Oregon Department of Transportation, Highway Division

Rule Rule 734-020-0145
Removal of Cargo or Debris from State Highways


Whenever cargo is spilled or lost, or any other debris or items are deposited or left upon a state highway, any and all items, including wrecked, stalled or struck vehicles, trailers or cargo, which prevent safe passage in at least one lane of a two lane highway or one or more lanes in one direction of a multi-lane highway, are deemed to be obstructions which interfere with the maintenance and operation of state highways. As obstructions, these items are further deemed to interfere with the free flow of traffic and are a hazard to the motoring public. Such obstructions are found to be a threat to public safety (e.g., are impediments to emergency vehicles, create dangers of spillage of flammable materials and toxic substances, result in unexpected congestion and quick stops, and draw crowds of onlookers); and to result in public inconvenience; and, therefore, should be removed in the most expedient manner possible for the protection of the public. Under the general police power the Oregon Department of Transportation may remove such items or vehicles, or order such removed.


Whenever such obstruction occurs, except in instances where the obstruction can be removed within a reasonable time without damage to the cargo or vehicles, the District Manager, or Assistant District Manager, or if both are not available, the Region Manager or other appropriate members of the Region Manager’s staff, should be notified at once. A decision shall be made and approval must be received from one of the above individuals before department employees may take any action to remove the obstruction. In making the determination to remove the obstruction by department employees, and to return the highway to normal traffic operations the following considerations may be made, however, this list may not be exhaustive of all considerations and some may not be appropriate considerations in each instance:


Time of day the obstruction occurred and was discovered;


Location of the obstruction;


The hazard which it creates;


Weather conditions;


The type and condition of highway;


Traffic volume;


The type of vehicle, and the nature of the cargo or other items and any special characteristics of each which may impact on the extent of the hazard; and


Availability of equipment for removal of the hazard and types of equipment which may be reasonably available.


If, after consideration of the above factors, a determination is made that removal of the obstruction by highway employees would be in the interest of the general public, the removal may be ordered. The method of removal and guidelines for the safe keeping of the vehicle, cargo or item shall be discretionary and are to be determined by the District Manager, in conjunction with law enforcement and environmental protection agencies when appropriate, and shall be immediately transmitted to the department employees at the scene of the obstruction.


Alternative methods of removal by other than department employees may be considered. In considering this alternative, in addition to the above criteria, other considerations may include whether removal of the obstruction by the owner of the vehicle or cargo will result in further interference with highway traffic; protection of the cargo, vehicle or other items; resulting damage to highway property, including highway surface; the time required for removal and the likelihood of successful removal.


The safety and convenience of highway traffic shall always be the major consideration; however, once the method of removal has been determined, the department employee shall take reasonable care to ensure that unnecessary damage does not occur to the vehicle, cargo or item which is being removed, while still utilizing the method of removal directed and taking reasonable precautions for removed items. All discretionary decisions for removal and method of removal shall be made in light of the nature of the hazard and the need for speedy removal, and the resources and equipment available for speedy removal.

Last accessed
Jun. 8, 2021