Wideload Transport, Part 2: Shipping Oversize Cargo
If your heavy equipment shipment exceeds dimensional rules, you’ll have to ship your equipment as an oversize load. That’ll cost you time, money and a bunch of hassle.
The transportation of oversize loads is regulated by the states. You’ll have to apply for permits from each state in which your oversize load will travel. Since state rules differ, you’ll probably need a transportation agent to help you ship your wideload.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) sets dimension standards for commercial vehicles on the interstate highway system. FHA dictates weight regulations, width regulations and minimum length rules. States determine their own height regulations and maximum length rules.
States are allowed exceptions to some FHA rules too. Basic maximum dimensions include:
Weight: 80,000 gross vehicle weight
Height: 13 feet 6 inches
Width: 8 feet 6 inches
Length: 65 feet
Super Load transport designation is reserved for cargo that exceeds routine oversize permit limits. For example, in Missouri shipments are Super Loads if they exceed 16 feet in height; or 16 feet in width; or 150 feet in length; or 160,000 pounds in gross weight. Super Loads usually require police escorts, as well as civilian escorts.
Wideload Shipping Rules
When your load exceeds any of the state dimension restrictions, an oversize transport permit is required. Usually it’s your weight, height or width that pushes your shipment into oversize territory.
States issue temporary permits that contain explicit instructions on when, where, and how you can ship your oversize load. Trip permits specify the exact times and dates on which you can ship. Blanket permits allow you to move your load any time during the period covered by the permit.
States create categories of oversize shipments based upon dimensions. As you graduate to the next category, you’re slapped with more restrictions and more escort vehicles. Oversize dimensions can include:
Weight: Some states apply a percentage formula to maximum oversize weight. For instance, wide loads less than 125% of the maximum weight are allowed continuous travel.
Height: The first category usually runs to 16-feet high or 18-feet high. Even those limits require escort drivers with poles to lift wires.
Width: Up to 10-feet wide is the first category. If you’re more than 12-feet wide, federal rules require escort cars in front and in back.
Length: Most states set 75 feet as the first oversize length limit. You also get five feet or 10 feet of rear overhang as an oversize load.
Obtaining Oversize Permits
Most states provide online registration links for shipping your oversize load. Some states make you fax your information. One option is to contract with a professional permit company that knows how to navigate the rules of the states in which you’ll be traveling.
Your wideload bill also includes tolls. Information you’ll need to provide to obtain oversize transport permits includes:
Hauler information: Your carrier must show the state insurance documentation, vehicle registration and business information. In addition, your carrier will need authorization to work in the state.
Oversize dimensions: Your dimensions determine whether you need escorts vehicles, and how many. Most oversize shipments require at least one escort. Sometimes you’ll need police escorts.
Time of movement: States restrict the time and day on which you can ship an oversized load. Again, when you can move your load depends on its dimensions. Super Loads often move at night.
Routing Oversize Transports
You’ll need someone to map out the route your oversize load will travel. Your logistics specialist works with local authorities to determine the most efficient path for your load to take.
States use the FHA’s bridge formula to calculate how much weight each bridge can support. Bridges along the route that have lower weight limits than the load weighs are bypassed. Areas that are examined include:
Lanes: Width is the issue here. Your load must travel on roads that can support the width of your shipment. Local authorities determine which roads are available to oversize shipments transport.
Bridges: Weight and height are the issues here. Bridges on your route must be capable of supporting your load. Bridges over your route must be high enough to allow your load to pass under.
Wires: Like bridges, overhanging wires are a problem for tall loads. Escort personnel can provide extra clearance by pushing low-hanging wires higher with a pole as your load passes underneath.
Traffic: Your routing specialist also takes into consideration regular traffic flows, as well as road construction, when planning your route. Special time restrictions apply in congested areas like large cities.
Scheduling Oversize Transports
Each state has rules about when you can ship an oversize loads. Regular oversize loads are transported during the day. Super Loads might have to ship at night, when there’s no traffic.
Federal holidays are restricted. Certain locations within the state, such as the main cities, have special rules to avoid traffic. When scheduling your oversize shipment, you’ll need to pay special attention to:
Day: All states allow transport Monday through Friday. Some states restrict Saturday traffic. No state allows oversize transport on Sunday.
Time: Most states say oversize transport can begin 30 minutes before sunrise, and must end by 30 minutes after sundown.
Employing Escort Vehicles
Escort vehicles are used to clear the path for oversize loads. In addition to directing traffic, escort drivers also raise wires along the path that might hamper progress.
Dimensions determine when escort vehicles are required. Larger loads require more escort vehicles. For instance, some states require two escort vehicles in front and two in back for loads over 20 feet wide.
Escort vehicle are required to have the following equipment:
Lights: Usually rotating and flashing. States dictate the color, type, size and brightness of the lights escort vehicles must possess.
Signs: States also dictate the colors and letter sizes on wideload banners. Most states require identification signs on vehicle doors.
Flags: States tell you what size of caution flags escort vehicles need, and where to deploy them onboard. Stop paddles are required.
Radios: States require two-way communications, such as citizen’s band radio or push-to-talk mobile phones. Communication is crucial.
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