Heavy Haul and Oversized Trucking Logo

Oversize Load Pilot Cars: Safeguard Your Over Dimensional Freight

May 4, 2022
 By Heavy Haul and Oversized
Oversize Load Pilot Cars: Safeguard Your Over Dimensional Freight
Last Modified: June 2, 2023
When hauling oversize or supersize heavy-haul loads, a pilot car is required. Our guide will explain everything you need to know regarding these escort vehicles.

The use of oversize load pilot cars is a necessity for hauling many types of large or heavy haul freight. This often includes cargo that’s incredibly long in length or takes up multiple lanes on the road due to width.

Oversize load pilot cars are escort vehicles that guide a heavy haul transport on roads and highways. These cars provide direct communication with a load driver to execute a planned route and bring awareness to other drivers and pedestrians. Laws and regulations surrounding pilot cars vary by state.  

The following guide discusses the reasons and requirements surrounding the use of pilot cars, the process for transporting oversize loads, and how to ensure you’re shipping with the right provider.

Why Do I Need an Oversize Load Pilot Car?

Pilot cars for oversize loads are an absolute necessity when transporting any over dimensional cargo. These vehicles serve as a warning vehicle to anyone on or near the road, and also help guide and protect the driver while they focus on the freight they are moving.

Pilot escort vehicles are a defensive measure against all manner of issues that can come up during the shipment of large oversized items or equipment. Some of the load types transported with the assistance of a pilot car for oversized loads include:

When transporting a load of extraordinary length, height, or width you will require an oversized load lead car and chase cars to alert those around the transport vehicle of its presence on the road and assist with general lane navigation, such as changes and turns. 

It’s similar to how a tugboat guides a large vessel in and out of a port. In this instance, tug boats only guide large vessels in and out of ocean ports. Pilot cars however guide the transport on the entire journey from start to finish.

oversize load pilot cars escorting a section of mobile home

What Scenario Requires an Oversized Load Pilot Car?

Any time a load exceeds the legal size or weight limit for a particular road or highway, an oversized load pilot car is likely required for transporting your freight. The specific regulations and requirements for pilot car escorts can vary depending on the location and the nature of the load, so it's important to research and follow all relevant laws and guidelines.

There are a number of scenarios whereby pilot escort cars are needed. There are multiple scenarios where the use of anywhere between one to four pilot cars may be required for the safe and effective transportation.

When transporting large equipment such as cranes or turbines, a pilot car is necessary to safely guide the oversized load through challenging conditions, especially when it comes to navigating through intersections or other hazardous areas where the width and weight of the load can pose a potential risk to other motorists on the road, highlighting the crucial difference between a wide load vs oversize load.

You may have noticed the inclusion of police escorts along with pilot vehicles in some cases. In the U.S., some states mandate the use of police escort vehicles in coordination with the Department of Transportation (DOT) to ensure the safety of the transport vehicle and all drivers on the road.

Nevertheless, each scenario is unique and special as it pertains to the movement of an oversize load. Pilot cars are what keep these transports and those around them safe. Any accidents that can occur are safeguarded by the deployment of escort cars that bring awareness to the road and the transport driver.

Request A Risk-Free Quote

Our expert logistics team feels a direct obligation to the safety, visibility, and stability of your load. Get a fast, personalized quote from our industry experts. 

Get My Quote

How Transporting Oversize Loads Work?

Heavy haul transportation takes careful planning and precision in order to execute a strategy in a timely and safe manner. The first thing to do is get in touch with a trusted provider or third-party logistics (3PL) company and describe your haul.

The next step is to come up with a plan in coordination with the company in question regarding the width, height, and length of your load. Also, you will need to take into account the type of equipment needed such as a wide load banner or specialized trailer and the appropriate number of pilot (escort) cars needed.

Lastly, you will need to complete paperwork and attain the required permits for any state in the union that your load is being moved in or out of during transportation. This process is lengthy and detailed, so it is important to use a trusted provider that is knowledgeable of all state and federal laws concerning the transport of oversize and supersize hauls.

The Benefits of a Route Survey

There are clear benefits to route surveying the desired path to transport your load from where it currently is to its final destination. There are many variables that are taken into account along with the route survey. 

