Navigating the Challenges of Heavy Hauls with Precision and Safety


For all the skill it takes to erect and operate cranes, it takes equally specialized expertise, planning, and equipment to transport them to and from job sites.

And from remote locations to the middle of busy cities, it is the industry’s heavy haulers who are called on to meet that challenge safely and efficiently.

Heavy hauls, which are also commonly called superload, oversize, overweight, or over dimensional loads, typically require a tractor and trailer that exceed the ordinary size and weight limits set by states.

Generally, these loads cannot be reduced to legal dimensions, including a total gross weight of 80,000 lbs. or less for the truck, trailer, and unit being shipped.

Equipment that may be required for heavy hauls includes a variety of trailer types, such as double drop, extendable, removable gooseneck (RGN), and stretch models. Trailers may have from 5 axles to as many as 20.

“Proper planning is critical to figuring out the right logistics of the haul,” said John Anderson, president of NessCampbell Crane + Rigging. “Moving a crane is about much more than just loading it up and heading down the road. Having every aspect of the haul mapped out ahead of time ensures smooth and safe transportation.”

NessCampbell considers a number of factors when its Heavy Haul Division is called on to move its own cranes or to move machines for other companies across the Pacific Northwest.

There are low bridges and overpasses and narrow roads that may present obstacles to address, including whether turns are navigable or if power lines are in the way.

The grade of any given road on the route, and weather and road conditions play a part in the transportation planning, as well.

“We consult with local officials to plot the safest and most efficient trip,” Anderson related, “and we secure required permits for all kinds of weights, heights, and lengths, as well as divisible, non-divisible, and oversize loads. At the same, our project managers put a lot of effort into knowing the jobsite, and the dimensions and weight of the crane, so we can choose the right equipment for the haul and the location.”

Leading the way 

Some states require that certain oversize loads have certified pilot/escort vehicle operators to safely escort the load from its origin to its destination. Representing that aspect of the industry and a valuable resource is the National Pilot Car Association.

Another helpful source of information is the FHWA (Federal Highway Administration) Pilot/Escort Vehicle Operators Best Practices document.

That comprehensive set of guidelines covers trip pre-planning, including route review and pilot vehicle and equipment preparation, and pre-trip safety meetings.

There are also sections on how to position vehicles to comply with permits and state regulations, traffic control topics, handling special challenges such as railroad crossings, emergency procedures, and post-trip evaluations.

Technology is increasingly playing a key role in ensuring safety during heavy haul and pilot car operations.

For example, the interactive mapping and permitting software from ProMiles maps out proposed routes by using state data on height and weight restrictions and the growing number of places with bridge crossing slowdown provisions that require loads to travel only on the center line at slow speeds.

The ProMiles software also provides audible turn by turn navigation that calls out things like upcoming vertical clearances.

Additionally, ProMiles partnered with HyPoint Solutions to use LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) technology, a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure approaching overhead structures with accuracy to ¼”. For bridge clearance measurements, HyPoint has access to a nationwide LIDAR database that is updated on all state DOT maintained roads. 

On the ground

At Omega Morgan, a Hillsboro, Oregon, heavy rigging and transportation services provider, a strategic approach to heavy hauls addresses customer needs, potential complications, safety, environmental protection, and avoids adding time or costs to the move.

Heavy hauls, noted Erik Zander, COO, start with route surveys to detect potential road hazards, eliminate delays, and determine the safest, most efficient way to transport oversized loads.

The company’s team also checks legal parameters for load dimensions and weight by each state in which the haul will take place and coordinates necessary permit and pilot and escort requirements.

That expertise and a variety of heavy haul equipment for transporting oversized and/or overweight loads came into play when the company was hired to move a crawler crane chassis for San Francisco’s Malcom Drilling Company.

The Bauer BG 46 unit weighed 210,000 lbs and was 18 ft tall, but Omega Morgan moved the unit in one piece, saving its customer a week of tear down and reassembly.

Crane Hauling Services

Seth Skydel is a writer with 38 years of experience covering the trucking, utility, construction, and related markets.


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