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Are Oversize Loads Dangerous?

The short answer is yes. They represent an increased potential for multiple types of vehicle accidents. It’s just one of the reasons that individuals should exercise care and caution when engaging the services of a heavy hauler. The size and weight of the vehicles means they cause more damage when involved in a collision, which also increases the risk of fatalities.

Different Requirements

Heavy haulers require more time and distance to stop or try to avoid an accident than passenger vehicles. They also need more room to maneuver and make turns. The size of the trucks result in significant blind spots – facts that motorists typically don’t think about. Carelessness around any type of cargo hauler can result in catastrophic outcomes and the risk increases with heavy haulers.

Oversize Loads

Most Common Accidents

The three most common types of accidents experienced by truckers are rollovers, blown tires and jackknife crashes. Rollovers happen when trucks are forced to make sharp turns, the load’s weight isn’t evenly distributed, or the load isn’t adequately secured. Tires support a lot of weight and a blown tire can result in drivers losing complete control of the tractor and trailer.

Jackknife crashes can occur when a tractor-trailer rig must come to a sudden stop, while traversing downhill slopes and steep grades, or when truckers are transporting cargo on wet, snowy or icy roads. It happens when the tractor and trailer “fold” at a sharp angle to each other. The driver has no control in these situations and the trailer can easily swat other vehicles off the road.

Driver Precautions

Tractor-trailer rigs are more dangerous simply due to their size and weight. Reputable truck drivers and companies, especially heavy haulers, take every precaution to protect loads and deliver them safely to their destination. Operators of passenger vehicles need to keep in mind the extra time and space that truckers need to operate safely and maintain a safe distance.

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Heavy Hauling History

Heavy haulers are a common sight on highways across the nation, but that wasn’t always the case. Prior to the invention of the automobile in the early 1900s, “heavy haulers” consisted of horse-drawn wagons that transported items to a train depot where the freight continued its journey.

Heavy Hauling History

The regular use of heavy haulers began in the military during World War I. After the war’s end in 1918, the use and value of heavy haulers in civilian projects began to get traction. Early heavy haulers had iron and solid rubber wheels that damaged roads. Trucks were limited to 15 mph and weights of 18,000 to 28,000 lbs., depending on the state. Still, there were about 100,000 trucks on the road.

The need to transport goods and products during World War I increased and trains became congested. Improved roads during the 1920s and the introduction of the diesel engine, standardization of trailer sizes, power brakes and steering, and fifth wheel coupling systems boosted heavy haul use in the 1930s. The government began regulating the industry.

After the end of World War II in 1945, construction of the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s and 1960s spurred increased usage of heavy haul vehicles. The desire for more economical ways of transporting products and goods across the nation further increased use.

The 1960s and 1970s saw numerous songs written and films made that romanticized the trucking lifestyle and culture. As greater demands for goods and products increased, so did the need for heavy haulers.

There were over 26 million trucks in use by 2006. The number of accidents climbed as motorists didn’t understand the special requirements and blind spots of heavy haulers. Greater government regulation and safety standards were instituted. Heavy haulers have had a significant effect on the agricultural industry to green energy efforts. Heavy haulers continue to exert an enormous impact on the economy within the U.S. and in international trade.

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What to Look for in a Trucking Company

There are dozens of considerations involved when transporting equipment, products and goods to their ultimate destination. Depending on the freight and destination, there may be special documentation to cross borders, restrictions on drive times, and a requirement for escort vehicles. It’s important to compare the quotes of at least three trucking companies before making any decision.

Trucking Company

Experience

Potential clients will want to ensure that the trucking company has experience in hauling the type of cargo or equipment they want transported. It’s a good idea to find out how long the company has been in business, talk to other clients, and/or read reviews.

Equipment

It’s imperative that the trucking company have the right equipment for the job. There’s a huge difference in ordinary freight and a heavy haul load. The company must have the trailer available to accommodate the weight, width and height of the load, along with a tractor able to handle the weight for the terrain that will be traversed.

Permits and Licensing

A highly regulated industry, heavy haul loads in particular must be in compliance with an extensive number of rules and regulations. Those rules can change from state to state and the selected trucking company must be in compliance with all applicable permits and licensing to meet federal regulations and those of multiple states.

