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5 Key Considerations for Oversized Loads & Wide Loads

5 Key Considerations for Oversized Loads & Wide Loads | Transportfolio

Oversized Load

Before jumping into the key considerations for these types of shipments, let’s first explain what qualifies a shipment as a wide load. In the United States, and wide or oversize load is a vehicle and/or load that is wider than 8’6” (2.59 m). Each U.S. state has slightly different requirements for oversize shipments, so it’s important to know the legal requirements for each state.

For that reason, and many others, navigating the specialized world of flatbed shipments can be tricky, especially when shipping oversized loads like tractors, combines, bulldozers, cranes, steel beams, wind blades, or prefabricated homes.

Key Considerations for Oversized Loads & Wide Loads

When preparing to move any flatbed load, it’s important to know the exact dimensions and weight of your shipment in order to plan for the correct type of equipment and make the delivery according to customer expectations.

Here are the five key areas shippers need to consider as they prepare to transport a wide or oversized load:

1. Know the legal limits for flatbed loads

The legal limits for shipments are well documented and fairly consistent from state to state in the United States. This equipment guide outlines the limits for all types of flatbed trailers.

In general, the maximum legal load width is 8.5 feet (102 inches), and the maximum height limit is also 102 inches. Legal length is typically 48 to 53 feet, and the maximum weight is about 46,000 pounds. Some trucks may be able to scale heavier, but 46,000 pounds is usually the standard.

For specific regulations, consult each state’s transportation department. Click here for a directory of state transportation websites.

2. How to find out if your load is oversized

Weight restrictions are applied on a per axle basis. A shipment might not exceed the total weight limit, but it may exceed the per-axle limits. In this case, simply adjusting the load can make the shipment legal and eliminate the need for special permits.

The more common measurement that pushes shipments into the “oversize” category is width. Anything over 8.5 feet wide is considered oversized load; shipments exceeding 12 feet wide may require one to two pilot vehicles in the front and/or back of the flatbed truck.

Just remember, flatbed drivers are responsible for obtaining the permits, and they cannot obtain an oversize permit for any load that can be feasibly broken down in size or weight.

3. Learn the rules for when you need travel escorts

In many states, shipments over 12 feet wide require travel escorts (or “pilot vehicles”). In addition to variable per-mile rates, shippers typically pay for hotels and other incidentals, known as accessorials, and would be included as part of the overall freight costs.

The role of travel escorts is to forewarn flatbed drivers of special circumstances, like accidents, construction zones, bridges, low wires, traffic jams, and other hazards that require careful driving. They also serve in alerting the public of the presence of an oversized vehicle.

4. Understand the factors that will impact your schedule 

In most states, oversized loads with travel escorts may only be on the road from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset, Monday through Friday. Many states restrict or prohibit driving over holidays or weekends.

Before a load hits the road, drivers need permits for each state traveled with exact travel routes specified. All of these factors—especially the drive time restrictions—present unique challenges for shippers trying to maintain schedules.

5. Know the meaning and requirements for special marketings

The size of the item being shipped dictates the necessity of flags or lights on the tractor or trailer. Typically, red flags and amber lights are required for oversized loads to ensure visibility to other traffic. Travel escorts accompanying an oversize shipment are often also required to have flags and or lights.

Final Thoughts

Shipping oversize loads can be challenging, but sometimes it is the most efficient way to get all of your goods from point A to point B. Since there are many laws and restrictions surrounding the shipment of wide loads, it’s important to remain informed. The above best practices will help you to make sure your oversize loads are legal and safe.

Shipping oversized, overweight, or unusual freight? No problem. Learn how our project logistics services can help.



The easiest way to get all that information for free is from
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Jade Brunet

Hauling equipment is quite a process and sometimes in extreme situations there is the possibility that the load could be over sized. It is good to know that one should get this checked out before the journey is made. I think that another important factor would be to mark clearly that the truck will be moving slowly and that it is taking up more space than normal.



