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Heavy Haul Transportation – What to Know

Heavy Haul Transportation

A wide range of services are provided by the transportation sector, including rigging and logistics firms, to cater to the demands of companies all throughout the country. If you are organizing the shipment, relocation, and installation of new heavy equipment, you might wonder whether you require heavy haul transportation services.

What is heavy haul transportation, and when would you require it as opposed to standard logistical solutions? We’ve detailed what actually qualifies a shipment for “heavy haul shipping” in this article so you may make decisions with confidence.

What is Heavy Haul Transportation

Heavy-haul trucks are important commercial vehicles used in a variety of industries, including transportation, agriculture, and construction. Oversized products including industrial machinery, medical or military equipment, and building supplies. Due to the weight and size of these items, they must be transported by heavy-haul capable vehicles.

Heavy haul shipments require specific treatment, an efficient route, and supplementary permits because the trucks are transporting substantial loads. The driver cannot continue with a regular cargo load because of the larger size and weight. These heavy loads are determined based on several factors worth discussing.

What Qualifies as a Heavy Load

Although state-by-state definitions may differ, as far as the federal government is concerned, cargo is considered to be a heavy load if it exceeds:

  • A gross vehicle weight of over 80,000 pounds
  • Weight on a single axle of 20,000 pounds
  • Weight on a tandem axle of 34,000 pounds

Axle count and spacing are further factors, especially when the integrity of highways and bridges is taken into consideration. The Federal Highway Administration computes using the following formula:

W=500(LN/N-1 + 12N + 36)

W= overall gross weight on any group of two or more consecutive axles to the nearest 500 pounds.

L= distance in feet between the extreme of any group of two or more consecutive axles.

N= number of axles in the group under consideration.

One other factor which can determine that your load would be considered Heavy Haul is the overall width. Because the typical highway lane is 12 feet wide, loads wider than 8.5 feet are regarded as oversized and frequently need a state permit.

Standard Heavy Haul Transportation Equipment


A typical heavy haul tractor is a four-axle semi-truck with one steer, one pusher, and two drives that are made specifically to transport exceedingly heavy cargo. The front axle on these double-framed tractors can support 20,000 pounds, and the steer tires are substantially bigger.

Often, heavy haul tractors are combined with trailers with three or more axles to provide carriers with the seven or more total axles required to move these massive loads. Many rigging and millwright companies will have the right equipment for this, as they are often asked to provide these heavy transport services.


Heavy haul transport shipments that exceed the weight and dimension limits mentioned above call for some of the most specialized trailers available in the transport industry.

Axles are not necessarily required for big haul cargoes that are longer than 100 feet, wider than 14 feet, and/or taller than 14 feet, 6 inches, but less than 55,000 pounds.

A big haul load’s trailer will alter in composition as its overall weight increases. More axles must be used to evenly distribute the weight.

After your load weighs more than 50,000 pounds, you will need at least six axles in total to transport the load. Most loads require up to six axles (1 steer, 2 drive, 2-3 trailers) for safe operations.

For extremely heavy haul cargo weighing up to 85,000 pounds, using a three-axle trailer (RGN, step-deck, etc.) as well as a heavy haul 4-axle semi-tractor is more than sufficient.

Beyond this point, heavy haul loads will need extra axles, such as jeeps and stingers, to guarantee that weight is distributed evenly.

The following trailers are frequently utilized in similar situations:

  • Trailers with removable goosenecks (RGNs)
  • RGNs that are extendable
  • Step-deck, double-drop, and flatbed trailers
  • Trailers with extendable flatbeds

Non-Equipment Considerations

Heavy Haul Transportation Restrictions

Heavy-haul trucking necessitates specific paperwork and authorizations. Before placing drivers on the road, fleet managers need to resolve these. The quantity of time and the hours of the day that an oversized freight may move are regulated by many states, cities, and counties. Further licenses for the cargo may be necessary depending on the item being transported.

Heavy Haul Transportation Permits

The local geography, population density, environment, and legislation are often reflected in state permits. While permits can be issued in three to five days, they are often only valid for that one specific load for that particular time period.

Depending on the state, route, destination, and amount of the load, permits can cost anywhere from $15 to $70. There may also be a processing fee. Give yourself lots of time to obtain the necessary heavy-haul permits, or work with an established heavy haul transportation company that can assist you with this part of the process.