Safety First

The federal government establishes safety standards and individual states often have additional laws in place to which truckers must adhere. The trucking company should be willing to share the types of safety measures they take such as securing doors and moveable parts, breaking down equipment when necessary, and cleaning machinery to be transported to eliminate flying debris.

Insurance Issues

Insurance is essential and clients shouldn’t automatically assume that the coverage carried by a trucking company will cover damage to their cargo, property damage, or any injuries that might occur. Discover the extent of the company’s coverage and the protections afforded to the cargo.

Cost

Make sure the trucking company’s costs and services are clearly spelled out in an itemized list and don’t be hesitant about questioning any items on that list. Don’t sign anything if all that’s provided is an estimate. Clients can easily find themselves billed for expensive “extra” services otherwise.

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How Much do Truck Drives Make

The truck driving industry has been romanticized in a variety of songs and films, leading to multiple misapprehensions about the trucking lifestyle and pay scale. There are numerous variables in regard to how much truck drives make. Annual incomes for truck drivers have come to the forefront of conversations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and an influx of women into the industry.

Driver

According to the National Transportation Institute, in 2001 the primary factors affecting pay for commercial drivers were driver turnover, the number of available drivers, consumer demand for products, and freight rates. The average annual income for U.S. truck drivers is a little over $66,000 per year, according to a survey conducted by Indeed.com.

Factors affecting pay scales include experience, the type of load being hauled, and the region. Independent owner-operators have greater incomes than those that drive for a company, with an average of $220,000 per year. Heavy haulers average from $75,000 to $120,000 per year.

Excluding ice road trucking that’s extremely dangerous and requires extensive experience and endorsements, specialty vehicle hauler incomes range from $67,000 to $89,000. Team drivers can make from $67,500 to $80,000, with fleet driver incomes steady at about $87,500. Tanker and liquids drivers average about $75,000, with hazmat drivers coming in between $55,000 to $73,000.

It’s important for anyone considering a job in the trucking industry to be aware that those are best case scenario incomes. The median income for truckers has steadily declined since the 1980s and in some areas of the nation, pay has decreased by as much as 50 percent. Many attribute the decrease to The Motor Carrier Act of 1980 that imposed a variety of rules and regulations to which truck drivers had to adhere.

The trucking industry provides a multitude of opportunities for individuals. However, to earn the most income it may be necessary to relocate to a different part of the nation where pay scales are higher. Additionally, not everyone is equipped to handle the trucking life. It requires considerable time alone, spending time away from family and friends, and it can be stressful.

Those disadvantages are offset by the ability to make a decent income right away, a high level of job security, and benefits. Bonuses may be offered for driving certain routes and truckers have more independence than other professions. It all begins with getting a CDL license.

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Exporting Heavy Equipment Internationally

A vast variety of heavy equipment in the U.S. is shipped internationally, particularly in the agricultural industry. In the trucking industry, that can mean transporting heavy haul loads into foreign countries directly to the recipient, for shipping by air, or delivering it to docks where it will be sent by ship to destinations around the world.

Exporting

Shipments can encompass anything from oil rigs, aircraft engines and construction equipment to mining equipment and harvesters. On occasion, heavy haulers are called upon to haul some unusual items. A heavy hauler recently made headlines on social media and broadcast news when seen transporting the world’s largest cast iron skillet down a Tennessee highway. The skillet was destined for the soon-to-open Lodge Cast Iron Museum in South Pittsburg, TN.

Exporting heavy equipment requires multiple steps. Heavy haulers can’t simply show up at the dock or cross into Canada or Mexico with a load. Specialized documentation is required and heavy hauling companies are well-versed in the paperwork needed to prevent any difficulties or delays.

To pass through customs, a commercial invoice and certificate of origin will need to be presented. When exporting by ship, a bill of lading is required and depending on the cargo, a certificate of conformity may be needed. Any loads being shipped by plane will also need an air waybill.

A dock or warehouse receipt documenting proper labeling and accountability will be needed to load the cargo. Moving cargo internationally requires an insurance certificate, export packing list, export license, and inspection certificate to be presented. That doesn’t include the port-specific documents that are required.

