Office of Operations Freight Management and Operations


The movement of non-divisible, oversize, and/or overweight commodities is a small but highly specialized segment of the trucking industry. A study published by the Specialized Carriers & Rigging Association (SC&RA) and the Arizona Trucking Association estimated that in 2010 only 1.9 percent of heavy-duty class trucks in the United States were in the Class 8/8-13, 80,000 gross vehicle weight rating pounds and more category generally used to move these types of loads. However, the movement of oversize/overweight commodities is critical to the success of four key industry groups—construction, mining (including oil and gas extraction), energy and utilities, and manufacturing—and the movement of these commodities requires trucking companies to obtain special permits and operate over designated routes. Many jurisdictions also require that these loads be accompanied by a police escort vehicle and/or a private pilot car escort.1

In 2000, two accidents involving the movement of oversize/overweight loads resulted in National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigations.2 In both instances, NTSB found that the pilot car escort driver errors or lack of knowledge and training contributed to the accident, and the investigation reports included recommendations to develop training and best-practices guidelines for both law enforcement and the pilot car escort industry.

In 2004, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) provided grant funds to the SC&RA, and SC&RA, with the support of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA), developed best practice guidelines for both stakeholder groups as well as a five part set of training materials for pilot car escort services and drivers A. number of States began to require that pilot car operators complete this training, and a dozen now require that pilot car drivers be certified. The pilot car industry has also made significant strides in providing training and certification services.

In 2013 an accident involving an oversize/overweight load contributed to the collapse of the Skagit River Bridge on I-5 in Washington State. A resulting NTSB investigation found that the pilot car escort driver failed to fulfill necessary duties, including failure to communicate properly and to maintain adequate lead distance. NTSB included the following recommendations in their final report, Safety Recommendation H-14-12, "Work together to revise the Pilot Car Escort Best Practices Guidelines and related training materials to ensure that they contain updated recommended practices for pilot/escort vehicle operations, and disseminate the revised documents to groups that provide pilot/escort vehicle driver training."3

The 2004 best practice guidelines have been updated in response to NTSB Accident Report NTSB/HAR-14/01 PB2014-10639: "Collapse of the Interstate 5 Skagit River Bridge Following a Strike by an Oversize Combination Vehicle Mount Vernon, WA" May 23, 2013, Recommendation H-14-12.

After a permit has been issued, potential major stakeholders in the safe movement of oversize/ overweight loads include:

  • Motor carrier.
  • Commercial motor vehicle driver.
  • Pilot car escort.
  • Law enforcement escort.

The safe movement of permitted oversize/overweight loads requires coordinated efforts among all stakeholders. Using these guidelines for law enforcement officers in conjunction with the Pilot/Escort Vehicle Operator Best Practices Guidelines provide the overall guidance for the safe movement of permitted oversize/overweight loads.

This document incorporates the material found in the 2016 Pilot/Escort Vehicle Operators Training Manual. The 2016 Pilot/Escort Vehicle Operators Training Manual is the result of extensive research, review, and analysis of existing pilot/escort vehicle operator (P/EVO) training materials, laws, and rules relevant to P/EVOs as well as case studies and other information focused on the movement of oversize loads.

Contributors to this best practices guidelines document include the FHWA Office of Freight Management and Operations, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, SC&RA, and the CVSA. Other contributors include P/EVOs, the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association, other professional associations, permitting officials, education professionals, transportation officials and engineers, insurance industry representatives, and enforcement officers.

1 Specialized Carrier & Rigging Association Foundation, Arizona Trucking Association and the Arizona Transportation Education Foundation, Transporting a Global Economy – Moving 21st Century Oversize Loads, 2012. [ Return to note 1. ]

2 See National Transportation Safety Board Highway Accident Report NTSB/HAR-01/02, "Collision Between Metrolink Train 901 and Mercury Transportation, Inc., Tractor-Combination Vehicle at Highway-Railroad Grade Crossing in Glendale, California, on January 28, 2000" (2001). See also National Transportation Safety Board, Highway Accident Report NTSB/HAR-02/02, "Collision Between Amtrak Train 97 and MolnarWorldwide Heavy Haul Company Tractor-Trailer Combination Vehicle at Highway-Rail Grade Crossing in Intercession City, Florida on November 17, 2000," (2002). [ Return to note 2. ]

3 National Transportation Safety Board, "Safety Recommendation H-14-012." Available at: [ Return to note 3. ]

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