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Rules and Regulations for Oversize and Heavy Loads

rules and regulations for heavy loads

Roadways are generally made with standard vehicles in mind, but they are also used to haul things like lumber, construction equipment, mobile homes and other large loads. When you need to move something that either takes up more of the roadway or exerts more weight on the roadway than is typically allowed, then you’ll need to get a special permit and abide by certain regulations.

Though these regulations differ from state to state, they tend to be pretty similar, so we’re going to take a look at some basics of how to transport oversized and overweight loads and what sorts of rules you may need to follow.

What Is Considered an Oversize Load?

what is an oversize load

An oversize load is one that extends beyond the standard limits for height, length and width and cannot reasonably be broken down to comply with the standard limits. These limits can differ from state to state across the US, though some standards are fairly similar across states. When it comes to size, the relevant measurements are:

  • Height: There is no federally-mandated height limit, but most states set their limit at 13.5 or 14 feet with few exceptions. These limits are mainly meant to allow for safe clearance under overpasses, though some older overpasses are too low and must be avoided when you’re transporting a tall load.
  • Length: Limits for length differ substantially from state to state. Length really becomes an issue when making turns. If the bed of your trailer and the load it’s carrying will swing out and block other lanes whenever you make a turn, then you’ll need escort vehicles or pilot cars to assist with traffic control.
  • Width: The limit for width is consistently 8.5 feet across states since it is based on the width of lanes on a highway, which are typically 12 feet across. If the width of your load exceeds this limit excessively to the point that it extends into other lanes, then you may go beyond the typical wide load designation to a “superload,” which will entail more requirements for safe transport.

Regulations and Rules for Oversized Load Transportation

Oversized load regulations differ from state to state. You’ll need to fill out an application for a permit from your state department of transportation. The permit will entail a fee and will be good for a limited amount of time, such as a week. In addition to obtaining the permit, you’ll have to abide by the oversized load rules your state has set.

These rules will likely specify the days and times you are permitted to haul your oversized load and how you should alert other vehicles on the road to the presence of an oversized load. This usually involves hanging a black and yellow banner stating “oversize load” or “wide load” along with orange or red flags on every corner of the load where it extends beyond the bed of the trailer.

You may also need to have lights at the corners of the load if you’re traveling after dark or when there is low visibility due to weather conditions. However, in many cases, you’ll be limited to transporting your load during daylight hours, with the exception of just before sunrise and after sunset.

In some cases, you’ll also be required to have pilot cars escort your oversized load, either in the front or front and back. This is typically only necessary when your load is wide enough that is begins to encroach on other lanes, but your state may require pilot vehicles for every oversized load.

What Is Considered a Heavy Load?

A heavy, or overweight, load is one that exceeds the normal weight limits for vehicles and cargo on the highway. While it is still up to states to issue permits for heavy loads, the federal government has set weight limits that are consistent across the US interstate system. There are three types of weight limits to be aware of:

  • Gross weight: Gross weight is simply the total combined weight of the vehicle and the load it’s carrying. The gross weight limit for vehicles is 80,000 pounds. When hauling heavy cargo, it is easy to exceed this standard limit. 
  • Single-axle weight: Single-axle weight is the amount of weight on axles whose centers are within 40 inches of each other. This limit is 20,000 pounds.
  • Tandem-axle weight: Tandem-axle weight is the total weight applied to multiple consecutive axles which are more than 40 inches apart on center. This limit is 34,000 pounds.

Regulations and Rules for Heavy Load Transportation

rules and regulations for oversize loads

As with oversized loads, in the case of overweight loads, you’ll also need to apply for a permit with your state’s department of transportation and abide by their rules for transporting heavy loads.

Unless an overweight load is also oversized, it shouldn’t encroach on other vehicles on the road. Therefore, you likely won’t have to post banners, flags or extra lights to alert other vehicles that they’re sharing the roadway with an overweight load. Instead, the rules for moving heavy loads are typically more focused on keeping the roadway itself safe.

Your state department of transportation will likely require you to submit your planned route for transporting your heavy load ahead of time. This way, they can confirm that the route is safe and won’t compromise the structural integrity of bridges or other surfaces that may not be able to hold up to the pressure exerted by the load. Bridges that are fatigued should have a “load restricted” sign posted to show they are off-limits to overweight loads.

Once you receive your permit and it’s time to haul your load from Point A to Point B, make sure you stick to the route you submitted without deviation to ensure you avoid any restricted areas.

Oversized and Overweight Hauling From Equip Trucking

When you want to safely and conveniently move a large or heavy load, consider partnering with an experienced overweight and oversized trucking partner like Equip Trucking. Hauling oversized and heavy loads can be a hassle when you’re not used to dealing with the rules and regulations, but at Equip Trucking, we have the expertise to handle these big jobs. We know the rules for heavy equipment transportation inside and out, so you can trust us to handle your hauling job with professionalism.

With over 30 years in the business, Equip Trucking knows how to get the job done safely and efficiently, so you don’t have to take on this challenging task on your own. We’re based out of the Philadelphia, PA area, but our service area extends throughout the surrounding area. Whether you’re operating in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware or New Jersey, Equip Trucking is here to help you haul your construction equipment, farm machinery and other heavy or oversize loads. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you with your next hauling job.