by Hal Kiah
Most truckers already can tell you that the trucking industry is the most over-regulated industry in the world, a well known fact to anyone in the industry. With Federal regulations being in constant flux and change, any trucking company, along with its drivers, and owner-operators have to constantly look over their shoulder because they can’t tell when the next abrupt change is going to sneak up on them and put them into “negative” mode.
Taking into consideration those who make a living escorting oversize loads, and the drivers that haul those loads, these people are most generally people who have been behind the wheel of big rigs for a number of years, and then decided to do something different for a change, while remaining in the trucking industry. The driver that actually moves the oversize load can tell you pretty much the same thing as the Pilot car driver, that there is no uniformity between the states as to regulations governing the movement of oversize loads. Most every state has their own interpretation of when it is appropriate for these loads to move through their area of responsibility, and when not to move, and how.
One state will tell you in their regulations, that you can move ½ hour before sunrise, until ½ hour after sunset, while the next state may say that you have to wait ½ hour after sunrise to move, and stop the same amount of time prior to sunset taking place. Then, one state will say that you can move on the weekend, while the neighboring state says you cannot, or you can move only up to a certain point (usually 12 noon) on a Saturday, and/or Sunday. (In all honestly,…. the weekend is almost always the best time for an oversize load to move, as most people are not on the roadways, and the driver can get moving first thing in the morning, and not have to deal with rush hour traffic, and the majority of drivers in a high congestion area) And one state in particular, says that you can only move on Tuesday thru Thursday, so if you get stuck Thursday afternoon getting loaded, and have 200 miles to the state line, where you can continue to run the next day, and you only have time enough to make it about 100 miles before the sunset curfew, …. you’re stuck until the next Tuesday before you can move again! Fun, real fun.
Drivers and Pilot cars also have to put up with curfew times, what time of day a load is allowed to move, weekend movements, holiday restrictions in different areas. How many escorts are needed in each state, for the same load, or if the load actually needs an escort. Take for example, several states, that say that for a load of 14 feet wide or greater, you must have an escort or escorts, while trucks pulling mobile homes, or modular homes, need no escorts at all. (And many of those are far wider than other oversize loads!)
The driver and escort have to deal with the routes that states tell them they can use, that turn out to be back roads where no oversize load should be in the first place, due to the size of the roads and the limited space (if any) for oncoming traffic to get around. This can get very nerve racking, and scary, especially when you have an on-coming big rig, or worse, another oversize load the same size, or larger than the load you and the pilot car are hauling. Add to that, getting the general public to move over, or stop, or hold back, so that a load can be safely moved through an intersection or a tight corner, where the driver needs as much room as possible to maneuver.
Now, add to the plight of the Pilot car driver, their responsibility is to help get you safely moved from place to place, while holding off traffic when the load needs to avoid an obstacle on the side of the road, or when making corners, or any other number of reasons that the load needs room. Other drivers, including the general public, and even a number or so-called truck drivers, do not want to wait for oversize loads to do what they need to do, like, getting parked, making turns, moving over for vehicles broke down on the shoulder, or for police or emergency vehicles stopped on the shoulder, thereby putting the pilot car driver at high risk.
Add to the pilot car driver (or escort), the hodgepodge of regulations that they have to meet, with every state having its own requirements as to what the pilot car driver must have in their possession, how they must be in control of traffic (as if they wear a badge and gun, as a police officer does) that the next state does not require, along with differing certifications, in different states. Along with the size of oversize load signs they are required to have, and their placement on the vehicle, that can differ from state to state. These signs are the same size that Big trucks have to have, and many of today’s cars simply cannot accommodate these large signs or the placement that they have to use drastically affects the pilot car’s fuel mileage. Plus, they are required to carry spare warning flags, safety cones, first aid materials, and any number of things.
The regulations need to be uniform and consistent throughout North America for all aspects of the oversize trucking industry, with no confusion thrown in. With every state having their own idea as to how things should run, it adds to the confusion and frustration of what is required of truckers, pilot car operators, and all those who work within the trucking industry. Then add to enforcing proper driver safety among, not just truck drivers, but the general motoring public as well, or the driving problems that are faced in the country today, will only continue.
© 2015, Hal Kiah. All rights reserved.