Luke Smith

I really liked that your first bit of advice was about knowing the rules and limits for flatbed shipments, and I thought your inclusion of a link to those regulations was very helpful and considerate! I imagine that many people leave the shipping of oversize freight to 3rd party companies, but knowing those limits yourself could definitely help you make a good decision about which company to work with. It would make sense to me to hire someone to handle that shipping niche especially if it's not something you deal with on a daily basis.



Zequek Estrada

This provided so much good insight, especially for anyone who might need to rent a tilt tray. I didn't know that each state has different requirements when it came to oversize shipments. It makes me wonder how much planning must go into shipping big loads across state lines must take.



Bernard Clyde

It's good to know that many states require you to have pilot cars depending on your load. It's important to do your research ahead of time so that you can be road compliant in these other situations. I think the truck driver will be able to drive more confidently and safely if they have pilot cars to escort them and they know that they are being road compliant in the state they are in.



I have read so many content regarding the blogger lovers but this article is in fact a nice piece of writing, keep it up.



Violette Lebrac

Thanks for explaining how anything over 8 feet in width is going to be oversized in flatbed trucking. I'd imagine that businesses use transportation services to ship things of all sizes and shapes. If I needed to transport freight, I would want to know if my load was oversized so I could make sure the transportation services could handle it properly.



Jason Kennedy

If anyone is looking to move oversized loads contact me @ 918 370 0600




Can an over sized item have other units riding on board with it?



    Enrique Ruvalcaba


    I need to move a load


    114" (W) x 108" (H) x 144 " (L), weight 6700 lbs

    Start location: 101 Sunrise Ridge Rd S, Brookings, SD 57006, EE. UU
    Final location: 2350 Marconi Place Ste. 101, San Diego CA, 92154


Emanuel Harris

Very important article! Alot of what you mentioned is critical information especially when you talked about abiding by the law requirements for your loads. Thank you for sharing this!



Elsa Anderson

I never knew until you shared that there are in fact weight limit per axle on a shipment which means that flatbed drivers should be wary of this before seeking permits to transport. This sure is a helpful piece of information especially to the people working in the transportation companies themselves to avoid the hassle of delays and possible infractions. If I were a business owner, I'll make sure to hire a transportation company that adheres to such rules so the goods and equipment will be sent to me in a timely manner.



Mark Wilson

A great knowledge about oversized and wide loads is enclosed in this article. You are doing a great job. Thank you for this beautiful work.



    Public Relations

    Thank you, Mark!


Najma Qureshi

Great content. Thanks for sharing.




Are we required to have the total weight of each load on each Bill of Lading??



youssef Daroui

how about 8.8in still considered as oversize width



Millie Hue

Thanks for helping me understand that we should consult the state's regulations first to ensure that we are not overloading the flatbed. This information will be very helpful to us since we will be buying one in the future. It will be used for the farm that we just bought last year.



Millie Hue

Thanks for helping me understand that there are permits needed to travel an oversized load. With that in mind, I will have to tell my uncle to be informed about this since he will be buying a low bed trailer next year. From what I know, he will use it to transfer their tractors from one farm to another since they have two farms.




We are sending 40ft reefer to USA. We calculate the distributed load in order to not have overweight on axles. we performed this calculation on standard truck & chassis. But if the truck is special or if they have big gasoline tanks, then we have an overweight in the rear truck axle.

So we gave the loading plan, and weight distribution to the trucker. Who is responsible now ? The shipper or the trucker ?



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Taylor Bishop

Thanks for the interesting article about over-sized loads. I didn't know that there are specific regulations for flatbed loads depending on where you live. I'm kind of interested to learn if the training you could get for transporting flatbed loads could also differ depending on where the driver is located.



Michael Lee

At work, we are needing to transport a very large load to a different office and we think that we might need an overmass transport to do it. I have been researching this and I like that you said that the legal weight is about 46,000 pounds. This is good so that we have something to base our load off of to see if it is too heavy.



Caden Dahl

It's very important that when you are hauling things on a trailer, that you need to understand if your load is oversized. I carry a lot of lumber and I'm sure that some of these times, it has been a bit large and I didn't know. As you said, you do need to know the rules when traveling with those large loads as they do differ from state to state.



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