III. LOAD MOVEMENT
It is the primary responsibility of the pilot/escort vehicle operator (P/EVO) to protect and enhance public safety. Exactly how that task is completed varies substantially based on the load vehicle characteristics, aspects of the route, the time of day, traffic volume, maneuverability limitations of the load vehicle, and myriad other factors.
A. KNOW THE LOAD
P/EVOs must remember that the oversize load is operationally more difficult to drive and has more blind spots. The oversize load is less maneuverable, takes longer to stop and accelerate, and has a wider turning radius. Drivers of oversize load vehicles have difficulty maintaining speeds on roads with moderate to severe grades. The oversize load vehicle is less stable, may be more likely to roll over, and is subject to trailer sway, rearward amplification, tail swing, offtracking, and other phenomena.
- Oversize loads require an extended distance to stop, change lanes, and pass other vehicles. P/EVOs assist by warning motorists when the load is going to change lanes, pass another vehicle, etc.
- Oversize loads have more blind spots, and the blind spots are larger than in other vehicles. It is important for the P/EVO not only to warn motorists to keep them from colliding with a load they may not be able to see and/or may not accurately assess its size, but also to warn load drivers of hazards they cannot see, and to warn the driver in time to avoid colliding with another vehicle or transportation infrastructure.
- Oversize loads have difficulty gaining sufficient speed on acceleration ramps to merge with traffic on multi-lane highways, and may have difficulty braking on long or steep downgrades.
- When making turns, the oversize load may swing wide before turning. And, an extremely long load may block at least two lanes of the roadway it is turning from as well as simultaneously blocking at least two lanes of the roadway it is turning onto. P/EVOs should know how to control traffic anytime the load is blocking a lane of traffic, especially when the load must move into oncoming traffic. When authorized, P/EVOs should continue to control traffic until the travel lane is clear. See Part IV below for additional information.
- When first engaging gears on an inclined surface, the oversize load may roll backward. The rear P/EVOs must be aware of this and prohibit vehicles from getting too near the rear of a load when on an incline.
- Try to avoid situations that require the load driver back up. If backing is not avoidable, P/EVOs should serve as spotters, as described in Part IV.
B. KNOW THE LAW
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. It is never appropriate for P/EVOs to ignore stop signs, traffic signals, speed limits, or move-over laws; to cross centerlines; to run motorists off the road; or to violate any other traffic laws. And, it is the responsibility for P/EVOs to know the rules in each State in which they work. 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.
- States/jurisdictions—Each carrier must have a permit for each oversize load vehicle for every State through which the load will travel.
- Permit restrictions—The permit will typically establish the dates and time of travel, prescribe the route, and the number of P/EVOs required.
C. POSITION VEHICLES IN COMPLIANCE WITH STATE REGULATIONS AND PERMIT REQUIREMENTS
- Lead P/EVO responsibilities.
Maintaining an attentive and proactive visual lead is perhaps the most important skill that front (also called "lead") P/EVOs must cultivate. Monitoring obstructions such as signs, guardrails, and mailboxes is critical to the safe movement of oversize loads, but monitoring is only the beginning of this task. If the distance between the escort and the load is too small, or if the P/EVO does not notice the hazard in time to notify the driver, no amount of monitoring will ensure the safety of highway users, the load driver, the P/EVOs, and the transportation infrastructure. Even if the P/EVO has time to notify the load driver about the hazard, there may be no time left for the driver to avoid it due to inadequate following distances. This also highlights the vital nature of effective communication equipment and processes.
The visual lead every member of the team should maintain varies with the speed of the traffic, weather conditions, features of the terrain, and other factors. Similar to recommended following distances, an adequate visual lead should be at least 20 seconds for oversize load movement, and more lead time should be added for each hazard that exists in a given situation, such as a wet roadway, darkness, hills and curves, driver fatigue, or traffic congestion. The lead P/EVO is responsible for warning motorists and load team members about:
- Traffic approaching from the front, especially other large vehicles.
- Obstacles and hazards such as stranded vehicles, pedestrians, and bicyclists.
- Traffic congestion.
- Upcoming turns.
- Construction work zones.
- Edge drop-offs, low shoulders, potholes, especially on entry and exit ramps.
- Rear P/EVO responsibilities
When the P/EVO is behind the load, the tasks for safe load movement include watching motorists approaching from the rear, watching the amount of traffic behind the load, and reporting information to the team. Additionally, the rear escort (also known as the chase car) must watch the load vehicle itself to report load shifting, flat tires, tie-down malfunctions, and anything about the load and load vehicle that might interfere with safe load movement.
The rear P/EVO protects highway users and assists the load driver in changing lanes and merging onto highways by "protecting" the lane(s) needed by the oversize load. To summarize, the rear P/EVO is responsible for notifying the load movement team about:
- Traffic approaching from the rear, especially other large vehicles.
- Load issues (loose tie-downs, load shifting, etc.).
- Load vehicle issues (tires, brake/tail lights, etc.).
D. PREPARE FOR LOAD MOVEMENT
- Put on safety vest.
- Ensure signs and flags are in place according to State-specific rules.
- Turn on warning lights.
- Engage cameras and audio recording devices.
- Set trip odometer/record mileage.
- Adjust mirrors, head restraint, and seat.
And, in the last few minutes before the load moves, perform:
- Paperwork check: Be sure licenses, P/EVO cards, Transportation Worker Identification Credential cards (if needed), insurance verification forms, permits, the route survey, and maps are present.
- Vehicle check: Verify that all required equipment for all States is being used, warning light and headlights are on, signs are displayed, flags are in place, and that the height pole is installed and calibrated, if required.
- Route check: Ensure all load movement team members know the route, and specifically review the first few turns, and all known hazards up to the next stop. Discuss curfews and parking issues, identify the next planned stop and any emergency pullover areas along the route. Discuss details of the destination and delivery of the load prior to departing on the final portion of the trip.
- Traffic Control Plan(s): Review flagging procedures for narrow bridges or turning long loads. Ensure all team members know what to do and when to stop traffic when required and allowed.
- Communication equipment check: Select the communication channel and test all equipment, identify team members, and establish voice recognition.
- Emergency procedures: Review with the entire team the immediately relevant emergency procedures, such as getting lodged at a railroad crossing or experiencing a vehicle breakdown.