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oversized freight

Mastering the Shipping of Over Dimensional Freight

Nathan McGuire
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March 11, 2024
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Mastering the Shipping of Over Dimensional Freight
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It takes a lot of daily shipments of large products that don’t fit in, say, a UPS step van, to keep the wheels of the industry turning. Think of everything over dimensional freight encompasses, without which the economy would grind to a halt: heavy-duty trucks, backhoes, and cranes; manufacturing equipment like presses and CNC machines; harvesters and combines for agriculture; etc.; the list goes on.

This highly specialized area requires deep expertise, planning, permitting, and even carrier accreditation. Think of a prefab house on a large flatbed truck, with “wide load” flag vehicles in front and behind. Shippers need to carefully consider the entire transit route, including local highway weight restrictions and overpass clearance heights – so you don’t become this story.

Wicker Park Logistics, a leading logistics service provider (LSP), specializes in this transportation niche. With experience in construction, farm equipment, hazmat, mining equipment, and much more, their white-glove-level service includes helping you calculate the cost per mile for heavy freight hauling.

Understanding Over Dimensional and Oversize Freight

The Department of Transportation has specific guidelines for oversized freight on U.S. highways. The standard width limit is 8 feet, 6 inches, and single trailers can’t exceed 48 feet. For a tandem setup, the maximum length is 28 feet per trailer. DOT maximums are 80,000 pounds for gross vehicle weight, 20,000 pounds per single axle, and 34,000 lbs. for tandem axle weight.

There are no federal limits on vehicle height, but state requirements range from 13 feet 6 inches to 14 feet. Exceptions are granted for lower clearance on particular roads.

States can set their own vehicle weight and length limits and allow longer vehicles on interstate highways than federal guidelines allow. A shipper or LSP needs deep knowledge and understanding of state and federal regulations for commercial vehicles hauling over dimensional freight.

Any commercial vehicle exceeding these limits requires permitting from the relevant state transportation agency to move larger loads on public highways.

In addition to those noted above, other regular users of over dimensional freight services include aerospace and defense, wind turbines, mining and forestry, railway, water treatment, oil and gas, and mining.

The Permitting Process

Obtaining oversized freight permits from a state agency is a complex process that varies by jurisdiction. Detailed information is required on dimensions, type of load, route, and travel dates.

Permit fees vary by state and localities, depending on size and weight, distance traveled, and route complexity. Some jurisdictions charge for escorts or police details. State laws require carriers to insure oversized loads. Certain loads also require additional permits, escorts from utility companies, or coordination with law enforcement.

The permitting and planning process can be lengthy and involve coordination with multiple authorities, so carriers must start well before the travel dates. Carriers often work with a specialized broker or LSP with experience in the complex regulatory environment.

Keeping over dimensional Freight Highway Safe

For particularly large or complex loads, a route survey is required to identify potential obstacles (low bridges, narrow roads, construction zones) to maximize safety and minimize disruptions. Flags, banners, lights, and signs are usually required to alert motorists.

The number of pilot cars required depends on the load size and each state’s regulations. Many states impose restrictions on times and days when oversized loads can travel, usually limited to weekday daylight hours.

The Right Equipment for the Job

There are various trailer types, and it’s important to choose the right kind for each shipment; this is where an experienced LSP can provide sage advice. All but hotshot trailers (5,000-10,000 pounds) are rated for up to 46,000-48,000 pounds, and all can handle loads up to 8 feet 6 inches high. Here are the main trailer categories and the types of loads they’re typically used for.

Open Deck

This versatile platform provides easy loading and unloading from the front, back, and sides and a long deck (48-53 feet). It’s ideal for goods that don’t require protection from the elements, although loads can be covered with a tarp. Construction equipment and supplies, building materials, and HVAC equipment are common uses.

Step Deck and Drop-Deck

These trailers feature a lower deck that can accommodate taller loads, providing greater clearance without needing permits for excessive height. They are ideal for moving tractors, building materials, excavators, agricultural materials, and machinery.

Double Drop

Double drop trailers, with a low main deck separated by higher, shorter front and rear decks, have the same load characteristics as step and drop-deck trailers but a shorter main deck (24 feet to 29 feet). Like step decks and drop decks, a lower main deck allows for taller loads without extra permits.

Removable Gooseneck

These trailers, with the same maximum weight, height, and main deck characteristics as double drop, can move booms, backhoes, cranes, and portable structures. A detachable neck allows the front of the trailer to be used as a ramp.


A smaller flatbed trailer, usually towed by a heavy-duty pickup, is designed for fast delivery of smaller oversized loads. It is ideal for expedited shipment of manufacturing, automotive, or medical equipment but can handle all kinds of loads.


Named for the famed wagons that aided America’s westward expansion, the Conestoga features a retractable tarp over a flatbed or drop-deck frame, providing protection from the weather as well as easy loading and unloading from the sides or top. Common loads include steel, lumber, palletized loads, and construction equipment.

Wicker Park Logistics' Edge in Over Dimensional Freight

Wicker Park Logistics takes a consultative approach to over dimensional or oversized shipments for our clients. We ask questions to understand the pain points and find the perfect fit for each shipment. We can source and configure the right equipment for hauling even the most complex over dimensional loads.

Our due diligence in understanding the dimensions and characteristics of each shipment translates into smooth, efficient navigation from point A to point B and everything in between. We exhaustively vet each carrier and ensure that all necessary permits have been filed and approved in advance.

Trust Wicker Park Logistics to Handle Your Over dimensional Freight

With its specialized requirements based on the types of equipment and material being hauled, and the permitting and regulations involved, over dimensional freight takes more than the usual level of transportation planning and management.

Wicker Park Logistics, with its legacy of peerless service in supply chain and freight, can handle any over dimensional job you bring our way. Based on your timeframe and priorities, each shipment is handled with a high degree of professionalism and efficiency. Speak to an expert today.

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