Oversized Loads And You: Truckers Taking On Large Loadsby Jake Tully - Published: 6/07/2017
Whether you’ve been in the front seat of a fellow cab or you’ve seen one rolling down the highway while making a cross-country trip from the golden state of California to Florida, oversized loads are a common division of trucks in the United States. The specialized trucking job sees drivers hauling freight of nearly any conceivable size and cargo division.
Positions for oversized freight hauling can be found across the country, with opportunities to haul other commercial vehicle equipment – think construction equipment – to literal places people live in – domiciles and trailers – to ensure that the “unmovable” is not such a Herculean challenge after all.
Drivers with an oversized load truck driving job are frequently paid well for their efforts and are among the most sought after and in-demand drivers within the industry.
Defining the Oversized Load Industry
Oversized loads are frequently recognized as among the most complex jobs within the commercial trucking industry. Sometimes lazily referred to as “heavy haul” trucking positions, drivers who are taking on oversized loads are in their own specialized class of commercial truckers. Make no mistake, however, “heavy haul” drivers may refer to many different positions within trucking.
Oversized loads do belong to a large category, however. The simplest explanation in what an oversized load is perhaps best defined as the commercial vehicle making its way down the road with a “wide load” banner across the back of the truck bed.
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Many immediately think of a trucker who is slowly yet surely transporting a house down the highway or the driver who is taking a small biplane down the freeway either to be retired or for use for some aeronautical fanatics.
The loads for oversized hauling can range from somewhat modest – farm equipment such as tractors - to astronomically large loads – think military-sized equipment, even something as large as a wing for a plane. (With this in mind, one can imagine that the pay scale fluctuates as well as the type of freight one may be hauling.)
It’s safe to say that there may not be two days that are alike for an oversized load trucker and for some drivers, this variety is truly invaluable.
What Skills Do These Drivers Need?
Aside from the basic prerequisite of a CDL license and being of the correct age to operate a truck (21 in order to driver interstate, 18 to drive intrastate) many trucking companies will look to the more experienced drivers to take on oversized loads. Similar to the field of specialized loads that require a driver to have endorsements in order to take on a haul, companies who hire oversized load drivers are not granting a trucking job to just anyone – they want the most proficient and skilled drivers out there.
Many drivers who apply for oversized hauling positions are veterans of the road, sometimes with an upwards of 10 years of experience behind the wheel. This isn’t to say that a decade’s worth of experience is the minimum number in which a driver will be considered, but it is a relatively safe starting point to think about how long one must be on the road in order to safely operate a truck carrying this type of load.
The other factor one must consider in pursuing a driving job with oversized loads is where they will be hauling this freight. Taking a large piece or machinery or equipment down the road is a daunting enough task in itself- taking it through the ranges in Texas may be an entirely different story.
Speaking of endorsements – many times a driver will find that their chances of getting an oversized load job are greatly increased when they have Tanker, Hazmat and doubles/triples endorsement to accompany their CDL. Oversized loads may not require a driver to consistently use their endorsements when taking on a load, but obtaining them is a sign of an excellent and dedicated driver.
Hazards of Oversized Loads
As with any type of freight a driver may haul, there are many different road hazards that one must face. With oversized loads, the hazards are numerous – much like hauling a hazardous load.
Visibility – Drivers have to imagine that hauling a large piece of equipment, a house, or any other super-sized freight will present an inherent difficulty in navigating the road. Ensuring that one’s visibility is well-maintained is paramount to success in dealing with oversized loads. It may not be an ideal situation for the sake of visibility, but visual awareness is the most important component in ensuring the well-being of all drivers on the road.
Care In Transport – Oversized loads require some of the greatest diligence in transportation as far as any cargo is concerned. When driving with oversized loads, truckers must keep in mind that the cargo they are dealing with is often an incredibly important piece of someone’s life or an integral component of America’s infrastructure. Whereas a few broken boxes or a slightly damaged pallet is considered by some to be a hazard of trucking, oversized loads see zero to no wiggle room in accounting for damaged goods. All necessary steps must be taken in order to see that freight arrives in the exact same condition in which it left – minus some dirt and dust from the road, of course.
Timeliness – It’s true that many oversized loads will not necessarily be temperature sensitive or will fall into a category of items that need to hit a retailer’s shelves by a certain date, but oversized loads nonetheless will fall within a particular time frame for delivery – in fact, it’s one of the chief reasons why trucking was chosen as the means of transportation versus an intermodal route or shipment via sea cargo. And although there may not be any reefer-adjacent items that an oversized load driver will likely haul, keeping a load safe from the elements is certainly a concern. Even the most hardy and expensive equipment will suffer when exposed to the snow in Michigan, for example. Drivers who stick to a prescribed route and keep on trucking will see little problems in the quality of their delivery.
What About Those Pilot Cars?
Depending on the nature of an oversized load, some truckers will see accompaniment by escort cars, or pilot cars on the road. These commercial, passenger vehicles can range from pickup trucks to SUV’s or even sedans driving alongside an oversized load.
Pilot cars may not follow a load throughout the entirety of its trip – they may come in at certain parts of a trip where the drive is considered to be more treacherous or difficult to navigate. Pilot cars are present to scout the road ahead in the event that an emergency arises ahead or if conditions down the road are perhaps worse than they appear. Pilot cars can also be utilized for something as simple as a upcoming bridge on a route, ensuring that there is safe and clear passage for a truck.
Pilot cars can communicate with the truck via CB radio in order to inform the driver and to make a divergent plan if necessary. These accompanying vehicles also carry emergency equipment and tools in the event that the truck needs maintenance or if a driver needs assistance.
The basic requirement that all states have set for pilot cars is that they carry the necessary equipment to ensure safety and reliability on the road – road cones, fire retardant, road flares, and other safety-related devices/tools. Unlike truckers obtaining commercial driver’s licenses, the pilot cars do not have an additional license (outside of a Class C license) that is required in every state, but many areas will require pilot cars to receive state certification as well as specific insurance requirements.
Choosing an Oversized Load Career
One of the most beneficial aspects of an oversized load position is working with a trucking company that allows a driver to use the full extent of their road expertise and professional capabilities behind the wheel. Having the opportunity to take on an oversized load is considered a privilege by many, and the opportunity may not arise as frequently as many drivers may wish for it to.
Another important aspect of oversized trucking is the pay that comes with the position. Many estimate that the national average pay for a driver taking on an oversized load is near 42 – 53 cents per mile. For drivers who are fortunate enough to regularly take on oversized loads, they may see an annual salary of over $54,000 – a figure calculated at drivers taking loads somewhat frequently.
Moreover, some drivers will appreciate the opportunity to haul freight that is useful and necessary for individuals as well as the entire country alike. Drivers who take pride in transporting loads that are highly anticipated and much-needed ought to consider a job transporting oversized loads and see the impact their driving skills can have.