Road Runner Escorts, LLC

Oversize/Overdimensional Load Escorts

Escort car services are always associated with heavy haul trucking that utilizes specialized trailers to haul or oversize or overweight loads. The general catch-all terms for extra-legal (simply meaning permits are required to legally transport) loads is: over-dimensional or oversize.

Most likely you have seen pilot cars . . .pickup trucks, SUVs, or cars driving in front of or behind a tractor-trailer hauling a wide, long, or overweight load. These are called pilot cars or escort vehicles, and the people who drive them are trained professionals who specialize in this type of driving. A pilot car driver is generally someone who is contracted to escort the load through a certain state or states, although some trucking companies employ their own escorts drivers.

A pilot car driver works in conjunction with the driver of an oversize truckload to make sure the truck and its cargo reaches its destination safely. The pilot driver travels in front of or in back of the truck in a separate vehicle, warning the public if there are traffic changes or obstacles due to the truckload. They also warn the truck driver if there is anything up ahead that could interfere with the trucks safe passage. Furthermore, the person who is driving the car will be able to communicate via CB radio with the truck driver. This allows the pilot car driver to tell the trucker if there are accidents, traffic backups, or any other situations requiring attention, in essence acting as an early-warning system for the truck driver. This has become especially important since most states have adopted rules requiring motorists to move over and/or slow down when they observe police or emergency vehicles on the shoulder of the road. Calling the trucker's attention to what lies ahead can give the trucker the time he needs to change lanes. This also occurs when unexpected construction zones and flagging operations are encountered.

An escort car driver ensures that everything from switching lanes to crossing bridges is safe for the heavy haul driver, his load, and everyone else on the road. An escort car also helps to ensure that the driver of an oversized load doesn’t accidentally violate traffic laws or cause an accident, while moving the over-dimensional load.

Escort Car Equipment:

An escort car typically is equipped with eye-catching signs that warn other drivers that a oversized load is following or is ahead. It usually has flashing amber lights, bright flags that catch the notice of others on the road, and a CB radio for communicating with the driver of the oversized load and other escorts. These cars also carry maps and emergency equipment, such as fire extinguishers and first aid kits, in case unforeseen circumstances arise.

If the oversized load is very high, having a pilot car will be a requirement. It will typically have height poles on it so that bridges and overhead obstacles can be tested for clearance, as based on the height of the truck's cargo. This is the only safe way to transport these types of over-dimensional loads, and safety on the highway is the truck driver's and escort's number one concern.

State Requirements for Pilot Cars:
The requirements for pilot cars vary from state to state, and each state will have different requirements for pilot cars. For example in California any load more than 12 feet wide will need to have 1 pilot car or escort vehicle at all times. The pilot car or escort vehicle must have flags, signs, and lights on it to warn the motoring public that there is an oversized load in transit.

In some states and on certain routes the escort vehicle must be in front of the load or tractor trailer, and in other states the escort vehicle has to be behind the load or tractor trailer. This depends on what state the load is being hauled through and the route being traveling. Some loads that are wider than 14 ft will need 2 pilot cars, one in front of the tractor trailer and one in back of the tractor trailer.

When the load is over-height some states will require a special pilot car, called a "Height-Pole Car" or simply "Pole Car" to operate in front of the tractor-trailer. This type of car is equipped with a special telescopic pole attached to the front bumper, which is adjustable to whatever height is needed for that particular load to clear bridges, traffic signals, power lines or other overhead obstructions. In the majority of states these cars are required if the loaded height is more than 17 ft. However, there are some states that require a height pole car at lower heights. In New York height pole cars are required if the loaded height of the trailer is more than 14 ft 6 in.

Most states do not require the driver of the pilot car to be certified, but they do need to have specific operational equipment. This equipment may include: flags, flashing lights, cones, orange vests, fire extinguishers and other safety equipment. However in some states the pilot car must be certified. Currently Utah, Washington, New York and Florida require escorts to be certified by the state. In Pennsylvania the escort will need to have specific insurance coverage requirements.

There are also certain over-dimensional loads that require state or local police escorts. These are typically referred to as superloads. As an example there are loads that require two lanes, or require temporary road closures. These loads are not very common, and the police escort requirements vary state by state.

What is a route survey?
Route surveys are common in the construction industry and are important to keep roadways safe for all drivers and the public. Performing a route survey is a complex task that requires keen eyesight and attention to details. To handle a route survey, the survey team will start by looking at the overpasses and bridge clearances. They have to make sure that any over-dimensional loads being over-height can safely clear the areas. The survey team also has to check on the height of power lines and other overhead obstacles. Over-dimensional loads may have trouble clearing power lines that hang too low, thus they have to be raised temporarily by the utility company.

Pilot Car / Escort Vehicle drivers purpose is to:

  • Make road travel safer for the oversize load driver and all motorists on the road
  • Prevent damage to the roads, highways and all roadway infrastructure
  • Prevent damage to the loads being hauled
  • Keep to a minimum delays in the normal flow of traffic
  • Avoid increases in truck insurance rates, by preventing accidents
  • Temporarily coordinate the removal or lifting of aerial obstructions such as traffic signals, signs or wires for the safe transport of over-height cargo

Examples of Pilot Cars