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Can Heavy Haul Loads Damage Local Roads?

The simple answer is yes, heavy haul loads damage local roads. Heavy hauler traffic has increased significantly over the decades and the loads are heavier. Cargo was typically shipped by rail when the majority of local and even the interstate highway system was created. The infrastructure of local roads and bridges that heavy haulers travel on weren’t designed to accommodate the heavy weights of current cargo being transported.

Infrastructure

Once a shining example of what a nation could accomplish, the road and bridge systems in the U.S. are nearing their end of life. That’s been amply demonstrated by bridge and road collapses across the nation. The type of materials with which local roads are constructed also play a role in how much damage a heavy hauler may inflict. New roads and repairs are being performed in the cheapest way possible.

Roadways and Heavy Haul Loads

Pavement is typically designed to last for 20 years. An influx of heavier farm equipment, heavy haulers, and even local passenger vehicles has narrowed that lifespan to an estimated 7 years. The financial resources for maintaining those roadways haven’t kept pace with the damage done to local roads and funds are often used ineffectively or inefficiently.

Much of the degradation to roads is due to neglect. Legislators have failed to plan for the expense associated with increased traffic and material costs, preferring to place roads low on their list of priorities. Damaged roads and bridges increase maintenance costs for vehicles, constitute a safety issue, and contribute to high insurance rates.

Weather

Extremes in weather also play a part in damage to local roads. Potholes, cracked pavement and washouts exacerbate the demise of roads and it’s compounded by heavy haulers and others that use the roadways. Climate change will intensify the problem and should act as an incentive for all legislative bodies to act on the situation.

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Heavy Haul Drivers in High Demand

The trucking industry is facing a shortage of drivers and nowhere is that more evident than in the heavy haul industry. Heavy haul drivers are in extremely high demand due to their expertise in transporting heavy and bulky cargos – that can be worth millions of dollars – to their destination quickly, efficiently and safely.

Heavy Haul Drivers

Heavy haulers are specialists in transporting equipment, whether it’s from one state to another, to Canada or Mexico, or to ports for shipping overseas. Heavy haul drivers have an advanced level of expertise. One reason for the demand is that older drivers are retiring, while the need for heavy haul drivers is increasing. It’s estimated that approximately 1.1 million new drivers will need to be hired over the next 10 years within all areas of the trucking industry.

High Demand

From construction materials to high-end mining equipment, heavy haul companies are struggling to obtain the highly trained and experienced drivers they need. Failure to find those drivers is impacting deliveries now and the situation will only get worse as time goes on. A lack of heavy haul drivers has the potential to severely interrupt supply chains and the ability for companies to prosper.

Heavy haul drivers transport a wide diversity of items ranging from wind generator blades to submersibles and it’s a specialty service that requires an elevated level of safety, licensing and training to produce qualified drivers. Those drivers transport loads that exceed conventional width, height, length and weights using specially designed trailers.

Lifestyle

Being a heavy haul driver is also a lifestyle choice to which not everyone is suited, which further increases the demand for drivers. It requires a significant amount of time away from home. A substantial number of heavy haul drivers also opted to take traditional delivery truck positions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Those actions and others resulted in a shortage of fully qualified heavy haul drivers to fill an increasing need.

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What is a 5th Wheel Trailer?

Many people have heard the term “5th wheeler,” but few know what it means. Essentially, it’s a way for semi tractors to connect to the trailers they’re hauling. Some travel trailers and recreational vehicles are also called 5th wheel trailers. In the trucking industry, the “5th wheel” refers to the U-shaped coupling plate that’s mounted on the tractor that will pull a specialized trailer. The plate enables the trailer to rotate for an additional level of maneuverability in tight spaces.

Origins of 5th Wheel

The term 5th wheel is a play on words that originated during the use of horse-drawn carriages and wagons in days long past. In the event that a wheel was broken, a fifth wheel was traditionally attached to the back of the carriage or wagon.

In the early 1900s, the term fell out of general usage when passenger vehicles came equipped with a fifth wheel that became known as the spare tire. The full-size tires eventually gave way to “donut” spares in the 1980s, an attempt to save manufacturers money and increase fuel efficiency.

