Welcome to the Big League of Oversize Shipments!
Shipping oversize cargo is risky, heavily regulated, very detail extensive, takes lengthy planning, execution and the cost will depend on the type and actual size of the freight being transported. They are called “oversize”, or “over-dimensional” or others may call them “out-of-gauge” freight.
So what is considered oversize? Well, it's basically any cargo that doesn't fit inside a regular sized 53’ enclosed trailer or a 40’ container if for ocean moves. Some machinery and equipment are just too wide, too tall or too long to fit the standard specifications for a container service. In general, the max legal height in most states is 13'6″, but when you account the flatbed deck height of 5′ you are left with 8'6″ max height for the cargo. The maximum legal load width is 8.5 feet (102 inches), and the maximum height limit is also 102 inches (Legal length is typically 48 to 53 feet. The more common measurement that pushes shipments into the “oversize” category is width. Anything over 8.5 feet wide is considered oversized;
Shipments exceeding 12 feet wide may require one to two pilot vehicles in the front and/or back of the flatbed truck. The role of travel escorts is to forewarn flatbed drivers of special circumstances, like accidents, construction zones, bridges, low wires, traffic jams, and other hazards that require careful driving. They also serve in alerting the public of the presence of an oversized vehicle. In most states, oversized loads with travel escorts may only be on the road from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset, Monday through Friday. Many states restrict or prohibit driving over holidays or weekends.
Some trucks may be able to scale heavier, but 46,000 pounds is usually the standard. Weight restrictions are applied on a per axle basis. A shipment might not exceed the total weight limit, but it may exceed the per-axle limits. In this case, simply adjusting the load can make the shipment legal and eliminate the need for special permits. Over dimensional specialized flatbed trailers can handle freight as long as 160’ long, 18’ high, 18’ wide and about 200,000 pounds. Over dimensional flatbeds can have between 18 and 40 wheels.
More often than not, over dimensional freight obstructs a driver’s view in several ways. In this scenario, certified pilots would be needed to cover the front and rear of the trailer. They would stay in constant communication with the driver to ensure the shipment goes smoothly. In addition to variable per-mile rates, shippers typically pay for hotels and other incidentals, known as accessorial, and would be included as part of the overall freight costs.
As you can see transportation of oversized cargo is a complicated procedure that requires very special skills and a high degree of responsibility. As the cargo gets larger and heavier, the more difficult and complex it is to get transportation authorization. As the sizes escalate or gets bigger the more critical the information the shipper must provide in order to ensure proper permits are ordered and to have the required transport support. Over dimensional flatbed permits are typically inexpensive but you need to ensure you have the correct ones.
Each state has different requirements for oversize shipments, so it’s important to know the legal requirements for each state. For that reason, and many others, navigating the specialized world of flatbed shipments can be tricky, especially when shipping large equipment like tractors, combines, bulldozers, cranes, steel beams, wind blades, or prefabricated homes. The size of the item being shipped dictates the necessity of flags or lights on the tractor or trailer. Typically, red flags and amber lights are required for oversized loads to ensure visibility to other traffic.
Travel escorts accompanying an oversize shipment are often also required to have flags and or lights. One must note that the carrier who is directly using its own equipment or asset is the one responsible for obtaining the permits, and they cannot obtain an oversize permit for any load that can be feasibly broken down in size or weight. If dimensions are off, it could cost the shipper thousands of dollars in transportation fees, especially if the shipment is passing through several state lines. Listing the wrong dimensions or weight could even lead to the use of improper equipment, which can be dangerous and/or lead to even bigger fines.