Sharing the Road with Over Dimensional Loads
If one runs the interstate system at all, the huge over dimensional loads are obvious. Some of them may have over 20 axles under trailers; some might even have a supplemental driver at the tail of the trailer to assist maneuvering around corners and curves. Over dimensional loads are either over length, over width or over weight.
An over dimensional load might be farm equipment, an airplane, a large silo, a mobile home or a huge crate. The larger over dimensional loads will have escorts, either professional escort services, police escorts or both. All over dimensional loads will have red flags at the corners or end of the load and signage stating that they are over sized. Some will have flashing yellow lights on the front of the truck and/or tail of the load.
Over dimensional loads that are larger must have permits to run through each state. The state will provide them with routing through the state. Different states have different rules for the movement of over dimensional loads. For instance, a state might say that over dimensional loads can only go through the state during daylight hours Monday through Friday, or that the load cannot go through a big city except from 1 am to 3 am at night. Moving an over dimensional load from coast to coast can take weeks, not days.
Over dimensional truck drivers are a breed unto themselves. They have specific skills beyond the normal flatbed driver in that they must know how to secure the larger loads, pull them and they must know more regulations. Most, though not all, are owner operators and have the specific equipment to do the job. These drivers may spend longer time on the road due to the time limits involved in first hauling the load from point A to B then waiting for a reload.
Sharing the road with over dimensional loads is frustrating at times, if the load is extremely large. Recently, on I 72 in Illinois, an over dimensional load was moving eastbound. The piece of machinery was wide enough that it took both lanes and was estimated at around 100 feet long from front of trailer to back. Traffic was backed up approximately five miles moving slowly behind the over dimensional load and its multiple police escorts.
Frustration from running behind a slower moving over dimensional load can cause problems for both the over dimensional driver and the driver running behind. The over dimensional driver has to watch for obstacles ahead and maintain lane position as much as possible, the driver behind just wants to get going.
As a driver, you can assist the over dimensional driver and their escorts by knowing what obstacles they need to watch out for and not trying to get around them if one of them is near. These obstacles are bridges and overpasses, curves, narrowing lanes, large upgrades or downgrades, exits, road construction, vehicles on the shoulder, heavy traffic in the passing lane and narrow shoulders with barriers. Always watch the escort vehicles, they will move into the passing lane if the over dimensional driver needs to move over to avoid something ahead or pass another vehicle before the over dimensional driver moves.
When you are getting near the over dimensional load’s escort, if you run the cb, ask if it is clear to go around. Either the driver or escort usually will come back to you if they are running channel 19. If they do not reply, then ease over into the left lane and look ahead. If you see any of the obstacles, slow down and wait for it to pass, only then pass the over dimensional load. This allows the over dimensional driver to do what they have to do to keep themselves and their load safe.
As you pass, stay to the left as far as you can do safely, this allows both of you room in case one of you hits a bump or road rut that causes one of you to dobble (a term that means bounce sideways or your trailer if you have one, to move sideways). Pass quickly. Once you get by the over dimensional load, if there is a front escort, remain in the left lane until you get by them also. Never get between an over dimensional load and their escorts if it can be in any way avoided. Always get far enough ahead in front of the over dimensional driver before moving back over so your rig does not block their view of what is ahead of them.
If an over dimensional load is parked on the shoulder or on/off ramp, or you are passing, always give them as much room as you can give safely. Very often there are parts of the load that might be small and sticking out that are not noticeable. Think of a tractor or large combine that usually has dual tires, but to haul it, the over dimensional driver has to have the outside tires removed leaving the axle sticking out.
The one main thing to remember when sharing the road with over dimensional loads is that they are doing the same thing that you are doing, hauling freight; theirs is just bigger. Rein in your frustration if you have to wait to get on down the road. Check out the load if you can see it, there are many interesting over dimensional loads moving around the country, it will give you something to tell your family and friends about when you talk to them. Most of all, give that over dimensional driver a wave as you go by or a flash of the marker lights, he or she has a hard job that takes a lot of skill to do, they deserve respect just as you do.