Oct 20, 2016
Just like U.S. states have a variety of climates and topographies, they also can have different legal requirements for oversize shipments. Successfully navigating the world of flatbed shipments can be a tricky task, especially when shipping loads like cranes, bulldozers, combines, tractors, wind blades, steel beams, or prefabricated homes. Before moving any flatbed load, make sure to know the exact dimensions and weight of the shipment to ensure both legality and proper delivery according to customer expectations. Here are five best practices for oversize shipments.
1. Know the legal limits for flatbed loads
While fairly consistent from state to state, the legal limits for standard shipments can vary some. As a general guide, the maximum load with is 8.5 feet, or 102 inches, and the maximum height is also 102 inches. Legal length is usually 48 to 53 feet, with maximum weight near 46,000 pounds. To check the regulations for a particular state, consult its transportation department.
2. Find out if your load is oversized.
Restrictions for weight apply on a per-axle basis. While a shipment may not exceed the total weight limit, it could still exceed the per axle limit. If this is the case, merely adjusting the load can render the shipment legal and eliminate the need for special permits. More commonly, the measurement that pushes loads into the “oversize” category is width. As noted above, shipments over 8.5 feet wide are oversize, and shipments over 12 feet wide may require 1 or 2 pilot vehicles in front of and behind the flatbed. It is always the flatbed driver’s responsibility to obtain the permits, and oversize permits cannot be obtained for loads that can be broken down in size or weight.
3. Learn the rules for travel escorts
For many states, shipments over 12 feet in width require travel escorts, also known as pilot vehicles. On top of per-mile rates, shippers pay for hotels and other incidental costs known as accessorials that are included as part of the overall freight cost. Travel escorts alert flatbed drivers of circumstances including accidents, traffic jams, low-hanging wires, bridges, construction zones, and other hazards. They also serve to alert the public of the presence of an oversize load.
4. Understand factors that will impact your schedule
Most states restrict oversize loads with travel escorts to be on the road only during a specific time frame: from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset, Monday through Friday. There are restrictions in many states which prohibit driving on holidays and weekends. Necessary permits include all states traveled with exact travel routes specified. All of these factors can present unique challenges for shippers on tight schedules.
5. Know the meaning and requirements for special markings
The size of the shipment dictates the necessity for flags or lights on the tractor or trailer. Red flags and amber lights are usually required for oversize loads, with accompanying travel escorts often also required to have flags or lights.
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