What is a route survey?

What is a route survey?

In the trucking industry a route survey applies to transportation of specialized shipments. Route surveys are typically done before a shipment is permitted to travel. A vehicle must travel the exact route proposed by the specialized trucking company to ensure the safety of motorists and protection of public property. When a route survey is being performed the surveyor is looking for things like low bridges, tight turn radius’s or other signs the shipment may an alternate route. The route surveyor is also documenting things such as rail-road crossings and bridge heights (if applicable) as well as other potential dangers or obstructions. Specifically, these type of shipments can either be heavy, tall, long or wide. Each state and province in North America has rules and regulations that must be followed in order to ship specialized loads over their roads and highways. These laws were designed to protect motorists and well as public property such as roads and highways as well as bridges. When a oversize or over-weight (heavy-haul) item requires over the road transportation and is considered to large or heavy to ship under routinely issued oversize or heavy-haul trucking permits it is then classified as a superload. Most superloads require a route survey be done prior to authorizing them to ship it. Usually a pilot car (escort vehicle) will perform a survey of the intended route first in order to make certain the shipment is able to pass through certain areas or under bridges.


Why is a route survey required?

First and foremost to ensure the safety of motorists traveling over the roads and highways. In addition, to protect public assets and property from being damaged by a extra large or heavy shipment. Anytime a shipment is in excess of the legal limits there is an added level of danger associated with it. In the case of superloads there is even more. This is why the laws governing the shipment of extra large and heavy loads (superloads) are so strict. Try to picture a typical semi-truck with a 48 or 53 feet trailer. The entire combination is less than 65 feet in length. Now consider how relatively easy it is for the truck to make a right hand turn at a stop light. Now think how it would be if the combined length was 3 times that amount or 196 feet. Bridges are the same. The typical semi-truck is less than 11 feet and 6 inches to the top of the exhaust pipes. The legal maximum height in most states/provinces is 13 feet and 6 inches. Now think about what if the item being transported was 32 feet in height. Route surveys for extreme oversize and heavy-haul shipments are very important.


What certifications do you need to do route survey work?

The majority of the time a route survey is performed by a pilot car (escort) company. Most states/provinces require pilot car drivers to be certified before operating in them so in order to perform route survey work you will want to get certified as a pilot car driver first. However, in many cases recently route survey work for superloads has been assigned to government employees such as engineers and law enforcement. So if you do plan on doing route survey work you may want to consider operating in the capacity of a pilot car company first and be certain you install a height pole on your pilot car or escort vehicle.

If you are looking for a pilot car company to do a route survey for your company we have many available. If you are in need of a specialized carrier to ship your extremely heavy or oversize shipment we would be more than happy to have them quote you.



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Ohio State Shipping Regulations

2018 Ohio DOT state shipping laws, regulations, ules, limitations for oversize and heavy-haul trucking permits.

Ohio DOT rules and regulations for oversize and overweight shipping.

The great state of Ohio official seal.

Please share your expertise or Ohio state shipping regulations with other visitors below.

Locate oversize, heavy-haul trucking companies and pilot cars.

Ohio oversize, heavy-haul trucking companies and pilot cars for hire:

Ohio pilot cars and truck escorts.
Ohio oversize and heavy-haul trucking companies.

Do I need a trucking permits? Legal load limits.

Ohio maximum load limits until a trucking permit is required:

Length: The Ohio DOT has no maximum length set that we know of. Trailer length is set at a maximum length of 53 feet. If the shipment is over 90′ in length (combined) 1 pilot car (escort vehicle) is required.
Height: 13 feet 6 inches is the maximum allowed shipping height as per Ohio DOT without a permit.
Width: 8 feet 6 inches is the maximum width allowed to travel on Ohio roads.
Weight: 80,000 pounds maximum weight (GVW) 20,000 pounds on any single axle, 34,000 pounds on dual axles, 48,000 pounds on tridum axles.
Overhang: 53 feet is the maximum length. Front overhang is an issue that has not been clearly addressed by O
Notes: Definitions of weights: Overall Spacing: Distance center to center, to the nearest foot between extreme front and rear-most axles of vehicle or combination of vehicles, or any internal axle grouping. Spacing: Distance center to center, to the nearest foot, to an adjacent axle.


