The responsibilities of the pilot/escort vehicle operator (P/EVO) begin long before becoming part of an oversize load movement team. The P/EVO must learn about and be in compliance with requirements in each State in which he or she will operate. For example, many States require P/EVOs be certified in order to escort oversize loads. States vary in the equipment P/EVOs must carry or display on their vehicles, and they also vary in terms of the insurance required. Finally, several States require flagging credentials, Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) cards,1 or defensive driving courses to operate within their borders.
Safety begins with learning as much as possible about the load and the route, learning this as soon as possible, and sharing the information with all members of the load movement team. Sharing adequate and accurate information is a matter of safety—good decisions come from knowing the facts.
P/EVOs can initiate and maintain critical communication exchanges among the load movement team. It is vital to safe load movement that each team member understand the needs of and plans for the move, and is clear about his/her specific responsibilities. All drivers must be aware of contingency and emergency plans that are especially relevant for the day ahead.
Each team member must do everything possible to maintain a climate of cooperation and information sharing. It is important that each team member have the authority to stop operations and to raise questions and issues of concern at any time and about any aspect of the project. A well-informed movement team and an open climate of cooperation among team members must not be underestimated as instruments of safety.
A. ASSIGNMENT CONFIRMATION
When receiving an assignment, P/EVOs should:
- Obtain oversize load vehicle information including the vehicle configuration (axle configuration, steering limitations, etc.) and dimensions (height, width, length, weight). Important questions to ask include: Is the oversize load vehicle top heavy? Have low ground clearance? Have overhangs? Is it an articulated trailer? Are skid boards in place? Will load require use of a height pole?
- Obtain a copy, in advance, of the permit and any related documents (route survey, for example). Information about the route and the dates and times of travel is of primary importance.
- Estimate daily travel distance, interim stops, safe parking, and lodging for overnight trips.
- Obtain information, including emergency and non-emergency contact information, for the carrier, the load driver, and other escorts, as well as general emergency numbers, railroad and utility company contact information, additional numbers for local officials when needed, permitting offices along the route, and others.
- Prepare contingency plans, and ask for any written documents outlining the carrier's policies, including emergency procedures. Ensure each member of the load movement team is aware of the contingency plans and location of relevant documents. Contingency plans should address what to do if an escort vehicle breaks down or a driver has an emergency or becomes too ill to continue, for example.
B. ROUTE REVIEW
In addition to the route and the times and dates of travel, most permits also specify the number of escorts required (both civilian and law enforcement escorts), the origination and final destination points, curfews, and other restrictions.
- Compare the permitted route to an actual map to make sure the route specified is understood. The route should be compared to roadway construction information, seasonal restrictions, or other potential route problems.
- Review the route for railroad crossings and get information about crossing profiles, change in slope, number of tracks, road condition, and topography. It is also important to consider nearby traffic lights or stop signs to ensure loads do not have to stop on or within several feet of any railroad crossing.
- Check the route survey for information about utility lines, overpasses, and other overhead obstructions (if load is tall), and for weight restricted bridges, based on load vehicle dimensions and infrastructure limitations. Use bridge clearance, weight and width restriction data made available by State departments of transportation in hard copy or on websites.
C. ESCORT VEHICLE AND EQUIPMENT PREPARATION
- Check escort vehicle:
- Tire condition and pressure, including spare tire and tools.
- Hoses and all fluid levels.
- Vehicle insurance verification and registration documents.
- Spare parts inventory, basic hand tools, fluids, bulbs, etc.
- Ensure all glass is clean inside and out.
- Check to ensure all escort equipment is in/on vehicle for each state along the route, including (but not limited to):
- Warning light (also referred to as the amber light).
- OVERSIZE LOAD signs.
- Radio (and back-up unit, batteries, etc.).
- Stop/slow paddle.
- Fire extinguisher(s).
- Reflective triangles, cones, and/or flares.
- Flashlight and cone.
- Height pole, if required.
- Hard hat, safety vest, other safety apparel as conditions dictate.
D. PILOT/ESCORT VEHICLE OPERATORS CHECKLISTThe P/EVO should:
- Check that P/EVO certification card and driver's license are in the vehicle and are not expired.
- Have had adequate rest and be free of fatigue.
- Be healthy, taking no medication that negatively affects alertness.
- Not be wearing a badge, shield, emblem or uniform that resembles those used by law enforcement officers (see 18 U.S.C. §. 912).
1 TWIC cards are needed to enter secure areas of maritime ports. P/EVOs are not required to have a TWIC card; they are useful only for those who deliver loads to ports. [ Return to note 1. ]