18-wheelers, the large tractor-trailer rigs that haul goods across the nation’s interstate highways, are limited by both state and federal law to 80,000 pounds. That includes the weight of the equipment and any cargo, typically loaded into either a 53-foot closed box trailer or carried on a detachable flatbed trailer. Although individual state regulations vary somewhat, there are typical width and length restrictions. The standard maximum width is 8.5 or 8.6 feet. Other limitations pertain to height, vertical clearance, safety equipment, authorized routes, driving hours, and other concerns.
Oversize loads are permitted on U.S. highways by special permit, but they normally require specialty equipment, as well, along with detailed route planning, and specific licenses or fees. “Super loads,” those extremely large wind-turbine blades, for example, or equipment that far exceeds established height and weight limits, may require unique specialized equipment, road closures, travel only during non-peak hours, and escort vehicles or law enforcement supervision.
Overview of Wide Load Trucking
What, exactly, is a wide load? And what is an oversize load? Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, wide loads are considered anything beyond the typical 8.5-foot limit of most states. Oversize, by definition, includes wider loads, as well as loads that are taller, longer, and heavier than specific state norms. Crossing a state line with an oversize load usually requires a permit from every state along the route.
If a load exceeds 12 or 14 feet, additional requirements are almost certain. Escort vehicles and pilot cars are often mandated. Taller and heavier loads may require additional lead and following vehicles, temporary road closures, and other logistical measures. A “super load” is defined as one wider than 16 feet, with a weight of 100,000 pounds or more. Such loads necessitate a number of additional requirements.
Special Requirements for Wide Load Trucking
As previously mentioned, depending on what you are shipping and where, if the route involves travel on public roads, permits or licenses will normally be required. Route planning is essential and must be completed beforehand.
Prepare a list of basic questions. Begin your search for a shipping provider with companies close to your locale. Expand your search as necessary.
Discuss what each company considers its core strengths. Ask about history, infrastructure, safety practices, experience, damage liability, and reliability.
Vital Questions Include:
- What is the company’s primary area of service, and does it have an established clientele or area of expertise?
- Will you have a designated contact person, and will you be able to speak to a live representative before, during, and after the scheduled pickup and transport?
- What are the requirements for pilot or escort vehicles along the route?
- What type of insurance does the company provide, or offer?
- How long has the company been in business?
- Does the company have a specialty?
- Does the company have experience with the kind of item(s) you wish to ship?
- Who will handle route planning, securing permits, and arranging for licenses?
- Are permits and fees included, or will they be an upcharge?
- What is the expected timeline between pickup and delivery? Are there any contingencies?
- Can delivery be guaranteed by a certain date? What if a delay occurs?
- What are company requirements for drivers? Discuss training, experience, reliability, compliance, health, and safety.
- Is the price negotiable? Is the quote binding?
- What limitations exist? How will the shipper deal with unanticipated schedule changes, unforeseen pickup or delivery complications, omissions, or potential disputes?
Average Cost for Wide Load Shipping
According to Freight Run, the starting price for an oversize shipment in 2023 is about $2.30 per mile, but the price can quickly escalate to more than $10 a mile, based on logistics, the type of shipment being hauled, and the special handling requirements of the job. Always obtain multiple estimates in writing before deciding.
Companies that have survived for 20 years or more in the field have a track record that should be accessible. Do your homework. Ask pertinent questions. Use all available resources to gain information. Never be swayed by an initially low quote, and get all bids in writing.
Top 15 Wide Load Trucking Companies
Although any list of this kind may be highly subjective, we tried to base our selection on public comments and rankings from multiple sources. Always confirm the opinions through personal research.
Anderson Trucking Service
- Website: https://www.atsinc.com/about
- Established in 1955
- Headquarters: St. Cloud, Minnesota
ATS serves the entire United States and offers “across the border” and international multi-modal shipping services, in addition to heavy haul trucking and Less-than-Truckload (LTL) shipping services. Their website also lists price ranges for various types of shipping.
- Website: https://www.tmctrans.com/our-company/
- 50+ years in business
- Des Moines, Iowa
A unique employee-owned company with 5,000+ employees, TMC boasts revenue of more than $713 million, a state-of-the-art training facility, innovative company culture, and an ongoing dedication to excellence with high-quality late-model equipment and a claim-free delivery record.
Lone Star Transportation
- Website: https://www.daseke.com/flatbed-trucking-companies/lone-star-transportation-fort-worth-tx/
- Founded in 1988 in Abilene, Texas, as an oilfield carrier; now one of the premier holdings of Daseke, Inc., with headquarters in Addison, Texas
- Fort Worth, Texas
Lone Star is one of the largest specialty transport companies in North America. With more than 500 tractors and 1,500 specialty trailers, the company hauls wind turbines and blades, construction machinery, oil and gas equipment, and aerospace parts, among other cargo of all kinds throughout the lower 48 states, Alaska, Canada, and Mexico. Their record is impeccable.
Landstar System, Inc.