Some divisible loads may be permitted to travel is less than 150 miles. Transporting metal coils such as aluminum, copper, steel have different laws, basic info is 3 (or fewer) coils are deemed “nondivisible loads” (as per OH NonDivisible and per Ohio 5501:2-1-01 (Q).

Routine oversize and heavy-haul trucking permits.

These maximum dimensions/weights are routine oversize or heavy-haul trucking permits in OH:

Length: Anything over 90′ will require a pilot car/escort vehicle.
Width: 14′ is the maximum width considered on routine issued permits. Routing of course is the restricting factor so if you may qualify for up to (our approximation) 16′ routinely depending on your desired route.
Height: 14′ 6″ in the maximum for routinely issued permits. Of course routing is the qualifier. If your shipment is 14′ 6″ or over you will be required to have a high pole escort.
Weight: Single axle: 29,000 lbs. Tandem axles: 36,000 lbs if axle spacing is a minimum of 4′ 1″ and up to a whopping 50,000 lbs if  your axle spacings are more than the 4′ 1″ but not more than 16′. Tridem axles: 60,000 lbs maximum if your axle spacing is less than 4′ and 53,000 lbs if your axle spacing is more than 4′ but less than 16′. Quadem: 60,000 (as long as GVW is not over 120,000 lbs). 5 axles (single-tandem-tridem): 29,000 lbs – 46,000 lbs – 46,000 lbs = 121,000 lbs maximum total per group of axles.  However; in order to do this you have to have a minimum of a 51′ outer bridge and a 36′ inner bridge in order to heavy haul on a 5 axle setup. 6 axles: (single-tandem-tridum); 29,000 lbs, 46,000 lbs, 53,000 lbs = 128,000 lbs total maximum per group of axles. 7 axles: (single-tridum-tridum); 29,000 lbs – 53,000 lbs – 53,000 lbs = 135,000 lbs total maximum weight allowed. 8 axles: (single-tandem-tandem-tridum); 29,000 lbs – 46,000 lbs -46,000 lbs – 53,000 = 174,000 lbs maximum for this kind of group setup.
Overhang: We have not located any information on routinely permitted overhang. So, we have to assume that as long as you do not want to overhang more than 1/3 of the overall length of the item being shipped you can probably get a routine permit. When you wish to exceed this basic rule (more than 1/3 overhang) you create a potentially dangerous situation. If you have any knowledge on routine overhang in Ohio please share it with others below.

80,000 pounds maximum weight (GVW) 29,000 pounds on any single axle, 36,000 pounds on dual axles, 60,000 pounds on quad axles.

Notes: As long as the GVW is not over 120,000 lbs you can use a tridem or quadem setup but you are required to have the minimum of 4′ 1″ spacing in your axles. You can go up to 132,000 lbs on a 7, 8 or 9 axle setup for your steering configuration plus 2 tridem or quadem axle groups. Please see more in superloads section below.

Notes: Definitions of weights: Overall Spacing: Distance center to center, to the nearest foot between extreme front and rear-most axles of vehicle or combination of vehicles, or any internal axle grouping. Spacing: Distance center to center, to the nearest foot, to an adjacent axle.

Ohio superloads.

