Is It Legal to Pass an Oversized Load?

As a driver on the road, it is your responsibility to abide by all legal laws. Is it legal to pass an oversized load is one of the most important questions you can answer. Yes, is the ultimate response, but with several stipulations. After all, when you are working with oversized freight, there are greater risks involved with side winds, obtrusive structures, and vision impairments of the driver. Are you in danger of causing an accident when passing an oversized load?


What is an Oversized Load?


Oversized freight loads are hauls being transported by trucking companies that exceed the standard dimensions for cargo. These dimensions are set by the US Department of Transportation. Freight should be within the standard compartment of either a tanker, dry van, box, or refrigerated trailer. If using a flatbed trailer, such as a stretch flatbed trailer, the sizes can exceed the normal limits of a boxed-in trailer used to move freight. This is any freight that exceeds more than:

  • 48 to 53 feet in length 
  • Over 8.5 feet in height 
  • 46,000 pounds in weight

The USDOT Federal Highway Administration also requires oversized loads to be transported with special permits received on spec. In order to accommodate oversized loads on the roads and highways, drivers must pay special attention to the axle weight and distribution of the haul, as well as any overextended points of the load. 

The USDOT FHA states, “It must be clear to individuals operating pilot/escort vehicles that they must stop at all stop signs and traffic lights, must yield to oncoming traffic, and must follow all laws and regulations in the jurisdictions in which they operate…This is the same rule for individuals with basic driver’s licenses or commercial driver’s license holders: all drivers must know the rules and laws anywhere they drive.” Whatever state you are driving in, or operating a heavy load, you must know the rules for oversized transport services

What are the Rules for Oversized Load Movement?

At the federal level, here are some guidelines for passing an oversized load. The oversized load cannot behave erratically by crossing centerlines or running drivers off the road. Additionally, oversized load drivers must follow traffic laws and speed limits. This is where a pilot escort comes into play. 

Along with oversized freight on a flatbed trailer, such as an extendable flatbed, such a convoy will have at least one pilot car that escorts the driver. The goal of the convoy is to safely transport cargo that is larger than usual. This creates safety considerations beyond the typical standard of freight haul. 

For example, for freight that is extremely heavy, the truck must travel slower to ensure the vehicle axles can handle the haul. Driving erratically and trying to handle getting cut off by a speeding vehicle is not an option for a commercial driver in this situation. That is why pilot cars escort these vehicles and should be taken into account when considering if it is legal to pass an oversized load.

Can I Pass a Pilot Car for Oversized Loads?

Yes, you can pass a pilot car just as you can pass a truck transporting an oversized freight load. However, there are considerations you want to be aware of so you do not get distracted or get into an accident. A pilot escort is a vehicle adorned with lights, flags, and signs to indicate they are leading an oversized vehicle. 

If you see this type of vehicle convoy ahead on the road, give the oversized vehicle ample time to stop and change lanes. Never cut off or try to block an oversized vehicle from operating. When passing an oversized vehicle, take into account the escort cars involved with the convoy. Give these vehicles a safe distance when passing as well.

Oftentimes, when we see an oversized load on the highway, it is being escorted by a pilot car. According to the Washington State Patrol Officer, James Prouty, “pilot cars are allowed to stop traffic and facilitate the movement of an oversize load through congested areas and other situations that would cause a danger to the public.” By providing these vehicles with a safe distance when passing, you are safe to legally pass an oversized load.

Hire a Heavy Haul Transport Provider Today

At Osage Specialized Transport in Aurora, CO, we are experts in heavy haul transportation. Our trucking fleets are connected to major companies throughout the US and in Canada. These drivers are ready to deliver your shipments, including oversized freight, on stretch flatbed trailers. Contact us today to request additional information and a customized quote for your shipment of oversized hauls.