Trucking Industry

In the trucking industry, the 5th wheel coupling has been utilized for almost 100 years. The assembly provides an enhanced level of safety when transporting heavy loads and it’s especially effective for heavy haulers. A 5th wheel assembly offers enhanced stability and handling for both tractor and trailer in adverse weather conditions or damaged roads. The coupling method provides ease of use for connecting and disconnecting trailers from tractors.

A 5th wheel assembly provides a more stable and secure coupling between the tractor and trailer than a gooseneck hitch and it’s also quieter and smoother. The use of the 5th wheel coupling is an essential component for heavy haulers. User-friendly, technology-assisted 5th wheel connections and disconnects are becoming more common as new drivers enter the industry, many of whom have no previous connection to the trucking industry.

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Evidence of Quality Heavy Equipment Export Service

The success of any heavy equipment exporting relies on the experience and expertise of the heavy hauler company. It doesn’t matter whether the equipment’s destination is Canada, Mexico or somewhere overseas, it’s essential that people choose the right heavy hauler. The following are some things to keep in mind when hiring a heavy hauler for export services.

Compare Costs for Heavy Equipment Export

Exporting equipment is a highly complicated and complex process. Obtain quotes from at least three companies. Let the old adage “you get what you pay for” be a guide. Exporting heavy equipment and similar items is expensive. Heavy haulers that brag about cheap pricing may offer those services, but neglect essential steps to actually get equipment across borders. A contract should explain in exacting detail what the company provides.

Experience

Talk with friends and others in the industry to discover who they’ve used to haul their equipment and if they were happy with the services provided. Look for a heavy hauler that provides end-to-end services that include loading, transport and the paperwork required.

Trailers

A reputable heavy hauler will have a variety of trailers available to accommodate the needs of multiple types of equipment to be transported. The tractors and trailers should be well-maintained and the company will be able to load equipment safely.

Safety First

Heavy hauler companies pride themselves – and build their reputations upon – safe delivery of the equipment they transport. Look into the company’s safety record. Equipment should be cleaned before loading, safely secured, and haulers must adhere to best practices. That also includes mapping out the quickest and safest route, along with providing an escort vehicle when required.

Paperwork

Exporting anything to another company requires specialized documentation to make it through customs. Each country has specific licensing, legal requirements, and paperwork that’s required. Reliable heavy haulers are familiar with those documents and are able to supply them so the client’s cargo doesn’t languish in a holding area or on a dock.

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Does Your Haul Require a Tarp?

Some states have strict tarping laws which require a tarp, while others don’t, but it’s important for heavy haulers to know that the federal government does. Drivers must be cognizant and compliant with tarping laws established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), along with those established by the state(s) through which they’ll be traveling.

Loose Materials

It’s always assumed that dump trucks and certain types of trailers are hauling loose materials such as dirt, sand, gravel, tar-and-chip, trash, recyclables, and scrap materials. In Florida, it typically doesn’t apply to transporting agricultural products. There are 11 states that have no tarp laws for dump trucks, but there are also exceptions.

Tarps are used to keep loose materials in the trailer or dump truck and prevent them from spilling, leaking or blowing out of the vehicle. Loose debris from trucks can result in an accident if it hits a passenger vehicle. It’s one of the reasons why heavy haulers wash dirt and debris from heavy equipment before transporting it.

Heavy Equipment

When hauling heavy equipment, a tarp may or may not be required as long as the load is secured with chains and straps. A tarp typically isn’t required for hauling heavy equipment and logs, along with girders, trusses and beams that require specialized securement methods. There are exceptions, depending on the weight of the load, and if it’s being transported on a pallet.

UV Sensitive

There are instances where a tarp may not be legally required, but the cargo may be sensitive to degradation due to UV rays. It’s critical that individuals understand the specific requirements for the cargo they’re transporting.

Keep Advised

The laws governing the trucking industry, and even private individuals hauling items in a home trailer, are subject to change with short notice. It’s essential to keep advised of laws governing every aspect of hauling items on or in a trailer, even if they’re not professionals.

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Why Heavy Haul Trucks Need Regular Inspections

Inspections help ensure safety for heavy haul truckers and they take great pains to ensure that tractors and trailers are maintained in optimal condition. Heavy haul trucks aren’t like other vehicles. The tractors and trailers used by heavy haulers are subject to stress forces that ordinary vehicles never encounter. If something goes wrong with a heavy hauler, the resultant accident will typically be far more serious than two ordinary passenger vehicles.

