What Is an Oversized Load? Definition, Meaning and Concept

An oversized cargo is an item or load of merchandise that may exceed safety guidelines related to size on a highway. While cargo may be safe to transport, it is generally wider than most other vehicles on the road and therefore can be a potential safety hazard. Different regions may have different safety laws regarding oversized loads; Many regions require those transporting an oversized load to take special precautions, including the use of special permits, signs and placards, and even the use of other vehicles to go around the lead truck or car.

Carrying an oversized load can sometimes be the only possible way to transport certain goods. Large but mobile cargo may be too large to be transported by air, and it is not practical or possible to ship it in containers. Generally, an item that constitutes an oversized cargo cannot be broken down for travel by a regular method; mobile homes or classrooms, carnival rides, and even oversized movie props are all common types of oversized loads. In some cases, the rating factor may not be the size of the item, but rather the relative size of the vehicle; trying to fit a 20-foot (6.09 m) tree on top of a full-size sedan will also create an oversized load.

In most regions, a load must be considered safe for the vehicle and the road in order to qualify for oversize permits. In the example above, a full-size sedan might be considered too flimsy to support the weight of the tree and therefore might not qualify for a permit. In addition to weight requirements, a load may also be subject to very specific rules on safety methods that will prevent the item from rolling, falling, or endangering the road or any vehicle. Since each region has its own laws regarding weight, maximum allowable size, and safety methods, it is important to check with local highway authorities before heading out with an oversized load.

Even if a load is approved, a carrier may need to post signs or take other precautions depending on the size of the items. Signs may include red flags attached to the edges of the item, "oversize load" signs, or flashing lights. For some loads, the driver must provide other cars driving to the front and rear of the lead vehicle to warn and protect other motorists. These cars may also need to display signs or flags. Without these precautions, a driver may not receive a permit or may be subject to legal consequences.