7 Safety Tips for Hauling Oversized and Heavy Loads
Driveaway truckers often transport oversized and heavy loads. Safety is paramount. Follow these tips for the safest transport possible.
The most recent survey by The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) showed that 26.3% of all injuries reported by long haul truck drivers were to their arms.
Sixty percent of injuries were sprains and strains. And 38.9% of driver injuries were related to falls and/or contact with equipment or an object.
Over half of the drivers required time away from work because of their injuries. Your likelihood of being injured increases when no safety measures are taken when hauling heavy loads.
We want to help you stay safe and on the job. Keep reading to learn our seven best safety tips for oversized loads.
1. Plan Ahead When Hauling Heavy Loads
Preparing your trip in advance gives you a huge advantage. Not only can you pinpoint ahead of time where you’ll need to take a detour, but you can scout out other potential hazards as well.
Plan every part of your trip in advance from the route to which stops you’ll take. Map out a trip that avoids tolls, heavy traffic, construction, and other delays.
What to Check Before Your Trip
You should also review the following before your trip:
- Local, state, and federal regulations
- Local, state, and federal permits
- Use GPS technology to check the route and road conditions
- Which streets and highways to avoid due to low bridges and/or hanging wires
Some routes may require a pilot car to accompany your truck. You’ll need to plan ahead to ensure you have a pilot car available in those areas.
2. Load Correctly Using the Right Equipment
Twenty-five percent of all industrial accidents happen at the loading dock. For every accident that does happen, around 600 near-misses occur.
Oversized loads should be secure and evenly distributed throughout the trailer before your trip begins. An evenly loaded heavy hauler truck is less likely to tip and easier to control.
Use the Right Heavy Hauler Truck
Make sure you use the right type of oversized trailer for the job. Here are a few choices for trailers:
- Drop deck – the upper part of the deck drops automatically after clearing the back unit
- Extendable drop deck – like the drop deck except you can extend the body according to load size
- Gooseneck – has a modifiable bar that’s fastened to the bed of the truck
- Specialty – good for shipments with distinct specifications
- Lowboy – good for cargos up to 12 feet in height
Stay within legal hauling limitations for the trailer you’re using.
3. Work With Experienced Drivers
Hauling trucks takes knowledge and experience. It’s not worth the risk to use drivers who are inexperienced or who refuse to follow safety protocols when on the job.
Hire and train drivers with experience driving oversize load trucks. Train them on how to operate and maintain the types of equipment they use to transport goods.
You should also consider implementing safety guidelines and provide ongoing education on a regular basis to ensure all employees stay safe.
4. Familiarize With Regulatory Guidelines and Procedures
There are state and federal regulatory requirements you must familiarize yourself with. If your trip takes you through multiple states, you must know and adhere to each state’s set of guidelines.
Also, drivers must also be aware that commercial vehicles involved in interstate commerce weighing over 10,000 pounds GVWR are subject to federal regulations. For drivers hauling equipment within the state, local regulations may also apply.
5. Get All Necessary Permits
Drivers also need to get certain permits in order to haul very heavy or oversized loads. If your equipment is wider than 102 inches, you’ll need an oversized trucking permit. Otherwise, your vehicle isn’t allowed on state roads or highways.
Planning ahead ensures your drivers know exactly which permits they need and have plenty of time to get them before they start on their trip.
Other Fees and Certificates
Licensing certificates are also mandatory and requirements differ depending on which state you’re in.
Also, there are accessorial charges shippers need to pay on top of the per-mile rate. Here are a few other common accessorial charges:
- Pallet jack
- Hotel costs
You should also allow for unexpected charges such as additional stops, deadhead, or for times when the truck is ordered but not used.
6. Know and Use the Right Special Markings
Oversized loads are a danger to other drivers on the road. Always make sure your drivers follow specific operating procedures when hauling heavy loads.
Drivers should also carry with them and use special markings to help alert and signal other drivers to proceed with caution. Requirements for which special markings are necessary are different in each state.
Common Special Markings
Most states use the same special markings. Here are a few common markings used on heavy loads:
- 12 or 18-inch square orange or bright red warning flags to use during daytime travels
- An oversized banner with a yellow reflective background that’s clearly visible to other drivers
- Red lights for hauling at night
When hauling at night, there should also be optional flashing amber lights on top of the cab.
7. Perform a Pre-Inspection
Before you head out on your trip, carefully inspect your trailer. Create a checklist of everything you want to check and mark them off before each trip.
That way, you’ll never forget to check something essential.
Start by performing a walk-around visual inspection.
Here’s what to look for:
- Chafing on the hydraulic hoses
- Visible signs of damage on the tie-down equipment. This includes chains, straps, and binders
Eyeball the trailer to make sure it’s level rather than tilting or sagging.
The next step is a functional inspection. Here’s what to look for:
- Check the brakes
- Check tire pressure
Your last step is to check to make sure the trailer’s speed rating can handle your truck’s usual driving speed.
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