  • Maximum road weight: The max load allowed on a road or bridge can be crucial, some roads cannot support certain weights without damage.
  • Road clearance: Low-hanging bridges or trees that extend out into the road can be a problem for the transport of their cargo.
  • Narrow roads: When an oversize load travels along a narrow road extra precaution is needed to avoid oncoming traffic, turn radius, and potential road hazards.
  • Short turn radius: Depending on the roads, a 6-wheel truck has a shorter turn radius than 8-wheel trucks. The 6-wheel is often preferred with roads that have a tight turn radius.
  • Congested traffic: When there are areas that have congestion like state roads, highways, or main roads through towns and cities, a survey team will reroute the load in pre-planning.
  • Metropolitan area: Major metropolitan areas are avoided with oversize loads in almost all cases. The survey team will route the load around the city.

These variables play an intricate role in the movement of oversize loads. Conducting a route survey is critical to the success of your transport. This move cannot be achieved without intricate planning and execution from both the pilot car drivers and the transport driver.

front view of a truck with an overwide load visible

Laws and Regulations Surrounding Pilot Cars

Heavy haul transport companies offer wide load services in order to move oversized and supersize loads. Heavy Haul and Oversized understand the importance of not only following the rules set by each state but using the proper escort equipment in an effort to keep your load safe.

The laws and requirements surrounding the use of escort vehicles vary by state. Each state has its own rules regarding the number of pilot cars required by law depending on factors that surround the load itself.

When dealing with an oversize load, it is critical to consult each state’s DOT. There are laws and regulations that govern the transport of wide, oversize, and supersized loads. Each state requires a permit to legally move such loads in their state.

Required Equipment For Pilot Cars and Oversize Loads

Whenever a heavy hauling trucking company uses heavy equipment haulers, the requirements vary by state. The types of pilot car services, car equipment, the number of escort vehicle drivers, and equipment, such as a height pole, are all determined based on different factors.

When transporting oversize loads, there is a wide array of equipment that is necessary to get your load from point A to point B. The equipment required serves the purpose of not only effective transportation, but also safety. 

These large loads are so massive that they cannot go unnoticed. Oversize loads often take up multiple lanes on a road and have incredible lengths and ride heights. This poses an issue for others on the road, such as other cars, pedestrians, and structures.

Pilot Car Requirements

It is essential that the transport company consults the route survey with the pilot car drivers. The following is required equipment on both pilot cars and the tractor which moves the load:

  • Amber caution lights: Two lights mounted on the roof that strobe and rotate.
  • Oversize load banner: Mounted on either the roof or front bumper with visible black lettering.
  • Orange flags: Two 18” by 18” mounted at a 40 to 70-degree angle on top of the vehicle.
  • Height pole: for protection against low bridges or overhangs.
  • CB radio and two-way communication devices: to communicate with the load driver.

The use of amber lights, load banners, flags, height poles, and communication devices are requirements for regulations and public safety.

For example, the table below shows the pilot car services required by the state of Florida. These requirements vary, so it is critical that the pilot car company you choose follows the mandated rules of each state.

Florida Pilot Car Requirements

Transport Vehicle DimensionsPilot Car Requirements
Width: Over 12’ to 14’1 Front
Width: Over 14’ to 16’2 Cars  (Front and Rear)
Width: Over 16’3 Cars (Front and Rear) + Police
Height: Over 14’ 6” to 16’1 Front with High Pole
Height: Over 16’1 Front with High Pole + Police
Length: Over 95’ up to 150’1 Front
Length: Over 150’ to 250’2 Cars (Front and Rear)
Length: Over 250’Two Cars (Front and Rear) + Police
Source: Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Oversize Load

This equipment is mission-critical for the transportation of an oversized load with the use of pilot cars. Every load is different and will have a different deployment of equipment based on the specific factors that surround your load and its destination.

Transport Vehicle Requirements

The requirements for vehicles traveling across the country are federally mandated under the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways (NSIDH). The regulations give the ruleset for max vehicle weight on interstates and highways in the United States.

Heavy haul transport vehicles are specifically designed to transport oversized, overweight, or otherwise specialized loads that cannot be transported using standard commercial vehicles. Here are some of the requirements for heavy haul transport vehicles:

  1. Load Capacity: Heavy haul transport vehicles must have sufficient load capacity to handle the weight and size of the load being transported. This may involve using specialized trailers, such as lowboy or flatbed trailers, that are designed to accommodate oversize loads.
  2. Power and Towing Capacity: Heavy haul transport vehicles must have enough power and towing capacity to move the oversized load safely and efficiently. This may involve using specialized trucks or tractor units with high-powered engines and multiple axles to distribute the weight of the load.
  3. Safety Equipment: Heavy haul transport vehicles must be equipped with specialized safety equipment to ensure the safe transport of the oversized load. This may include extra lights and reflective markings, oversize load signs, and specialized tie-downs, chains, and straps to secure the load during transport.
  4. Permits and Regulations: Heavy haul transport vehicles must comply with all applicable permits and regulations for oversize or overweight loads. This may involve obtaining permits from state and local authorities, following specific route restrictions, and adhering to weight and size limitations.
  5. Expert Drivers and Support Staff: Transporting oversize loads requires skilled and experienced drivers who are familiar with the specialized equipment and regulations involved. In addition, heavy haul transport companies typically have dedicated support staff, including logistics planners and pilot car escorts, to ensure the safe and efficient transport of oversized loads.