Every commercial carrier is required to inspect the tractor and trailer before and after every haul. Each trucking company has its own internal preventative maintenance and safety inspection schedule that can range from every 4 to 12 weeks. Much will depend on the mileage, type of work that’s being performed, and the terrain over which the vehicle travels.

Inspections

The Department of Transportation (DOT) requires yearly inspections encompassing a variety of systems from brakes, steering and lighting to tires, windshield wipers and the engine. Emergency systems, the battery, exhaust and suspension are inspected and the operator’s CDL and other driver requirements are examined. There are six levels of DOT inspections:

  • North American Standard Inspection
  • Walk-Around Driver and Vehicle Inspection
  • Driver Only Inspection
  • Special Inspection
  • Vehicle Only Inspection
  • Enhanced NAS Inspection for Radioactive Shipments

Reputable heavy haul companies adhere to a regular regimen of preventative maintenance for tractors and trailers. Many employ a multi-point checklist that can include over 100 items. In addition to ensuring safety for others on the road, it’s a cost-savings measure for the tracking company. It extends the life of the equipment and reduces the potential for expensive emergency repairs. Regular mechanical inspections also ensure more uptime for trucks and trailers.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires that maintenance schedules for the vehicle be maintained for at least one year while the vehicle is being used and for 6 months after being decommissioned. Regular inspections save time, money, and prevents the company from running afoul of the DOT.

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6 Tips for a Successful Haul

Successful hauling requires some planning. Individuals that have engaged heavy haulers have probably learned that working with a reputable heavy hauler company is much easier than trying to perform the relocation themselves. It doesn’t matter whether a load is being transported down the street or cross country, there are some essentials when it comes to getting a load from point A to point B without difficulty.

Those needing the services of a heavy hauler should never wait until the last minute to schedule transportation. Due to their high level of expertise, heavy haulers are in great demand and the type of trailer required may not be available. Cost fluctuations also occur. New heavy haulers will need to keep the following tips in mind.

Successful Haul Tips

  1. Know the Details

Drivers need to know every detail of the haul to ensure safety and ascertain the type of trailer that will best suit the customer’s needs. Precise details about the item to be transported and its weight, width and height are critical. The haul may require an escort vehicle or for the cargo to be partially dismantled.

  1. Trailers

There are different types of trailers and not all types are appropriate for every job. Each type of trailer has its own function and choosing the right trailer for the job mitigates the potential for accidents and unforeseen circumstances.

  1. Picking Up or Dropping Off

Some heavy hauls require cranes, forklifts or rigging equipment that may only be available at certain times. Even the drop off or pickup site may only be operational at certain times.

  1. The Route

Sometimes the most convenient route from the pickup point to the drop off isn’t a straight line. Traffic may be lighter on some routes, while construction on another route will cause delays. Low overpasses and lightweight bridges are always to be considered. Depending on the cargo, an escort vehicle may be required for a successful haul.

  1. Permits

The number of required permits can be overwhelming, depending on the destination. Each state has its own rules and regulations and drivers will need to comply with all the prevailing laws of the states through which the cargo will pass through.

  1. Load Security

It’s the responsibility of the heavy hauler to ensure that loads are secured and in the proper manner. Doors and compartments on equipment should be securely fastened and tarps may be required.

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The Importance of Truck Weigh Stations

Even though many truckers complain about weigh stations and the time it deducts from their schedule, weigh stations perform an important function. Weigh stations ensure a truck’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) doesn’t exceed maximum standards. It’s a way to prevent damage to public roads.

Trucks that are too heavy for the construction of the road and associated bridges cause an exceptional amount of damage to highways and the repair costs can be enormous. It also results in significant delay times for traffic due to repairs and construction. Truckers that exceed weight limits are assessed a fine. The stations are often used for the purpose of collecting taxes on transported goods.

Drivers are required to stop at an open weigh station and there’s typically a state police officer located nearby. If the trucker makes the decision not to stop, they run the risk of being pulled over, ticketed and will be required to return to the weigh station. Trucking companies will be fined a pre-determined amount for each pound they’re overweight. The fines increase as the amount of the overage increases. Amounts vary by state.

