Oversize Load Pilot 

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An oversize load pilot is often a necessary requirement when hauling heavy oversized loads on our roads. This is because a pilot vehicle that accompanies specialised transport trucks, either travels ahead or behind the truck to ensure that both the driver of the truck and the public are always kept safe. FutureGrowthModerate

As a pilot car driver, your responsibilities may differ depending on the field in which you work. Many pilot car drivers, also known as escort vehicle drivers, work in the transport or freight industry, and their duties are to escort oversized trucks or trucks carrying large loads while on the road. Your duties include communicating with the truck driver and surveying the roads before a trip to ensure they can handle oversized loads.

However, the job of a pilot driver involves more than just following along with these heavy loads. These drivers must have an intimate knowledge of the route and be on the lookout for any hazards or dangers, well in advance of the truck. Large haulage trucks don’t have a lot of manoeuvrability and they don’t stop very quickly, so the pilot vehicle is there to give plenty of notice and directions to the heavy haulage driver, particularly in and around built-up areas.

It is important to realise that not just anyone can hop into a pilot vehicle and tag along with an oversized truck. Pilot car drivers must be qualified and accredited in the state or territory where they live, however once accredited, they can accompany specialised transport trucks interstate, but they must abide by all rules in every state or territory.

ANZSCO ID: 731199

Alternative names: Pilot Vehicle Operator, Pilot Car Driver, Pilot Driver, [sometimes called Escort Vehicle Drivers - these can be Police].

Knowledge, skills and attributes     

  • using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weakness of alternatives solutions
  • the ability to talk to others effectively
  • knowledge of laws, legal codes
  • the ability to listen and understand the information and ideas presented

Oversize Load Pilot with truck
Setting out
(Source: Forrest Logistics)

Duties and Tasks

Escort drivers lead the drivers of oversize loads throughout their journeys, whether short or long. The driver of the escort, or pilot, vehicle has a duty to keep the public and other drivers safe while helping deliver the often costly large load in one piece. While the requirements for escort drivers vary by state, the overall duties are the same.

  • Plotting the route for the truck to be taken

  • Setting the trip with the truck driver

  • Drives vehicle equipped with warning lights and signs to escort trucks hauling mobile homes on public thoroughfares: Precedes escort and maintains specified distance between pilot vehicle and escort to provide warning to other motorists and to clear traffic at locations.

  • Communicates by two-way radio with truck and other pilot vehicle drivers to coordinate changes in speed and route, emergencies, or traffic congestion

Oversize load pilot escorting truck
(Source: Allan Miller Transport Training)

Permits and Insurance
Escort drivers must verify the company hauling the load received a permit as directed by the local state's department of transportation. While state laws may vary, the permit generally must include the load size, hauling company’s name and escort information. The escort driver must keep a copy of the permit in the escort vehicle at all times. The escort driver must carry the minimum amount of liability insurance required by the specific state's law for commercial vehicles.

Each state has a specific set of guidelines for escort certification.

State Laws
Following the letter of the law is of utmost importance for an escort driver, whether leading or following the load. An escort driver is responsible for warning oncoming traffic of the oversize load and traveling an adequate distance in front of or behind the large load, as directed by each state. The escort vehicle cannot tow a trailer or another vehicle while escorting a load in most states.

Inspection and Communication
Before operating the escort vehicle, the driver must complete a pre-trip inspection. This includes checking the tyres, fluid levels and lights on the vehicle. The escort driver communicates with the load driver to determine the best route prior to departure. During the trip, the escort driver must maintain constant communication with the oversize load driver at all times with a two-way radio. S/He must also communicate with other escort drivers and oversize load drivers hauling other loads to warn them of the large load passing. Finding a safe place for the load driver to pull over is also the escort driver’s responsibility. 

Working conditions

The number of pilots required depends on the width and length of the truck being escorted. Eg. If the truck is equal to or under 25m in length and equal to or under 3.5m width - no pilots are required. However, any load carrying vehicles 31m - 35m in length require 2 pilots. Greater lengths than 35m requires 3 pilots. Also, the greater the width, the increase in the number of pilots eg. greater than or equal to 4.7m in width results in the requirement for 2 pilots. Any width over 5.5m requires 2 pilots.  See NSW Govt requirements pg 9

A truck driver can be expected to work irregular hours, make early starts and spend days away from home making deliveries all over Australia and interstate.

Before beginning a trip, paper work is required to be filled out correctly. The truck driver is also required to maintain a log book detailing hours of driving, fatigue breaks, fuel consumption and reports of accidents or any problems with the vehicle. In addition to this administrative work, a truck driver needs to check brakes, oil, tyres, electrical systems, water, hydraulics and air, prior to each trip.

Showing two pilots
Large load requiring two oversize load pilots
(Source: Warwick Daily News)

Tools and technologies

A good communication system between pilots and their home base and between the pilots and the truck driver. A core piece of technology used in the trucking industry is the Global Positioning System (GPS). Not only can drivers use a GPS to get to their destination, trucks can be tracked so that customers can be told when to expect their delivery, and management can keep an eye on progress.

Another important piece of technology for truck drivers is the road relay system that keeps drivers informed of the correct matching of the engine and road speeds to preferred power output and fuel economy. This technology assists truck drivers to improve their driving practices, which can save companies thousands of dollars in fuel costs annually.

Truck drivers are responsible for the stability of the load they carry and are often required to assist with loading and unloading cargo. Therefore, they need to know how to use tarpaulins, ropes, tie down straps and moving equipment to secure or move cargo.

Education and training/entrance requirements

  • You must either hold a current Australian or New Zealand driving licence or have previously had an open licence. In the latter circumstances, you must hold a probationary or restricted driving licence for a car.
  • You must meet the competency requirements, which can be achieved in two ways. First you can provide a Statement of Attainment (TLIC3010) for a Pilot or Escort of Oversized Vehicles and/or Overmassed Loads, issued by a registered training facility. Alternatively, you need to sit and pass a written test at your local Department of Transport and Main Roads.
  • You then need to apply for your pilot car driver licence, using the accreditation application form (F4483) and submit this to your local Department of Transport and Main Roads. Pay the application fee and you will be given a Pilot Vehicle Driver Level 1 licence that lasts for 3 years. 

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