Requirements for extra-heavy or over-dimensional (superloads) in OH:

Length: Depending on your route you probably will not have any problems with length in Ohio unless you are over 160′ overall. Ohio DOT has no set limitations on length so you may not even qualify as a supleroad.
Width: Again depending on the route you intend on taking unless you are over 18′ in width you may not qualify as a superload by the Ohio DOT. While they are not too keen on wideload shipments they tend to look at these on a case by case basis which is all dependent on your routing. In some areas you 16′ may qualify you as routine. If your shipment is over 18′ in width you will be classified as a superload. We welcome your comments below.
If you are over 14′ 6″ in the state of Ohio you will be required to have a high pole escort (pilot car) in front of you the entire route. Ohio DOT may require that you notify any/all utility companies that manage obstructions on your route before you are permitted to move. It’s all about your routing in Ohio as we are sure you are learning however, Ohio DOT is very knowledgeable and you have to give them credit for that. We feel they should be a little more lenient on height issues or have published routes for routine permits  but maybe they have future plans.
Weight: For superload configurations that are in excess of 120,000 lbs gross you will most likely be required to reduce your configuration by using a jeep. Your overall minimum axle spacings will need to be no less than 65′ with the inner bridge no less than 51′. See “routine trucking permits” above for more information about required axle group spacings as your groups need a distance of no less than 4′ 1″ between each.
Overhang: Use the rule of 1/3. Read more above in “routine trucking permits”

Legal travel times for oversize and heavy-haul loads.

Travel times and restrictions:

Basic travel times:
The basic rule of one half hour before sunrise and one half hour after sunset applies (example; travel start time is at 1/2 hour before sunset on approved days). Ohio DOT regulations travel times are complicated due to population/traffic density consideration. ALWAYS REFER TO YOUR PHYSICAL PERMIT BEFORE COMMENCING MOVEMENT. If your shipment is over 12′ in width you are NOT allowed to travel in the list of counties and within a 25 mile radius of the cities listed below between the hours of 6:30 AM until 9 AM and from 4:30 AM until 6 PM Monday thru Friday and on Fridays,  Saturdays and Sundays you may not travel after 3 PM during the days between April 1st until November the 30th.

Holiday movement:
You are permitted to travel on the following holidays with the above rules in mind; Columbus day, George Washington’s birthday, Martin Luther King day and Veterans day. You are prohibited from traveling on the following holidays; New Years day, Memorial day, Independence day, Labor day, Thanksgiving day and Christmas day. The Ohio DOT permit offices are closed on all of these days.

When pilot cars of escort vehicles are required.

Heavy haul or oversize loads may be required to be accompanied by a escort vehicle or pilot car if:



2 lane roads:

  • 13 feet requires 1 pilot car.
  • 14 feet and 6 inches requires 1 pilot car and 1 escort vehicle.
  • 16 feet requires 1 pilot car and 1 escort vehicle and 1 police escort.

4 lane roads:

  • 13 feet requires 1 pilot car.
  • 14 feet and 6 inches requires 1 pilot car and 1 escort.
  • 16 feet and 6 inches requires 1 pilot car and 1 escort and on some routes 1 police escort.


  • 14 feet and 6 inches requires 1 pilot car equipped with a high pole.
  • 14 feet and 10 inches and over requires 1 pilot car equipped with a height pole and 1 rear chase.
  • Some routes may be required to be accompanied by 1 police escort.

Length: 1 pilot car/escort vehicle is required in the overall length of your shipment is in excess of 90 feet in length.
Width: 1 pilot car/ escort vehicle is required for shipments in excess of 13′ wide. If on a 2 lane road the pilot car needs to be in the lead position and on 4 lane roads the rear chase position is required. If the width is greater than 14′ 6″ wide then you are required to have 1 front and 1 rear pilot car/escort vehicle.
Height: If the height of you shipment is in excess of 14′ 6″ in height you are required to have 1 front/lead pilot car/escort vehicle with a height pole. If the shipment is in excess of 14′ 10″ in height you are required to have 1 front pilot car/escort vehicle equipped with a high pole and 1 rear chase pilot car/escort vehicle displaying a “OVERSIZE LOAD” banner. See banner/sign specifications and requirements below in “pilot car certifications & requirements” section.
Weight: There are no immediate pilot car or escort vehicle requirements for shipments that are overweight. As long as the shipment is able to maintain the minimum speed limit requirements escort is necessary. This may not be applicable towards superloads which is on  case by case basis.
Overhang: Overhang, if excessive is reviewed on a case by case basis. If your shipment is overhanging by less than 1/3 of it’s length (1/3 meaning the overall measurement of only the item being shipped) you may be required to use a flag or amber light on the rear as long as the overall length of your shipment is not excessive and overhang is not either, ie; no more than 10′ (this is only a assumption and you must clarify your requirements with the Ohio DOT).
Note: If you are required to have only 1 pilot car/escort because your shipment is only 13′ wide but your shipment requires you to have 1 pilot car/escort because you are over 90′ in length you are considered a “combination” shipment and will be required to have 1 front and 1 rear pilot car/escort vehicle.