Heavy haul companies utilize state-of-the-art logistics technology and part of the services provided by a heavy haul company is mapping the best route for optimal travel times and delivery. Sometimes the straightest line between the point of origin and destination isn’t a straight line. Logistics will be focused on the quickest and safest route that enables clients to get their cargo where it needs to be in the most efficient way.

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Professional Heavy Haul Logistics

The logistics of heavy haulers encompasses managing when and where loads are acquired. It includes how the loads are stored, the travel route, and when the load reaches its final destination – all while meeting any specific deadlines that apply. A trucking logistics expert also identifies the type of tractor and trailer that will best serve the client’s needs. The entire process is designed to increase efficiency and provide a greater level of safety.

Logistics

Simply put, the 7 Rs (“Rights”) of Logistics are: Getting the Right product, in the Right quantity, in the Right condition, at the Right place, at the Right time, to the Right customer, at the Right price.

The basis for today’s logistics is due to ancient Roman and Greek wars. Rome developed highly accurate and efficient methods of allocating resources and ensuring supplies arrived to troops. World War I brought refinements to the system, but it wasn’t until after World War II that logistics moved out of the military realm and into the private sector. Logistics is an integral and essential part of the distribution and supply chain in today’s economy.

Prior to the 1900s, the supply chain was primarily local in nature with little need for complex logistics. That began to radically change in the 1960s. The availability of modern technology has changed the logistics landscape in multiple ways. Today’s trucking logistics are handled by a combination of software, tracking devices, sensors, GPS and radio frequency identification (RFID) via the internet.

Modern logistics enables the system’s manager to locate and track a truck and/or its cargo across nations, oceans and continents. The computer-enhanced logistic methods enable heavy haul companies to travel over optimal routes, avoid areas of congested traffic, and deliver more efficiently. Even social media is having an impact on logistics through customer communication.

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What Should be in a Pre-Trip Inspection for Heavy Hauling?

When individuals want to travel, they simply get in the car and go. That process is far more complicated for heavy haulers. There’s a myriad of systems that must be inspected before the load ever leaves for its destination. A CDL license is required to drive a tractor-trailer rig and individuals learn how to perform a pre-trip inspection during CDL school.

Pre-Trip Inspection

A pre-trip inspection is critical for safety of the driver, the load, and others on the road. The inspection is required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to ensure that everything is in safe operating condition. Infractions can result in fines or even having the truck immediately being pulled off the road if a driver is stopped by law enforcement or the Department of Transportation (DOT).

There are six levels of DOT inspections, with multiple systems to be inspected. Some items are checked weekly, while others are inspected daily. The following are just some of the basic inspection requirements as determined by the DOT.

Fluid levels

Leaks

Tires and rims

5th wheel

Tractor and trailer brake connections

Clutch

Shock absorbers

Ball joints

Kingpins

Gauges

Parking brake

Steering

Lights and reflectors

Horn

Windshield wipers

Mirrors

Coupling devices

Emergency equipment

 

Heavy haul drivers will also need to ensure that the load is amply secured and no loose tools or items are left lying on the trailer. The inspections that heavy haul drivers must perform may seem excessive to the average motorist, but it’s all done for safety’s sake. The measures prevent accidents due to situations ranging from brake failure and tire blowouts to trailers that come uncoupled.

Some common mistakes that drivers make is not ensuring the cleanliness of the cab, failure to chock the wheels, and keeping seatbelts properly maintained. A persistent problem is having a missing lug nut, along with not having paperwork in order. All those things can land drivers in hot water with inspectors.

Time is money for a heavy haul driver and it’s understandable that they want to be on the road quickly. There are no hard and fast rules about the time it takes to perform a pre-trip inspection, but smart drivers take their time.

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When is a Load Considered a “Heavy Haul”?

Anytime that a load exceeds specific dimensions, it’s considered a heavy haul. As a result, trucks may require flashing lights, signage and special permits to travel, along with one or more escort vehicles. Very specific hours of operation may also be mandated. However, not all states have the same requirements for a heavy haul and it’s essential that drivers be prepared for changing rules over multiple states.

Heavy Haul

The following are the criteria used to denote a heavy haul load.

  • Weight – Anything over 46,000 lbs.
  • Width – Loads exceeding 8.6 ft. Shipments greater than 16 ft. wide are considered a super load, requiring road closures or other special accommodations.
  • Height – Any load that’s 13.5 or more
  • Length – Loads that exceed 48-53 ft.

