What to expect with over-dimensional freight

Guest editorial by Leah Palnik, PartnerShip

This article was published in the March 2019 edition of NTEA News.

When preparing an over-dimensional freight shipment, the number of restrictions and factors to take into account can be overwhelming. One mistake can have costly consequences to your bottom line and transit times. However, knowing what to expect when getting your shipment ready will help ensure everything goes smoothly.

One challenge when setting up an over-dimensional shipment is that each state has different legal requirements (see the following common categories).

  • Travel time. Many states restrict the hours your carrier can be on the road when transporting an over-dimensional shipment. Generally, travel is restricted to daylight (one hour before sunrise until one hour after sunset), which reduces available time on the road, especially in winter months when days are shorter. Some states may restrict transport during rush hour for major cities, depending on shipment size. If shipping close to a major holiday, note that travel can be restricted both the day of and before.
  • Escort vehicles. Depending on the states through which your cargo is traveling, your carrier may be required to use escort vehicles (also known as pilot vehicles). They help warn other vehicles on the road and can check for low-hanging wires, bridges or any other road hazard the truck may encounter. The number of escort vehicles needed in the front and/or back will be determined by your shipment characteristics and states through which it’s traveling.
  • Route surveys. Safety is a major concern when shipping over-dimensional freight. Route surveys are required by some states for certain oversized shipments to help ensure load safety, prevent public property damage and protect motorists. During route surveys, a pilot vehicle will go through the exact shipment route proposed to document potential obstructions or hazards like tight turns or low bridges.
  • Safety equipment. Depending on shipment dimensions, flags and lights may be required on the tractor, trailer and/or escort vehicles. This helps with visibility for other motorists on the road. Red or orange flags and amber lights are typically used.

When shipping over-dimensional freight, you not only have to follow state restrictions, but also obtain permits from each state your freight passes through. A permit will include information such as shipment dimensions, contents, and origin and destination. It will also spell out conditions that need to be met as far as safety equipment, escort vehicles and restricted times. It’s important to note there are permit fees, which vary by state.

While a lot goes into planning for an over-dimensional load, much of the responsibility falls on the carrier, which creates the suggested route and submits it to the states to obtain permits. The carrier also makes arrangements for escort vehicles and other safety equipment.

As the shipper, your main concern should be providing as many details as possible to ensure a smooth process. When requesting a quote, make sure you have your dimensions. The length, width, height and weight will all determine which state requirements you need to follow. Additionally, provide information about your commodity, including model number, serial number, value and description. On top of that, it’s helpful to include details on how it will be loaded and unloaded.

Due to the nature of over-dimensional freight, you’ll need to get a quote at least two weeks prior to when the load will be moved. All of the pieces that contribute to moving an over-dimensional load take time to secure. These restrictions also affect transit times. You can estimate 50 miles per hour to travel, but add a cushion to account for route changes or other unforeseen issues.

Expect to pay more than with a typical load due to line items for permits, escorts and an over-dimensional surcharge. All of these extra steps take time and cost money, so your quote will be calculated accordingly.           

PartnerShip can help NTEA member companies save on inbound, outbound, small and large shipments through its NTEA Shipping Program, a free member benefit. To speak with a specialist or learn more, call 800-599-2902, email sales@PartnerShip.com or visit ntea.com/partnerships.