Pilot car certifications & requirements.

Pilot car (escort vehicle) certifications and requirements of the Ohio DOT:

Pilot car and escort vehicles operating in the state of Ohio are mandated by the Ohio DOT to have an amber light mounted on the roof of the vehicle. The amber light must strobe or flash and be clearly visible from a 360 degree angle from a distance of no less than 500′. The vehicle is required to have a single roof mounted sign or a front/rear sign (depending on if operating as a lead or chase vehicle) that is no less than 5′ in length and 12′ in height with letters no less than 8″ in height that are a minimum 1″ in thickness. The sign must be yellow in color with black lettering and state the nature of the load being shipping, either “OVERSIZE LOAD” OR “WIDELOAD”. All pilot car or escort vehicles are required to be equipped with a CB radio or powerful 2-way communication device that enables them to be in constant communication with all parties working in the movement. Pilot car vehicles are required to have a hand held paddle sign that states the words “STOP on one side and “SLOW” on the other is case traffic needs to be controlled.

Note: It is only our professional opinion that pilot cars also have a minimum of the additional items but not required:  2 – 5 pound fire extinguishers type A, B and C. A red safety colored flag with a handle no less than 18″ square, 3 reflective emergency road triangles or 18″ traffic cones, 8 burning road flares, 2 OVERSIZE LOAD banners (yellow with black lettering) and a safety colored (red, orange, yellow or lime green) vest, jacket or shirt (used while directing traffic).

Shipment, truck and trailer markings.

Truck, trailer and shipment required markings with banners, signs and flags by Ohio DOT:

A strobing or flashing amber light that is visible from 360 degrees from a distance of no less than 500 feet is required to placed on the highest point of the cab of the tractor trailer. Signs/banners that indicate the nature of the shipment, “OVERSIZE LOAD” OR “WIDELOAD” are required to be placed at the overall front and rear of the shipment. These banners must be yellow in color with black lettering and not less than 7′ in width and 18″ in height. Letters must be a minimum of 10″ in height with a 1 1/2″ line thickness. Safety flags must be mounted at the 4 outer most corners of the overall shipment and be no less than 18″ in length in either direction and be safety red or orange in color. If the shipment protrudes in any direction like overhang additional flags are required. You may be required to place flashing or strobing amber lights on any protrusions as well.

Ohio DOT & other important information.

Ohio DOT contact and other useful information:

Ohio Department of Transportation Special Hauling Officer – ODOT
Permit Section
1980 West Broad Street, Mail stop 5140
Columbus, OH  43223
Telephone help line: 614-351-2300
Permit office hours are from 7:30 AM until 4:30 – PM EASTERN TIME ZONE.
Ohio DOT special hauling permits section website.
Ohio special hauling operations manual and guide.
Ohio DOT insurance applications and permit forms.
Ohio road conditions, construction zones and alerts.

The information contained in these pages is research information primarily for use by oversize and overweight trucking company drivers, dispatchers and pilot car companies. While every effort is put into maintaining the accuracy of this information you must absolutely verify this information with the Ohio State DOT Permits office before commencing movement.


Ohio state shipping regulations

Ohio state flag.

All heavy-haul shipping laws.

Flags and oversize loads.

Legal shipping limit laws.

Shipping farming machinery.

Regional heavy-haul permits.