Shipping Oversized and Heavy Freight: Here’s What You Need to Know

John Conrad

01 July 2019

Shipping oversized or heavy freight raises a host of special considerations, from finding the right carrier to avoiding delays. Here’s how to get heavy haul right.

Shipping oversized and heavy freight requires special care, consideration, and expertise. Because of the dimensions or weight of your shipment, you are facing a host of specialized considerations. From permitting, to equipment, load securement, weather, and more, this is one of the most complex areas of shipping.

Here are some of the unique obstacles you need to consider when transporting this kind of freight — and how to get it right.

What qualifies as oversized and heavy freight?

If your shipment is high, wide, or heavy, it most likely will require a permit. How do you know? Permitting loads starts at 80,000 lbs. gross weight, including truck, trailer and cargo. Generally, over-dimensional or oversize freight comes in at:

  • Width: over 8.5 feet
  • Height: over 13.6 feet
  • Length: 48 to 53 feet
  • Weight:50,000 – 150,000 lbs. (or more)

Classifications of heavy freight vary based on the size of the roads in the state(s) the freight is transported through to the delivery site. The number of axels comes into play as well, with federal law limiting the amount of weight per axel.

With those details covered, let’s start with pickup and delivery of your oversized or heavy freight, and then move on to all of the action in between.

Pick up and delivery: timing is everything

At pickup, you will probably have what you need to load the equipment onto a trailer. If it requires a crane, you probably have one set up on site. Delivery, however, is another story. Unloading may require a massive forklift or a crane rental at the unloading site. Sounds simple enough, but we know that these cranes are veryexpensive.

If your deliveries are late, fees for unloading equipment will accumulate pretty quickly. Now, if your receiver or consignee is unloading, they will schedule the crane and make payment. That’s their responsibility. And getting it there on time is the carrier’s responsibility.

So, as the shipper, how is any of this your problem? As you may know, delays can cause fees for rental equipment that quickly add up to punitive amounts. If the shipment is late, your consignee will soon call you with complaints about the costs — not your carrier.

The consignee may want to negotiate rate cuts or even avoid doing business with you in the future if the delays are significant enough. So, while the money may not come directly out of your pocket, the impacts of delays are real.

Mitigating delays and other problems

What is the best way to mitigate the risk of delays and other problems in pickup, transport, and delivery of oversized or heavy freight? Hire the right carrier. Here’s the quick list of what you are looking for:

1. A competent carrier

To start, you need a carrier with drivers that have enough hours in the seat to prove their expertise. An ideal carrier is reputable, with a strong history of good service in the past. Put simply, with drivers, you want the best. And when your core competency is making the machine, you want to keep your focus there.

Rather than having to maintain dozens of carrier relationships to make sure you have options to call around and negotiate for every shipment, you can outsource this role.

What’s the risk in hiring your own carrier, really? You may find a carrier with some experience and a great rate. An attractive proposition, right? But if handling oversized or heavy freight isn’t something they’ve done on a regular basis, why would you risk your shipment on finding out if they’ve really got the appropriate equipment, insurance, and experience? It’s hard to decipher if a carrier is truly capable without consistent, industry-wide insight.

In the nationwide pool of carriers, we know most of the players. We’ve learned which carriers are best at different types of moves. And we keep tabs on everything that happens during your shipment.

From the start of the transaction, we monitor our carriers through various systems, from built-in tracking to MacroPoint, a driver-based cellphone tracking tool. Over time, data points from these sources, and more have accumulated in our TMS.

The TMS is the hub of all activity for a logistics provider, and that includes oversized and heavy freight. We analyze data including on-time pickup, on-time delivery, and extra costs and fees. We’ve been at this for three decades, so we have extensive history in our system. This means we can precisely match a carrier to your unique needs, based on our long-term interactions and insight into the carrier market.

2. The right equipment

A carrier must have the right equipment for your freight’s needs. This may mean your freight will fit on multiple trailer types, but we want to select the optimal unit to keep the cost down while delivery your freight safely.

There’s a huge variety of equipment. From standard flat-beds and single drop to double drops, removable gooseneck (RGN) and I-beam trailers. Your carrier should be confident and experienced with any of the options you are looking for. For very long loads, stretch trailers are effective. There are a world of options in terms of equipment. You just have to find the right carrier who has the expertise to manage it.

3. Timely permitting

Pulling permits in a timely manner is critical to heavy haul transportation. While a 3PL can help with the permitting process, it’s typically the carrier that takes the lead. Permits for all the states your OD or heavy load travels through, must get pulled well in advance.

Weigh stations at state lines, random checks, a taillight out — there are many places DOT may check permits. To avoid delays the permits must check out, every time. While the carrier is technically responsible, they can sometimes create big delays in both the permitting process and inaccurate permits, so it’s important for any 3PL partner to stay engaged.

Dependent on the size of the load and the state’s requirements, you may also need escorts. Again, this is a carrier responsibility to secure the escort, but it is imperative to have a team that understands requirements and double checks the carrier’s work. Traffic restrictions may also come into play when certain OD loads can only travel at certain times of the day.

This restriction is different than your standard heavy haul permit and is based on state regulations. Your carrier is in charge and should know this process well, but we like to monitor any special considerations to make sure they don’t slip through the cracks.

We understand the level of commitment that your product represents. Beyond just providing the smart business practice of proper insurance, we stand ready with peace of mind through proactive communications.

4. Accurate insurance coverage

Oversized and heavy freight spans a big range of costs. From a $5 million state-of-the-art turbine to a hospital heating and cooling system to scrap machinery worth $50,000, the process looks about the same. The value of the product does not change the general process, but it does bring into play other considerations. Insurance is a major one because your carrier needs can change significantly based on your cargo insurance needs.

Insurance is a critical aspect of transporting your large equipment. Your standard shipment is likely worth a lot more than the insurance held by your average carrier.

Customers often contact us to provide supplemental insurance. They may have encountered three or four carriers that have the same insurance levels. But if their freight is worth over $1 million, they need a higher amount of coverage than these carriers can provide.

We are capable of insuring multimillion-dollar shipments to supplement the portion the carrier ensures. We understand the level of commitment that your product represents. Beyond just providing the smart business practice of proper insurance, we stand ready with peace of mind through proactive communications. We offer support beyond just the dollar amount and into the practical support you need to ship your high-value freight safely and efficiently.

5. Avoiding damages

Most customers don’t tolerate damages. Customers expecting large or heavy freight are no exception. Damages are not appreciated when you are working with high-value equipment. Thankfully damage is infrequent in heavy freight shipment. We are working with products loaded by the shipper, secured by the shipper, and confirmed by the carrier.

If the carrier piece of this puzzle is right and you, as the shipper, have taken actions to protect the load, it should arrive in pristine condition. Communication is important: If tarps are required, a shipper needs to clearly specify and have the carrier secure the load appropriately. Weather can play a role in damages and delays as well, with deteriorating road conditions in the winter and temperature fluctuations in the summer.

And no matter the season, at delivery, the consignee will need the appropriate equipment to unload to ensure it is offloaded safely.

Oversized and heavy freight, done right

Whether you are shipping a power system or generator to a school, hospital, or a field in the middle of nowhere, your freight likely presents unique considerations. Matching those with the right carrier is more of an art that a science. We use data analytics and industry relationships to get it right — and to mitigate problems when things go wrong on the road.

John Conrad

John is a VP of Key Accounts at Evans Transportation.


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