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November 2018

RGN driver going through the California Redwoods

By | NewsUpdates

What you need to know about Heavy Hauls, Over-dimensional, and Super loads in the logistics industry.

1. Is there a Difference Between “Heavy Haul” and “Oversized or Over Dimensional Freight?

A “heavy haul” company will provide 10 or more axle configurations to support cargo that could be over 100,000 lbs. These configurations are compiled by adding jeeps and boosters to the trailer (sometimes many depending on the weight of the cargo).

Over dimensional freight is any item that exceeds one or more of the maximum legal-size for each state. The maximum length is usually 53’. The maximum width of 8’6” is basically standard throughout the states since it is based on the standard width of a highway lane, which is 12’ for interstates and major highways. Height (on the trailer) is about 13’ 6”. However, each U.S. state has slightly different requirements for oversized/overweight shipments including over-hang. As a general rule, any state east of the Mississippi River will limit the height of cargo/load to 13’ 6”.

Cargo that exceeds any these parameters and is non-reducible in size is considered oversized or over dimensional and requires a permit before being shipped, for each state traveled through.

Weight restrictions are calculated on a per axle basis. If a shipment exceeds the per-axle limit but not the total weight limit, the load can be re-adjusted eliminating the need and costs for overweight permits. If a load can be broken down in size, then permits cannot and do not need to be obtained.

2. Research

Transporting over dimensional freight requires experience, concentration and research with a team of professionals on the road and in the office to ensure a safe delivery.

It is important that you do your research and know that you are sending in the correct trailer type and size. You would need to know the legal requirements for each state your load is traveling through. It is crucial that the driver or carrier carries enough cargo insurance to ensure the cost of the equipment, should the unexpected happen. Research, research, research. It is important that you know the type of equipment that you are hauling and the trailer that you are using to transport the equipment on. Mistakes are very costly and can be hazardous.

To plan for the correct trailer type, you need to know the exact dimensions and weight of the equipment being transported.

3. Pilot Vehicles/ Escorts/ Accessorials

In most states, any shipments over 12’ wide require pilot vehicles/escorts. Their role is to protect or forewarn the driver of low wires, construction zones, accidents, bridges, and other potential hazards while alerting the public of the presence of an oversized vehicle. For cargo that is over height, two pilot cars are used with a height pole attached to the lead pilot driver. This lead pilot/escort driver usually runs about a quarter mile ahead of the load, giving the truck driver ample warning if the pole hits a low hanging power line or any other unforeseen problems.

Also, having an accessorial (list of potential charges) in place when accepting the load will cut down on any unforeseen expenses to you and your customer. The accessorial will have rates in place for any over-nights, layovers, per diems, detention at a fair rate to driver and escorts, hotel costs, etc… that could occur during transportation or the delay of unloading. No one likes surprises when it comes to transporting an over dimensional or heavy haul. Especially when the surprise involves money not calculated in advance. An accessorial takes the surprise out of any unforeseen scenario and puts all involved on the same playing field.

4. Restrictions that Calculate in to Scheduling of Delivery

Before the driver begins his transport, any permits that are required for each state traveled must be obtained BEFORE entering the roadway and with exact travel routes in place. In calculating an estimated time/ date of delivery, most oversized loads with escorts may only be on the road from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. Some states may allow travel at night with over dimensional freight, and many states prohibit driving during weekends and holidays. It is important to check the individual state restrictions for each state your load will travel through.

5. What is the Difference Between Divisible and Indivisible/Non-divisible Loads?

Basically, an indivisible load can be broken down while a non-divisible load cannot.

Paul Jakubicek explains the difference very well in his article, ‘Explaining the difference between divisible and indivisible loads.

6. What is a super load?

Again, the states have a broad range of what is considered a super load. In general, however, a super load is when the load exceeds the dimensions of a state’s “routine permit limits” and is non-divisible. This means the commodity is going to exceed the routine permit limits in either one or a combination of limits for the following:





Transporting a super load can require the following:

  • Drawing or sketch of commodity
  • State Approval- This can take up to several months
  • Engineering Survey
  • Route Survey
  • Police Escorts
  • Pilot cars
  • Permits for each state
  • Shipper’s letter
  • Bridge Analysis

Remember Research #2? Well, this is where it can make or break you if you do not do your research. Some states, some sharing the same border, for example may differentiate what is classified as a super load at 200,000 lbs. or over while the bordering state classifies super loads in their state at 130,000 lbs.

When reviewing a sketch of the commodity to be transported keep in mind that the states are looking for the following:

  • Dimensions
  • Axle Spacing
  • Axle loadings
  • Tires per axle
  • Tire size

With having your research complete you now know that a traffic control plan is looked for needed on super loads. These include:

  • Route
  • Traffic control
  • Estimated traffic delays
  • Lane restrictions
  • Overhead obstacles ex: traffic lights that can be moved
  • Escort vehicles and flaggers
  • Emergency vehicle navigation
  • Make sure that the roads leading to delivery is bonded if need be.

225,000 lb. Oil and Gas Compressor transported from TX. To NY.

Heavy Hauls, Over-dimensional loads, and Super loads can definitely be exciting to work, however, they require an experienced team that are quick problem solvers and can perform preventative action before a problem does arise.

Be sure to take pictures of your transportation moves. You will reflect on them from years to come.

Robin Merritt-Price
President of AMP Specialized Logistics