Oversized Freight: Permits and Regulations

Whether you’re relocating your business or undertaking a major construction project, this often involves the transportation of heavy and oversized machinery. Similarly, if you’re involved in a housing development project and need to transport an excavator to the work site, it becomes clear that specialized measures need to be taken. These oversized and heavy items require extra care, and that’s where booking a heavy haul load for oversized freight comes into play.

But what does this mean for you? Are there any additional steps you need to take to obtain a quote, book your load, and ensure a smooth delivery to your desired destination?

This article will provide you with all the essential information you need to know about shipping oversized freight and overweight freight, including measurements, permits, required equipment, and more

Is Your Freight Considered Over-Dimensional or Overweight?

Let’s start by determining if your freight qualifies as over-dimensional or overweight. To answer this question accurately, you must have precise measurements of your freight’s dimensions and weight. This information is crucial for ensuring the success of your heavy haul shipment.

Pro Tip

Accurate measurements are vital when booking heavy haul freight. They enable you to secure the correct equipment and obtain the necessary permits and assistance.

Here are the key considerations for determining if your freight falls into the over-dimensional category:


In North America, any freight exceeding 8’6″ in width requires oversized permits.


The allowable height varies by state and equipment type. Typically, standard freight must not exceed 13’6″ in height for dry van trailers east of the Mississippi River. For flatbed trailers, the limit is 8’6″ in most cases, while step deck trailers allow up to 10′ in height. However, Western states may permit an extra six inches in height. For specific height limits, consult the guide to open-deck equipment.


Most U.S. states and Canadian provinces permit freight to hang up to 5′ beyond the front or back edge of a 48′ flatbed trailer without being considered overlength. Beyond that, you will need a permit.


Standard flatbed trailers have a maximum weight capacity of 48,000 lbs. for freight before it is deemed overweight. Different trailers may have lower weight limits.

Common Types of Oversized Freight

While any sufficiently large item can be classified as oversized freight, there are common items that often fall into this category. If you are transporting the following items, it is likely that you will require oversize or overweight permits:

  • Structural steel
  • Large pipes
  • Tanks of various sizes
  • Manufacturing equipment
  • Construction machinery
  • Aerial lift equipment
  • Turbines and turbine blades

This list is not exhaustive, but it provides a starting point for identifying when heavy haul capacity is necessary even before taking measurements.

Oversized Freight Permits: What Are They and How to Obtain Them?

When your freight exceeds the volume or weight limits set by the states it will traverse, permits from each state’s Department of Transportation are required to transport the freight through those jurisdictions. Fortunately, securing these permits is typically the responsibility of the carrier, unless you explicitly state your willingness to provide them. This means you won’t have to contact all the relevant agencies before shipping your goods.

Here are some essential facts about Oversized Freight permits:

Permits cannot be issued for divisible loads. If you have two items weighing 30,000 pounds each, you cannot load them on the same trailer and obtain a permit for a 60,000-pound load. Each item must be shipped separately.

Permit costs vary from state to state, so your carrier should inform you of the expected expenses for your entire shipment.

Permits are nonrefundable and have a specific validity period. If a load is canceled, delayed, or extends beyond the permit’s expiration date, your carrier will need to reorder them.

Equipment Requirements for Oversized Freight

The equipment needed for your shipment will depend directly on its size. To avoid complications, it is crucial to keep your shipment below the height restriction of 13’6″ (or 14′ west of the Mississippi River) that applies to most standard loads.

If your freight is heavy, you may also need to book additional equipment like a forklift or a crane for loading and unloading. Your carrier should assist you in procuring these resources. However, keep in mind that during peak open-deck season, such equipment is in high demand and may be challenging to secure. Missing an appointment with the equipment provider will result in additional charges.

It’s important to be accurate, transparent, and realistic when determining the equipment necessary for your shipment. Trying to manipulate the details to secure cheaper equipment is not advisable. Provide precise information and consider the specialized equipment your freight truly needs.

Escort Requirements for Oversized Freight

Certain heavy haul loads are too complex to be transported without escorts. Based on the specific characteristics of your cargo, it might be necessary to have one or multiple civilian escorts accompany your truck driver throughout the transportation process. Oversize loads are typically classified into three tiers based on their escort needs:

Tier 1

No escort required; only permits are needed.

Tier 2

Permits required, along with one civilian escort who alerts other drivers to the presence of an oversized load and scouts ahead for potential obstacles.

Tier 3

Permits required, along with multiple escorts and/or a bucket truck. These are considered the most complex loads, often referred to as “Super Loads.” In some states, a bucket truck may be necessary to move power lines along the route.

Permits required, along with multiple escorts and/or a bucket truck. These are considered the most complex loads, often referred to as “Super Loads.” In some states, a bucket truck may be necessary to move power lines along the route.

Pick-Up and Delivery Requirements for Oversized Freight

Transporting atypical loads comes with unique expectations for pick-up and delivery. While the timing is typically more flexible due to the complexity involved, it is crucial to honor your appointments once they are set.

If you have scheduled the use of a crane or forklift, for example, it is essential to meet your appointment as planned. These equipment rentals are costly and challenging to secure, and both you and the equipment operators want to avoid any delays or wasted time.

Similarly, if your shipment encounters any delays during transit, promptly communicate the situation to the consignee. This allows them to adjust their plans, such as postponing the rental of a crane for a day or two if necessary.

Obtaining Oversized Freight Permits (3 Simple Steps)

When it comes to shipping non-divisible loads that exceed the legal dimensional restrictions, oversized load permits are required for the states, counties, and townships the freight will pass through during transit.

