If you see this in your rearview mirror and you aren't a pilot car, maybe you should move out of the way.

tillsonburg | ©istock photos

How to Tow An Oversize Load

Let's say your parent's have left you a lovely, double-wide trailer home in their wills. As much as you love the abode, with its wood paneled walls and berber carpeting, you don't want to live on the narrow plot where it sits in the mobile home community. The dumpster is right beside it, and the neighbors lack something in the personality department. You get the big idea to move it out to a nice, quiet spot in the desert and live rent-free for the rest of your life. It's easy enough to simply find a company to move it for you. But you're a stickler for details and want to know some specifics about how the move will work.

Here's how towing an oversize load works: The first thing your moving company will do is get the specs of your trailer, where it's coming from and where it's going. The moving company will need to know the exact dimensions -- height, width, length and weight. This information will help the company determine the following:

  • truck and bed size needed
  • route it'll be able to take
  • what kind of devices needed to safely secure the load
  • what permits it'll need to secure
  • how to accurately price your move
  • how many and what kinds of signage to bring
  • whether you'll need one or more pilot cars

The number of pilot cars you'll need, if you need one at all, will contribute to your costs. Some companies require the use of their own fleet of pilot cars and drivers, while some allow you to bring in a third party company. Ask if the moving company will match the price of another company. This can save you time and effort. Just as each state has its own definition of what constitutes an oversize load, each one has its own laws regarding the use of pilot cars. For example, here in the state of Georgia, home to HowStuffWorks, a permit is needed on state highways for a load larger than any of the following:

  • 8 feet, 6 inches wide (2.59 meters)
  • 13 feet, 6 inches high (4.11 meters)
  • 100 feet long (30.48 meters)

In towing oversize loads, you'll need one pilot car on two-lane highways if your load is more than 75 feet (22.86 meters) long or more than 15 feet, 6 inches (4.72 meters) high. You'll need two pilot cars, one in the front and one in the rear, if your load is more than 125 feet (38.1 meters) long or more than 12 feet (3.65 meters) wide. On four-lane highways, you'll have to get one pilot car when your load is more than 75 feet (22.86 meters) long and 12 feet (3.65 meters) wide. The double pilot becomes necessary when it's more than 125 feet (38.1 meters) long and 14 feet (4.26 meters) wide or more.

This is only one example of how to tow an oversize load, but it's good to know what to expect when dealing with the hauling company. Take some time to research the laws in your state so you can be well informed of your needs and choices.­