Heavy Load Truck Driving
A day in the life of a trucker looks a little different from driver to driver. For truckers hauling oversize loads or doing heavy load truck driving, there are oversize load regulations they must follow to keep the roads safe. If you’re looking for oversize load trucking jobs, it’s important to know what an oversize load job entails, as well as the oversize load regulations by state.
With OTR (over-the-road) trucking in high-demand, you’re getting off to a great start as a truck driver. But in order to get the job you want, you'll need to make sure you have the right experience and training and know where to look to get your next big rig gig.
We’ve all seen trucks hauling loads that are clearly a bit too large to be on the road under regular circumstances, but what qualifies as an oversize load?
Oversize loads are any that exceed the standard dimensions for the highway or road they are on. For example, in the US, oversize loads are usually more than 8.5 feet wide, 13.5–14.5 feet tall, 80,000 pounds, or some combination of these, depending on oversize load regulations by state. Some states may also specify that the load be “indivisible” to qualify for a permit, which means it can’t be broken into smaller parts.
Some examples of oversize loads include:
While oversize load regulations can vary between states, most states require drivers of oversize loads to obtain a permit before they can operate on public roads. The permit must not only detail the type of cargo and how many trips are needed but also which route the oversize load will take and the date and time of transport.
In many states, loads of more than a quarter of a million pounds are considered super loads and also qualify as oversize loads.
Wide loads simply refer to oversize loads that exceed the regular maximum allowed width on highways and roads. The terms “wide load” and “oversize load” are often used interchangeably, but there are different safety requirements for wide loads that exceed 12 to 14 feet, which depend on the oversize load regulations by state.
Especially wide loads usually have additional requirements, such as needing an escort vehicle to accompany them. Some super loads may even require police or law enforcement or require road closures to ensure public safety.
Many times, there is no difference, because people use the terms “oversize load” and “wide load” to refer to the same situation: any load over the standard 8.5 feet wide. This measurement is based on the width of standard travel lanes, which are 12 feet wide.
While oversize and wide loads refer to the same type of load, they may or may not also be classified as overweight loads, which typically refers to loads over the regular legal weight limit of 80,000 pounds.
Each state has its own regulations regarding oversize loads. In general, oversize loads that exceed standard widths or heights are required to have permits to operate on public roads. These permits detail what the load contains, its point of origin, its destination, and the route it’s taking. You may also need specialized trucking insurance, so make sure you meet all requirements.
Permit fees for oversize loads vary by state and depend on what the load contains. A typical permit fee includes a $15 application fee and the actual cost of the permit, which can be anywhere from $15 to more than $70. Different permits are available for annual hauls, multiple hauls, or one-time hauls, depending on your oversize load needs.
Other standard oversize load regulations include:
Whether or not you need an escort vehicle is usually determined by the width of your vehicle, although oversize load regulations vary by state. In general, most vehicles over 10 feet wide will require an escort. Whether you need one or two escorts depends on the size of your load or the type of cargo you are hauling.
Drivers transferring oversize cargo between states may need escorts in one state but not in another. In these cases, it’s common for escort drivers to meet truckers at the state line. Loads that are extremely wide may even require police escorts.
Other oversize load regulations by state for oversize or heavy load truck driving include safety equipment such as flags, lights, or warning signs like “WIDE LOAD” or “OVERSIZE LOAD.” Flags must be fluorescent or red and 18 inches by 18 inches to ensure visibility.
Night driving requires the use of additional lights. Some states may require flashing or rotating lights on the top of the cab of the truck.
Many states have limits on when oversize load jobs can occur. Most states do not permit oversize loads to operate overnight for safety reasons, but because oversize load regulations by state vary widely, this may only apply to highways, not to interstates.
Whether your load can operate after-hours may also depend on the size of your load. Also, holidays and weekends often have restricted operating times because of increased traffic considerations.
For state-specific information, check the US Department of Transportation requirements for your specific state at the end of this post or call for additional information.
Each state has its own regulations on whether or not you can drive at night with an oversize load. Some allow night driving, but others expressly forbid it. Many states regulate that travel with oversize loads can start only 30 minutes before sunrise and continue until only 30 minutes after sunset. However, some other states only allow overweight loads to travel at night.
Because these regulations vary so widely from state to state, you should always check state requirements before driving an oversize load. Some states even have restrictions on driving times that only apply during certain days of the week or on certain holidays.
While there are state requirements for your CDL, there are no specific requirements or endorsements to haul an oversize load. However, you may need endorsements concerning what your load contains, such as hazardous materials or liquids.
Also, there are regulations and laws that you must follow and permits you must acquire before hauling an oversize load. This may include having an escort, using flags or warning signs, and/or driving within a specified timeframe.
The best training you can have for an oversize load job is to start as a truck driver. Get your CDL, and start getting some experience in the industry. To get a job as a truck driver you must be at least 21 years old and pass your DOT physical. Once you have some experience, feel comfortable behind the wheel, and understand the regulations for oversize loads, it’s time to look for oversize load trucking jobs.
The best place to start looking is with your current company. Check and see if they offer oversize load hauling opportunities. If not, check truck driving job boards for companies that specialize in oversize loads, and apply to them.
The main reason you may be considering oversize load trucking jobs is that driving oversize loads pays better than typical OTR trucking positions. This is because hauling these loads requires you to be an experienced truck driver with some great driving skills under your belt. Transporting a truck and trailer is challenging enough, but oversize loads can be considerably larger than your average truck.
Most drivers won’t drive oversize loads every day unless the oversize load jobs are a staple of the trucking company they work for. If you want steady oversize hauling gigs, find a company that specializes in oversize load and heavy load truck driving. Drivers hauling oversize loads can expect to make anywhere from $0.41 to $0.52 per mile.
Heavy load truck driving with super loads is even more lucrative, but the cost to get these loads moving is also incredibly high. Companies or owner-operators should be aware that it can cost $30,000 or more on their end to transport a super load. Of course, the compensation is greater than the cost.
Put your trucking experience to good use and see if there are opportunities to haul oversize loads. The average salary for oversize load jobs is around $53,000 per year, which is well above the average $40,000 per year for standard trucking jobs.
Before you search for a job in oversize load trucking, make sure you have some good truck driving experience behind you. The more experience you have, the more comfortable you will be behind the wheel of an oversize load and the safer you will be on the road.
When you start your job search, check first with the company you currently work for to see if they offer oversize driving opportunities. This is a great way to get some experience and get a feel for oversize load hauling. It can also be easier to move up to take on additional responsibilities in a company that already trusts you and knows you have a stellar driving record.
If you’re setting out on your own to search for jobs, there are some great trucking job boards that list companies that specifically want to hire drivers for oversize load hauling. So grab a healthy snack, update your resume, brush up on your interviewing skills, and apply for jobs with these companies. You could be behind the wheel of an oversize load in no time.