However, it’s important to note that these restrictions and permit requirements vary significantly across different states, counties, and towns. Additionally, the calculation methods for permit prices can differ, including factors such as load dimensions, weight, weight increments, miles traveled, or a combination thereof.

If you need to obtain permits for an upcoming shipment and are unsure about the process, the time it takes to obtain the permits, or the information required to coordinate this process, you’re in the right place. We’ll provide you with further insights and information to help streamline your oversized freight permitting process.

At Nova Lines, we have decades of experience helping shippers like you secure the oversize/overweight permits they need. We understand the intricacies of the process and how to navigate it successfully. Below, we’ll outline three simple steps to help you obtain the necessary oversized permits:

Step 1: Understand Your Freight’s Route

Before you begin the permit application process, it’s crucial to determine the best route for your shipment. However, moving oversized freight can be costly, even with proper planning. Permit requirements and costs change as you cross different jurisdictions, so optimizing your route can help minimize expenses. However, planning a route without expert assistance can be challenging.

For example, let’s say you need to transport a shipment that is 12 feet, 7 inches wide from Wichita, Kansas to Des Moines, Iowa. Generally, the most direct route would take you through the upper half of Missouri. However, because the load exceeds 12 feet, 6 inches in width, you would require escort car services within Missouri, adding additional expenses. By rerouting through Nebraska, where permits have flat fees and an escort vehicle can be replaced by an LED light bar on divided highways, you can significantly reduce costs. Although this alternative route may add miles to the overall journey, it results in substantial savings.

Indeed, each state has unique rules and regulations for oversized transportation, and without a deep understanding of state and county permitting rules, it would be nearly impossible to optimize your transportation budget effectively. Work closely with your transportation provider to determine the best route for your freight before initiating the permit application process. This will help you avoid costly delays and ensure that you get all necessary permits before the shipment begins.

Step 2: Identify the Required Permits

Most oversized shipments require at least one of the following permit types, depending on the route chosen:

  • State-level oversize permits
  • County-level oversize permits
  • Township oversize permits

The permit type you need depends primarily on which entity governs the roads your load will be using. If your freight moves along an interstate highway, a state permit is necessary. You will need local permits for metropolitan areas at either end of the journey.

Step 3: Obtain the Necessary Permits

Once you have determined your route and identified the required permits, the next step is straightforward: obtain the permits. There are two primary methods for obtaining oversized load permits:

Directly from the governing bodies

To acquire permits directly from states, counties, or towns, you or your transportation provider must typically have an existing account with each governing entity. Holding these accounts may require signing contracts and bonds, demonstrating your ability to obtain permits for your freight. While maintaining these contracts can be an initial investment, it allows transportation companies to secure permits quickly and cost-effectively without additional fees.

Through a permit service

If you do not have accounts with the necessary entities, permit services can assist you in obtaining the required permits. These services specialize in obtaining transportation permits and have a comprehensive understanding of each state’s permitting requirements. While using a permit service may incur additional fees, it can save you time and ensure compliance with regulations.

The time required to receive permits depends on various factors. If you or your transportation provider have active accounts with the required states and jurisdictions, the process should be relatively quick. Permitting for a 2-axle trailer, such as those used for flatbed, step-deck, and lowboy shipments, can be almost instant. For other over-dimensional freight within specific size thresholds, permits are typically processed and approved within four to eight hours. However, larger shipments may require additional time due to construction limitations, district reviews, bridge engineering, or pre-run surveys. Obtaining permits for such shipments can take between two to six weeks.

Streamlining the Oversized Freight Permit Process

While shipping oversized and overweight freight presents challenges, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Choosing the right transportation partner—one with experience, expertise, and the right capabilities—can simplify the process significantly.

Unfortunately, many shippers end up paying more than necessary for their oversized freight because they underestimate the importance of a reliable partner. Companies experienced in handling large freight understand the intricacies and can guide you through the process effectively.

By following these steps and partnering with a reliable transportation provider like Nova Lines, you can simplify the process of obtaining oversized load permits, streamline your route planning, and ensure the successful delivery of your freight.


1. What is over-dimensional or overweight freight?

Over-dimensional freight refers to shipments that exceed the standard dimensions set for width, height, length, or weight. Overweight freight refers to shipments that exceed the maximum weight limits. These dimensions and weight limits vary by jurisdiction.

2. How do I determine if my freight is over-dimensional or overweight?

To determine if your freight is over-dimensional, you need to measure its width, height, length, and weight accurately. You can compare these measurements to the legal limits set by the jurisdictions where your transport your freight.

3. What are the common types of oversized freight?

Common types of oversized freight include structural steel, large pipes, tanks of various sizes, manufacturing equipment, construction machinery, aerial lift equipment, and turbines and turbine blades.

4. How do I obtain permits for transporting oversized freight?

You can obtain permits for transporting oversized freight through the carrier responsible for transporting your goods. The carrier will secure the necessary permits from the appropriate Department of Transportation or regulatory agencies in each jurisdiction.

5. What are the requirements for escorting oversized freight?

Escort requirements vary based on the characteristics of the cargo. Generally, heavier and larger loads may require one or multiple civilian escorts to accompany the truck driver. Escorts help alert other drivers to the presence of the oversized load and scout ahead for potential obstacles. There are multiple tiers based on complexity.

6. What equipment do you need for transporting oversized freight?

The equipment needed for transporting oversized freight depends on the size and weight of the shipment. It may include specialized trailers, such as flatbeds or step deck trailers, and additional equipment like forklifts or cranes for loading and unloading. Your carrier should assist you in determining the necessary equipment.

You might also like:

Spot Market vs Contract Rates: What Should Shippers Focus On

Trucking Spot Market Rates: A Guide for Truck Drivers