- Website: https://www.landstar.com/
- Founded in 1968
- South Jacksonville, Florida
A Fortune 500 company, Landstar is a network of semi-independent agents, third-party owners, and employees, with a laudable record and technology-rich operating systems. Recent-year revenue topped $1,386, 387,000, and the company, with 13,000 employees, is known and respected worldwide.
TJ Potter Trucking Co.
- Website: https://www.tjpottertrucking.com/arkansas.php
- Founded in 1984
- Arkansas (and Minnesota)
A member of the National Women’s Business Enterprise, this heavy-load, long-haul trucking company focuses on customer service and satisfaction with a specialized fleet of trucks and flatbed hauling equipment. They operate throughout the United States and Canada.
Bennett Motor Express
- Website: https://www.bennettig.com/about-us/
- Nearly 50 years
- McDonough, Georgia
The core values of this company form the basis for its daily operations. Services include conventional trucking, heavy haul freight, oversize and super load coordination, manufactured housing, and a wide range of cargo. Their territory is the entire country and beyond.
- Website: https://www.maverickusa.com/contact/
- 63 years old, 100% family-owned
- Headquartered in Arkansas
This company has grown from its early roots to become a hauling company with specialty services for glass and boat transport. The firm has an enviable safety record and annual revenue approaching $300 million. Maverick responds to customer needs for oversize loads to 12 feet wide throughout the United States and Canada.
- Website: https://www.casttrans.com/
- 75+ years
- 4 Locations: New Mexico, Tennessee, Colorado, Washington State
Service and safety are top of mind for Cast Trucking, with their emphasis on the transport of heavy haul, oversize, and transhaul shipments and HAZMAT loads that include nuclear and radioactive materials.
- Website: https://www.emmertintl.com/company/
- 52 years old
- Clackamas, Oregon
An acknowledged “big boy” on this list, Emmert specializes in designing and building unique heavy-haul equipment to meet the needs of worldwide customers. Much more than a trucking company, it can supply specialty support and transport by land, rail, or sea to destinations across the globe.
Heavy Equipment Transport
- Website: https://www.heavyequipmenttransport.com/
- More than a decade of experience
- Port St. Lucie, Florida
Trained logistics agents are on hand to provide immediate answers to your oversize shipping questions, and even to supply no-obligation quotes during a first call. With load-tracking options, a wide variety of containers, and oversize equipment available to meet any need, the company can ship to any U.S. location and overseas through an affiliated international team.
Melton Truck Lines
- Website: https://meltontruck.com/
- 65 years in business
- Tulsa, Oklahoma
From humble beginnings as a lumber and roofing materials hauler, Melton has grown to be a trucking industry leader that treats customers from coast to coast like “family.” And, like the best of families, the company works hard to solve problems and find workable solutions for its customers’ oversize and heavy hauling needs.
Bridgeway Connects, Inc.
- Website: https://bridgewayconnects.com/
- 40+ years of experience
- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
In November of 2022, Transport Investments, Inc., became Bridgeway Connects, a name change that reflects the company’s dedication to moving “difficult” freight and its desire to become a prime shipper of specialty freight. Its leadership team remains in place, and the firm intends to leverage a network of 100,000 carriers across the country to meet an ever-growing demand for oversize, wide-haul, and specialty freight expertise.
- Website: https://mercer-trans.com/about-mercer/
- 45 years in business
- Headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky
With a fleet of owner-operators and supportive independent agents, Mercer Transportation seems to have found a formula for success that has stood the test of time. With support staff numbering only about 300, the company delivers about a quarter of a million loads annually and has been recognized as a “Top 100 Carrier” by Transport Topics.
Sterrett Heavy Hauling
- Website: https://www.sterettheavyhauling.com/
- Nearly 20 years
- Headquarters in Owensboro, Kentucky
Six decades of experience in the crane and heavy hauling industry position Sterrett to provide specialty solutions for customers with special hauling needs. Sterrett recently acquired Arlington Heavy Hauling of Jacksonville, Florida, a specialist in the movement of construction equipment and oversize machinery and will concentrate its efforts in the southeastern states’ market area.
- Website: https://www.perkinsstc.com/#intro
- Initial company formed in 1945
A “sister company” to TJ Potter Trucking, Perkins STC was acquired by the Potter Holding Company to complement its long haul and oversize capabilities with super load expertise. It is an acknowledged leader in “super load” freight. It once set a record for the successful delivery from California to Utah of a steam generator, using a 400-ton dual-lane suspension beam trailer.
The U.S. trucking industry was once strictly controlled, but the Motor Carrier Act, signed into law by President Carter in 1980, paved the way for new companies to enter the market and allowed for greater price variations on shipping goods.
Today, more than 1.2 million trucking businesses operate in the United States. According to some estimates, 90% of them operate with no more than seven trucks. So, if you’re searching for a specialty oversize trucking company with experience, understand the various terms that are pertinent, prepare a list of questions to ask each prospect, obtain multiple quotes, and check references.