Why are Pilot Cars and Escort Vehicles Needed for Oversize Loads?
Escort vehicles, also known as pilot cars or pilot vehicles, in many areas are typically a compact or small pickup outfitted with a variety of warning equipment. Trucks carrying oversized loads or convoys of large vehicles often require an escort vehicle. In some cases, law enforcement escorts are necessary in addition to regular pilot cars. As well as traveling alongside heavy loads, pilot vehicles are often used in areas such as construction sites and airports for taxiing large equipment and guiding motorists through potentially dangerous areas. In many cases, the company providing a pilot vehicle will specialize in either oversized transport, convoy escorts for high-security or high-profile events, or both.
Where Do Pilot Cars Drive When Escorting Oversize Loads?
On two-lane roads, an escort will typically take up a position in front of the load when accompanying oversized loads. On larger roads, e.g., four- or six-lane highways, escorts often transition from the front to the rear. However, this depends on the size of the load; oversized loads may require two or more escorts at all times, one at the front of the convoy and one at the rear.
Since it is illegal in most areas for the pilot car at the convoy’s front to cross the center line into oncoming traffic, it can be more difficult for them to get oncoming traffic to stop for the over-dimensional load that’s traveling behind them. This is especially true in areas where the roads narrow significantly. Coming up to narrow bridges, for example, the lead car will radio back to the truck driver to advise them of oncoming traffic, so they can stop before the bridge and wait for a gap in the traffic to cross over.
Rear pilot cars will remain following at a safe distance from the rear of a truck carrying an oversized load. If more than one truck is traveling as part of the pack, the vehicle will be found after the convoy’s last truck. Pilot cars at the rear may switch lanes at short notice and help to slow down or block traffic by occupying other lanes when trucks and trailers carrying oversized loads need to make a turning, as the cargo will need to cross lanes to do so.
When are Pilot Cars Required for Heavy Loads?
Pilot vehicles are needed to legally transport oversized loads through almost every state in the U.S. Each state has its own requirements that heavy haulers need to meet to be considered safe to travel on that state’s highways. Texas pilot vehicles are required to escort loads that exceed the following dimensions:
· Width between 14′ and 16′
· Width exceeding 16′
· Height exceeding 17′
· Length exceeding 110′
· Front or rear overhang exceeds 20′
As in many other states, the number of pilot vehicles varies based on the types of roads used. For example, two-lane highways only require one pilot car at the front, whereas dividing routes also need rear escorts. For the largest shipments, those exceeding 16′ width, 18′ height, and 125′ length, front and rear pilots are usually required on all roads.
In addition to being a useful tool for blocking off lanes when large trucks carrying over-dimensional loads need to make a turning, pilot vehicles are required overall to increase road safety and warn other road users. Pilot vehicles typically warn other road users using flags, lights, and other safety features.
What Safety Features Do Pilot Cars Contribute to Transport?
Many ‘normal’ vehicles can easily be outfitted to be used as a pilot car when necessary. Not only are pilot cars equipped with CB radios so they can remain in contact with other members of the fleet to issue warnings, but they may also be required by state law to travel with height poles, warning flags, amber lighting, and oversized load signs on display, depending on the route. Many states have additional emergency equipment required as standard, such as fluorescent clothing, warning triangles, and road flares.
In a nutshell, pilot cars and escort vehicles are needed for oversize loads because they increase security and warn other road users about the dangers ahead.
Heavy Haulers provides pilot car and escort vehicle services in all 50 states. We have top quality trailers and escorts to transport your oversize loads anywhere you need them to be. For more information, give us a call now!
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