Amid all the luxury and performance upgrades that often come with pickups, there are admittedly a few features that can easily be taken for granted and are often not noticed by consumers. One of these are the roof-mounted amber-colored lights that are often found on heavy duty pickups like the GMC Sierra and the Chevrolet Silverado. The lamps are commonplace on rigs in the other 49 states, but if you venture into the state of California, you will not see them on certain model trucks — ever. And our friends at GMAuthority uncovered the strange reason why that’s the case.
Before we get into the finer details, we might as well give you a brief refresher on the purpose of those tiny specks of amber-hued light. They are a way for automakers (such as GM) to comply with federal regulations that cover commercial vehicles. This is especially true in regards to width, with the regulations classifying anything that is 80 inches or wider as a commercial vehicle, and as a result, the vehicle in question must be equipped with three front mounted amber and three rear-mounted red-hued lights for identification purposes, with the lights being as high up as safely possible (typically on the roof.)
Even the off-road-focused and clearly not commercial grade Ford F-150 Raptor falls under the law’s jurisdiction due to the extra width needed to enhance its overall track. But why do single rear-wheel versions of the Silverado and Sierra HD not have these lights in installed, and how is California able to trump federal law here?
As it turns out, the state has an active law on the books that makes the federal regulation a moot point, and the absurd reason why will literally blow your mind. According to California Vehicle Code 27606 the provision states that “no person shall own or operate a motor vehicle which is equipped with a light bar or facsimile therof to resemble a motor vehicle used by a peace officer or traffic officer while on duty within that jurisdiction.”
Put all of that political jargon through a translation machine, and on the surface it appears to be a provision addressing individuals that impersonate law enforcement, often for nefarious deeds. However, the law actually goes even further, and clarifies that “any light or device affixed to or mounted to the roof of a vehicle and extending the full width of the roof, or a substantial portion therof which emits amber, red, blue light or any combination of those lights.”
In short, the law serves as a legal version of a ban hammer, and prevents GM in this instance from equipping California-bound Sierra and Silverado HDs with the roof-mounted amber marker lights. While we can see how red and blue lights might be confusing to the majority of motorists, not many departments at the state or federal level use amber-colored lights.
The Michigan State Police for example traditionally uses red hued lights with no amber coloration (that color is more commonly seen on sheriff and other non-MSP vehicles.) Also, the lights in their present form don’t have the ability to blink automatically, so consider us a bit skeptical on the notion that folks will confuse these gigantic trucks for police vehicles. For those in the other 49 states, the lights are typically a $55 dollar option on the Sierra and Silverado HD lineup.
This law also helps keep the upcoming Chevrolet Silverado HD Carhartt Edition from being offered for sale in California due to that variant being equipped standard with the amber marker lights to go along with some of the designer elements that make the truck standout from others in the Silverado lineup.
While this is a more obscure example of California’s legal system in action, it’s actually not the first time we have seen the state flex it’s unique form of legal leverage. The state is better known for having environmental laws that are tougher than federal regulations (due to smog) and before fuel saving technology reached the level that it is today, California bound cars and trucks sold in the 1970s and ’80s were forced to have high levels of environmental equipment installed, which choked horsepower and performance — especially when compared to vehicles sold elsewhere.