Heavy Haul Transportation Safety

Drivers of heavy-haul trucks may need to follow special routes, and it could be necessary to raise power lines or clear impediments. Yet even without these kinds of unique factors, big and overweight loads still have certain extra requirements.

Safety Banners

It is quite common to see that the front and back of heavy haul transportation vehicles are covered with yellow “oversized load” banners. Sometimes the oversized load might be replaced with a “wide load” banner instead.

Safety Flags

To aid drivers and other road users in gauging clearance, these neon orange or red flags are frequently put at the heavy-load truck corners.

Safety Lighting

Some states mandate the installation of spinning yellow LED lights on heavy-haul vehicles. Safety flags may need to be replaced by lights while driving at night or in poor visibility.


Some states require that heavy haul trucks be accompanied by escorting vehicles called pilot cars. For extreme loads, some jurisdictions may even demand a police escort (over 16 feet wide). The kind of item being transported, the route being taken, and the overall size of the load will determine whether an escort vehicle is required.

What Makes Heavy Haul Transportation Different

The complexity of OD transport, in reality, goes beyond the machinery required to carry cargo. Heavy haul transportation companies need to be highly knowledgeable in a variety of other fields in order to manage large shipments safely and efficiently.

Other considerations include; Drivers’ experience and training, Route surveys and planning, experience with permitting, and relationships with municipalities and regulatory departments.

So as to better understand each of these, it would be worth evaluating each, as they are all contributing factors to a successful project.

Driver Experience and Training

The business of heavy haul transportation can be extremely challenging. Transporting shipments that are larger than standard permitted limits can be difficult. Without prior experience transporting oversized and overweight items, truck drivers run the risk of endangering both themselves and other motorists. 

Trucking companies are very careful about the drivers they allow to transport these shipments as a result. Only drivers with the appropriate education and experience are granted these duties. These drivers must be able to follow a set route, manage their working hours well, decide where to stop for the night, and be extremely aware of any local traffic laws and regulations.

Route Surveys and Planning

There are several reasons why the path your heavy haul freight takes is crucial.

Because heavy haul cargo must be permitted, the cost of transporting an excessive load can vary depending on its route. As a result, heavy haul transportation calls for a company with the ability to plan routes efficiently.

Aside from that, not every route can accommodate the largest of heavy loads. Consideration should be given to the impacts of bridges, overpasses, and electricity lines, which can restrict loads from progressing.

From a safety perspective, it’s best for a heavy haul transport company to plan out its route and consider any potential difficulties and costs in advance. The planning of the route for oversized cargo requires an experienced carrier with a wealth of resources and connections due to the complexity of this component of the project.

Experience with Permitting

An oversized load must be legally permitted for every mile it travels. Permits for items that are oversized or overweight are issued at the state, county, and municipal levels. As a result, heavy haul transportation companies need to seek and secure additional permits well in advance. 

Heavy haul loads that need permits ultimately run into problems without a dependable heavy haul transportation contractor and careful planning; obtaining licenses requires time and collaboration with numerous organizations.

Extensive Relationships

Throughout their project, heavy haul transportation companies will have to collaborate with a number of governments and outside safety services.  This includes engineering firms, route surveyors, utility companies, pilot car services, and law enforcement escorts.  Working with the appropriate safety service providers is a vital component of the heavy haul transportation company’s efforts to deliver oversized cargo securely and safely.

Planning Your Heavy Haul Transportation Project

The complexity of heavy haul transport should be quite evident at this point. This service simply can’t be provided by every carrier due to the complexity of the planning process and the numerous factors to take into account.

It takes practice earned over time to move these items safely and effectively. Because of this, hiring an inexperienced or unreliable heavy haul transportation carrier could seriously harm your supply chain and customer relationships.

Does your preferred provider offer door-to-door service? Do they hold the proper insurance and permits? Have they offered a contingency plan in case their primary plan faces insurmountable challenges? Is the cost comparable to the service? All of these questions should be answered before you choose a carrier for your heavy haul transportation project.

Murphy Rigging is comprised of a team of veterans in the OD transport industry. Countless companies have partnered with experienced machinery movers at Murphy Rigging to make sure that their oversized products, machinery, and equipment were delivered successfully. We know how to prepare you for the unexpected while also making plans for any conceivable situation because we have seen practically everything that can arise while carrying out a heavy haul transportation project.  

In the end, it’s your secure and successful heavy-haul transportation results that motivate us to get out of bed each morning. To find out more about how to begin your heavy haul transportation project, simply get in touch with our experts and we will guide you to success.