Weigh Stations

Weigh stations were first established following passage of the Federal-Aid Highway Act in 1956. They were originally implemented to collect fuel taxes owed by commercial trucks using the road. Times have changed and weigh stations are no longer used for that purpose.

Trucking companies now file a quarterly tax report as per an International Fuel Tax Agreement. However, weigh stations are still equipped with scales and utilized to enforce weight restrictions and check the drivers’ log books.

Some weigh stations have been updated to embrace modern technology. In those instances, a truck will drive over a scale built into the right lane of the highway about a mile prior to the weigh station. An automated system, or the operator of the weigh station, will decide whether the truck has to stop at the actual station. The decision is based on the vehicle’s weight and the history of the trucking company.

Truckers that can use this type of technology have a transponder installed in the truck. A green light will appear on the transponder if they can skip the station. A red light means that the trucker will have to actually pull into the weigh station.

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Transporting a Tiny Home?

Tiny homes are becoming more popular and tiny home parks are springing up across the nation. While there’s no official size designation for a tiny home, they’re generally 600 square feet in size. The homes can be established on a permanent foundation, but they’re most often referred to as a tiny house on wheels (THOW) since they’re built on trailers.

Dimensions

The maximum dimensions allowed to be transported without a special permit is 8 ft. 6 inches wide, 13.6 inches tall, and 40 ft. long. However, they usually don’t exceed 32 ft. in length. Instead of towing the houses, many companies that construct them are opting to have the dwellings transported via heavy haulers.

Tiny Home Transport

Transporting a tiny house isn’t a simple matter of hooking it up behind the family pickup or SUV and moving it to a new location. Everything depends on the tow vehicle. The average weight of a tiny home is approximately 10,000 lbs., but can be up to 15,000 lbs. It has a high profile and will catch the wind. Hauling a tiny house isn’t a task to be undertaken by the inexperienced.

Towing

Individuals will need a tow vehicle with enough power to pull the load with ease. All trucks and SUVs aren’t created equal. Vehicles with the same sized engine don’t necessarily have the same towing capacity. There are also other concerns. The tow vehicle needs to have a hitch that’s compatible with the one on the tiny house. Tow chains will be required, along with the wiring to accommodate the tiny house trailer’s lights.

A truck with a tow package may suffice and there are also companies that rent tow vehicles. It can be much more cost-effective, safer and less nerve-wracking, to outsource the transport to a heavy hauler company. They have the specialized trailers and experience with various types of loads to prepare them for transport and to move a tiny home safely.

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Long Distance Haul

There’s a lot of responsibility attached to being a long distance haul driver and a myriad of rules that drivers must obey. Safety is always a top priority and the rules are designed to ensure the safety of drivers, their cargo and other motorists. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration updated their regulations and the new rules went into effect on Sept. 29, 2020.

Hours-of-Service

Heavy haul drivers have a maximum limit of 11 hours per day that they can drive after 10 consecutive hours off duty. However, after coming on duty, they can’t drive past 14 consecutive hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty. Off duty time doesn’t extend the 14-hour period. Simply put, drivers can now drive for a maximum of 14 hours per day with 10 hours off during a 24-hour period. Long haul drivers can extend that 11 hour driving window into 14 when they encounter adverse driving conditions.

30-Minute Break

Drivers are required to take a 30-minute non-driving break if they’ve been on the road for a period of 8 cumulative hours.

Sleeper Berth

Trucks equipped with a sleeping berth enable drivers to split their 10-hours of non-driving time in different ways, but it must include one 2-hour off-duty period. Non-driving time must add up to 10 hours.

Work Week for Long Distance Haul

Drivers can work a 60-hour work week over the course of 7 days or a 70-hour work week over the course of 8 days. Under the new rules, the clock runs continuously each day and doesn’t stop when drivers take a break. Drivers can restart a work week after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty.

Choosing Rest Stops

Not all rest stops on federal highways provide specific space for heavy haulers, bathroom/shower facilities, drinking water, or snack machines. It’s critical that drivers take breaks at locations that provide ample space for truck and trailer maneuverability, along with those that ensure the safety of the cargo.

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