Moving stuff isn’t generally a big deal. Even moving a piano can be accomplished fairly easily. You call a piano mover, they come and carefully disassemble it. Then, a few strong people pick it up, put it in a truck, and take it to its new destination and carefully reassemble it. But a 12-ton back hoe ain’t a piano. Transporting one requires a lot of coordination, paperwork, and most importantly – expertise. For construction equipment and materials, we recommend you hire a heavy hauler.
Do You Need a Heavy Hauler?
What you’re moving may be big and heavy – but not enough to require you to hire a heavy hauler. Get the specific weight and dimensions of the load. You may not need a special truck or permits.
As trucks and the loads they carried got bigger and heavier, states needed to implement weight limitations to protect roads and bridges. In 1975, Congress enacted the Bridge Formula. Generally, it sets weight limitations based on the type of axle as follows:
- Steer axles: Up to 12,000 pounds
- Single axles: Up to 20,000 pounds
- Drive axles: Up to 34,000 pounds
- Tandem axles: Up to 34,000 pounds
For loads beyond these limits, special heavy haul equipment with additional axles is necessary. The formula is used to limit the weight-to-length ratio by adding axles or increasing the distance between axles. This prevents the truck from over-stressing bridge members and possibly causing the bridge to collapse.
Not for Nothing
These weight limits are serious. And usually posted on the bridge. Recently, an historic bridge in North Dakota (built in 1906) collapsed under the weight of 25 tons of dry beans. The sign on the bridge the trucker blew by listed the weight limit as 14 tons. An overload citation of $11,400 was issued. Which is nothing compared to the million dollars it will cost to replace the bridge.
Federal law mandates certain travel accommodations and requirements, including:
- Oversized Load Banners
- Safety Flags
- Specialty Lights
- Pilot Cars
- Police Escort
The heavy hauler should know exactly what is needed to meet the requirements. Additionally, you should take the time to check the company’s safety record. Accidents do indeed happen, but they should be few and far between.
The heavy hauler you hire must know the specific route that meets all the rules of all the roads. Think about it: Too high and you can’t get under a bridge. Too heavy and you can’t travel over the bridge. Too wide and you can only travel with an escort vehicle on certain roads during certain hours. Every state, county, city, and municipality has developed different rules over the decades. Break them and it will cost you.
If you are crossing state, county, or city lines, you may need different permits. It gets complicated. For example, in Ohio, special consideration is given to the type of load. They will provide a 90-Day Regional heavy haul permit for steel or aluminum coils where the GVW of the vehicle and load is under 120,000 pounds. In Louisiana, any oversized and / or overweight load cannot drive through any of the tunnels in the state. The heavy hauler must know these details.
Tracking the Shipment
You want to know where your load is as it moves from Point A to Point B. The last thing you want to do is call the hauling company so they can call the driver then wait for them to call you with status. These days, any heavy hauler should use GPS for tracking shipments.
What insurance is offered? Don’t cheap out on insurance! If anything happens to that load, the cost to you is beyond the actual equipment and materials. Job delays cost money.
Obviously, you need to know the cost. You should get a few quotes. But price should not be your primary consideration. There’s usually a reason you’re paying less. You know, like a less experienced company with a spotty safety record. You don’t want to lose money in the long run because of a lost or damaged shipment. Insurance will cover the item, but not the financial hit to the project.
Basic Company Research
Select 4-5 companies to research. You’ll get quotes from the top 2-3. Try to get referrals from others in your industry. Don’t rely on the reference. Check it out.
Better Business Bureau
- How long has the company been in business?
- Number and type of complaints. If any, how were they handled?
- Testimonials on their website
- Public reviews on Yelp, YP.com.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) manages a website to research safety records: https://safer.fmcsa.dot.gov/CompanySnapshot.aspx. All you need is the DOT number, MC/MX number or company name. Use of the Safety and Fitness Electronic Records (SAFER) system is free.
The Heavy Hauler Checklist
Use this checklist to ask the right questions. This information will help you make an informed choice on which heavy hauler to hire:
- What is the total cost of my shipment? Have the company list out all fees, taxes, etc. When is payment due?
- How will you track my shipment? Will I get automatic status? How often?
- Is your company insured and bonded?
- What kind of truck will your use?
- What is the best route?
- Do you specialize in transporting my load? When’s the last time you moved a load like mine? Can I get a reference? Then contact them.
- What memberships and certifications do you have?
- What type of insurance do you offer? How much does it cost?
- How is your safety record? When’s the last time there was an accident? Then look it up. If they lied, move on.
Whatever agreements you make on price, route, and other details of the job, be sure to get it all in writing!
You Can Do It
Moving heavy equipment and materials is complex. But companies do it every day. To find a reputable and competent heavy haul company, do some basic research, ask the right questions, and don’t focus solely on price. Select a quality company and your stuff will make it from Point A to Point B safely and securely.