in the open, you should cover them with a tarp, tie it down and properly secure everything to prevent them blowing away in severe winds.

Be vigilant and be prepared for wind gusts causing your vehicle to sway and move over the road.

The following tips may also help:

  • Keep an eye on the weather forecast and plan your route.

  • Turn on your exterior lights if there is a lot of dust in the air.

  • Avoid driving next to other vehicles, especially other high profile vehicles.

  • Look out for loose objects on the side of the road and on other vehicles.

  • Counter steer if you are hit by a crosswind, don't be too harsh or use fast movements.

  • Filling up your fuel tank to the maximum and adding weight to your vehicle may help prevent it from being affected by by strong crosswinds.

What Is the Maximum Height of Vehicles?

The maximum height of vehicles allowed on the road varies depending on the location and type of road. In general, the maximum height for a vehicle is set by the height of the road infrastructure, including bridges, tunnels, and overpasses.

There may be some exceptions to the maximum height limit for certain types of vehicles, such as emergency vehicles or agricultural vehicles. These exceptions may be granted on a case-by-case basis and may be subject to specific conditions or restrictions.

Local or state regulations can set different maximum heights for vehicles, depending on the specific needs and conditions of the road network. It is important for drivers to be aware of these regulations and to ensure that their vehicle meets the required height limits.

Maximum Vehicle Height in the UK

In the United Kingdom, the maximum height for a road vehicle is typically set at 16 feet 6 inches (5.03 meters). This includes the height of the vehicle itself, as well as any load or cargo being carried. The average height of vehicles in the UK is around 4.5 metres.

The maximum height is generally determined by the height of road infrastructure, such as bridges, tunnels, and overpasses.

It is important for drivers in the UK to be aware of these height restrictions and to ensure that their vehicle meets the required limits. Failing to do so can result in fines and other penalties.

Maximum Vehicle Height in the US

In the United States, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) sets the maximum height for vehicles on the National Highway System at 13 feet 6 inches (4.11 meters).

This includes the height of the vehicle itself, as well as any load or cargo being carried.

Maximum Vehicle Height in Australia

In Australia, the maximum height for a road vehicle is generally set at 14 feet 1 inch (4.3 meters).

This includes the height of the vehicle itself, as well as any load or cargo being carried. The maximum height is determined by the height of road infrastructure, such as bridges, tunnels, and overpasses.


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