USDOT Weight & Axle Regulations

Maximum WeightAxle Type Weight
20,000 poundsSingle Axle Weight
34,000 poundsTandem Axle Weight
80,000 poundsTotal Maximum Allowable Weight
Source: US Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration

Heavy haul transport vehicles are specialized vehicles designed to transport oversized or overweight loads safely and efficiently. They must meet specific load capacity, power, and safety requirements, and comply with all applicable regulations and permits.

pilot car driving ahead of a truck with an oversized load

Driver Requirements

The requirements for truck escort drivers vary depending on each state your load traverses through. However, escort vehicle drivers are required to complete an eight-hour defensive driving course provided by the National Safety Council

Anyone who drives for a pilot car company must also be 18 years of age and possess a valid state-issued commercial driver's license with a class A, B, or C certification at a minimum. The driver must also individually carry or have liability insurance carried by the pilot car company they drive for in their state.

If you are unclear about the laws or regulations surrounding oversize loads and the use of pilot cars. Please visit the DOT of your state or contact one of our experienced heavy haul experts who would be happy to help point you in the right direction.

Expert Consultants Provide Unmatched Customer Service

Reach out to us at (855) 490-2433 or fill out our quick form and a live agent will be in touch shortly.

Reach Out Today

Which States Require Special Certification?

Some states require pilot car drivers to hold a specialized certification. There are several states that recognize each other's certifications and accept them as valid. This initiative reduces the number of registered certifications needed across multiple states.

  1. Arizona
  2. Colorado
  3. Georgia
  4. Florida
  5. Utah
  6. Washington
  7. Oklahoma
  8. North Carolina
  9. Virginia
  10. Pennsylvania
  11. Texas
  12. Kansas
  13. New York
  14. Minnesota

Currently, these14 states mandate that certification must be held in order to pilot escort a wide, oversize, or supersized load. Make sure that you choose a provider with proper certification if shipping your freight in one of these states.

Oversize Load Pilot Car Rates

The costs associated with an oversize load including the use of and pilot cars will vary depending on your shipment particulars. There are a number of options out there that make transporting over dimensional loads a snap.

In general, oversize load pilot car rates can range anywhere from $150 to $500 per hour, with an average rate of around $250 per hour. However, pilot car rates for oversize loads can vary depending on a number of wide-ranging factors. 

Some essential elements to consider when determining the cost is:

  • Size and weight of the load 
  • Cost per mile
  • Distance to be traveled
  • Number of pilot cars required
  • Over dimensional permits.

Rates will also vary further depending on the level of service provided by the pilot car company. Factors such as, the availability of oversize load lead cars, the use of electronic messaging signs, the presence of certified flaggers, and chase cars all contribute to the cost.

All of these factors make it difficult to calculate the total cost of an estimate quickly. That is why you should consult with an expert to go over the requirements of your transport and what you need in order to see it through at the best rate possible with a trusted provider.

Let Heavy Haul and Oversized Facilitate Your Oversized Load With Ease

Using the services of an oversize load pilot car to move your cargo can seem like a daunting task. There is no need to go it alone. Not when there is a complete solution that is unmatched in service and support like Heavy Haul and Oversized. 

Our Heavy Haul and wide load services are the gold standard in the over dimensional freight transportation industry. We will provide a level of service that cannot be met or matched by any other provider. We offer a full suite of white glove services that complement the oversized task of your load:

  • Friendly experts: Individual services without talking to a bot or online algorithms.
  • Paperwork handled: Our team handles all paperwork pertaining to your load.
  • Specialized equipment: The latest in equipment used specifically for your load.
  • Route planning: The most accurate and effective route planning in the industry.

Heavy Haul and Oversized is committed to providing not only peace of mind, value, and dependability, but also unmatched service. Our team feels a direct obligation to the safety, accountability, visibility, and stability of your load. Give our friendly experts a call at (866) 902-2713 or click for a direct quote now.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Heavy Haul and Oversized
315 NE 14th Street #4122
Ocala, FL 34470

(866) 902-2713
Copyright © 2023 Heavy Haul and Oversized. All Rights Reserved