There are very good reasons for the laws governing heavy hauls. Infrastructure hasn’t always kept up with the needs of the trucking industry and the locations to which they deliver. There are still narrow bridges, low-hanging overpasses, and rural roads built for nothing heavier than average passenger vehicles. The routes taken by a heavy haul load must be carefully mapped out to prevent damage to the freight, truck or roadway.

Truck and trailer combinations require extra stopping distances – about 200 ft. for a complete stop. The stopping distance increases by a little more than 25 percent for each 20,000 lbs. added after the first 80,000 lbs.

The logistics of getting a load from one location to another takes time and careful planning. A professional heavy haul company has the experience, knowledge and technology to ensure loads arrive at their destination on time and at the least expense to the client. The companies are also cognizant of all relevant laws and will choose the best trailer type to ensure the safety of any load.

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Heavy Haul Transporting Across State Lines

It would be normal to assume that transporting a heavy haul load would be the same anywhere within the U.S., but that’s not the case. There are federal laws that apply to all heavy haulers, but there are also state laws of which drivers must be cognizant if they’re transporting across state lines.

Those rules can range from whether or not snow tires are mandatory to the specific safety equipment that the driver must carry in the tractor. Hauling those loads across state lines involves extensive planning, coordination, logistics and knowledge of state laws to ensure fines and delays aren’t incurred.

Transporting Across State Lines

Oversized Load Limits

The Department of Transportation sets the standards for what constitutes a heavy haul in terms of height, weight, width and length. However, there are some states that have conflicting standards. Heavy haul companies must be cognizant of those standards in the states through which the load will travel and compensate for them.

Travel Times

The times during which a heavy haul load varies among states. Some restrict transporting across state lines travel to the hours between sunrise and sunset. Others may prohibit heavy haul loads from traveling during specially designated rush hour traffic. In some instances, it’s more expedient to take a different route entirely and bypass certain states.

Escort Vehicles

The state laws governing escort vehicles is a hodge-podge of requirements. Some states require one escort vehicle, others require two, and still other states don’t require one at all when transporting across state lines. Similar situations can arise with oversize load signage.

Licensing and Registration

Drivers only need a CDL license and be 21 years old when transporting across state lines with a heavy haul load. However, the commercial vehicle will require a U.S. Department of Transportation number for traveling across state lines.

Drive Times

There are very stringent rules set forth by the Department of Transportation as to how many hours a truck driver can actually operate. The catch is that some states have rules that contradict federal standards.

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Are There Special GPS Routes for Truckers?

In the interests of safety and facilitating deliveries, many trucking companies have adopted modern GPS routes technologies. They function in much the same way as a passenger vehicle GPS, but they provide a myriad of other information to a fleet manager based on a specific truck and the load that’s being transported, along with its weight, height, length and any applicable load restrictions.

GPS Routes

There’s a wealth of GPS models designed for truckers and they deliver a much more complex range of information. They help truckers deliver their cargo with more efficiency, less stress, and improved safety. The devices also help truckers save on fuel costs. Weather and traffic conditions can change radically depending on a multitude of factors and a trucking specific GPS provides drivers with real-time traffic and weather updates.

Trucking GPS routes units are equipped with Wi-Fi and have the ability to work with onboard backup cameras, speakers, electronic logging devices (ELDs) and a variety of other equipment and systems. Data is available about overpasses, bridges and roads that are inappropriate for the truck and its dimensions. Depending on the unit, it will also inform truckers about restaurants, rest areas, weigh stations, and safe places to park for the night.

Dozens of GPS routes apps are available for download, but the data they provide is often limited, relies on the trucking community for information, and charge a monthly usage fee. Some have add-ons that can be downloaded, but the cost can quickly add up. Drivers can still quickly find themselves on a road with a low overpass, narrow bridge, or roadways that aren’t designed for the weight of the truck.

A GPS routes unit designed for passenger vehicles isn’t up to the specifications required by truckers. Any trucking company or private hauler would do well to spend the extra money for a GPS navigation unit designed specifically for the trucking industry instead of taking chances on a car GPS or downloadable app.

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