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Bucket Truck Regulations For Moving Oversize/Superloads | Bucket Truck Escort


Most states define a load as oversized if it is more than 8.5 ft wide,13.5 feet tall (from the road surface to the top of the load), and more than 40 feet long (these are “oversize” loads). Any load that is oversize will require special permits for each state through which it travels. Prior to obtaining the oversize permit, the operator may be required to complete a route survey to ensure that the load can travel safely under overhead bridges, signs, utility lines, etc. 

Superload Route Considerations

Again, in most states, any load that exceeds 16 ft wide, 16 ft high, or more than 160 feet long is classified as a “superload” and additional planning, permits, and operating requirements apply. Note that the actual dimensions of superloads may be defined differently by each state. Therefore, it is necessary to review state regulations through which a superload will travel to ensure compliance.

Loads that are more than 12.5 ft high may be restricted to routes without bridge overpasses—alternate routes will need to be identified.  Superloads that extend more than 16 feet above the roadway will not only have to avoid routes with overpasses, but will likely encounter other obstructions including utility wires, highway overhead signs, traffic signals, even pedestrian overpasses, etc. 

Superloads that exceed 16 feet wide (sometimes less) may also have to contend with signage and traffic signals along the side of the road, and making turns through intersections can be very challenging to avoid route signs, and corner mounted traffic signals, etc. 

Detailed route surveys and pre-trip planning are essential.

The Role of Bucket Truck Operators

For these superloads, bucket trucks and their operators, lead the way, lifting or skidding wires, lifting or removing overhead traffic signals, removing (and replacing) overhead signs. 

If a route survey identifies overhead obstructions such as utility wires or signs, provisions must be made to either raise the obstruction, or temporarily remove the obstruction. This is the world of the bucket truck—helping oversized/superloads negotiate under and around these obstructions.

Bucket truck operators who offer escort services for superloads must ensure that all operators are trained to properly and safely lift live overhead wires, raise or remove and replace overhead traffic signals, and remove overhead signs. Superloads often exceed normal oversize widths, and bucket truck operators may also be required to remove and replace roadside signs, utility poles, stoplights, etc., along the route. This means that the trucks used for overhead obstruction avoidance and removal must be equipped with all the tools needed to safely handle electrical devices along the route. 

When faced with a challenging superload, it may be useful to arrange the services of an experienced escort bucket truck operator in the early planning. For local hauls, they will be able to suggest alternate routes with fewer obstructions.


A full service bucket truck operator will offer: 

  • Planning and scheduling assistance, often able to locate the most suitable route with the fewest overhead obstructions
  • Participate with the pre-move team to assist in planning, rigging assistance, including PVC piping over the top of the load to allow low-hanging objects to skid safely over the load as the truck passes underneath.
  • Communications with all other members of the superload team to ensure a safe trip 
  • Timing lifts and obstruction removal and replacement to allow the load to pass safely while causing the minimum inconvenience to other users. 

Many bucket truck businesses include support or escort services to make it possible for oversize loads to negotiate many kinds of highway conditions and obstructions, including:

  • Raising or removing and reinstalling overhead traffic signals.
  • Skid, raise, or move overhead wiring/cabling
  • Remove and reinstall overhead and roadside signs and obstructions
  • Provide transports with additional lighting and guidance for night transports.

Skidding involves mounting bows over the load that allow the overhead wires to slide safely above the load supported by the bows.  

Where required, the bucket truck operator will coordinate with utility companies and highway authorities regarding lifting, lowering, or temporarily removing utility lines or traffic control signals and signs. 

Often, supersize loads are moved at night after peak traffic areas. Not only does this cause the least delay for motorists using those roads, it expedites the move through challenging areas. Bucket truck personnel also become flagmen and load walkers helping wide loads navigate through intersections and past obstructions along the route.

What to look for when selecting a bucket truck service for a particularly challenging move.

There are many lift truck agencies, however, when it comes to assisting with overhead wires and signs, it is important that the escort crews are trained for, and equipped with, the necessary tools and equipment to handle electrified wires. 

Lifting overhead wires, especially over a very wide load, often requires a team of bucket trucks to lift wires from either side of the load. Look for companies that offers a variety of sizes of lift trucks that can be matched efficiently to challenges along the route.

Handling high-voltage overhead lines requires trained personnel who are proficient in handling these lines and other electrical devices. Trucks must not only have the bucket lift, but an assortment of tools specifically designed to handle electrified lines and equipment safely.

Training and Certifications

There is no uniform national requirement for boom operator certification other than OSHA guidelines. Some states require certification, some even require licenses. Some states have their own occupational safety and health programs that apply to lift operators while others rely on Federal OSHA standards. Some states require licenses or certifications for bucket operators while there are states with no formal licensing or certification process.

That does not mean there is no certification process. Due to the safety risks of using a boom lift, all operators must be trained and certified. Training for this type of machinery consists of several parts, such as instruction on how to use the controls. Workers learn about safety risks and how to avoid them. Training also covers how maximum load capacity works and explains how to perform regular inspections. There may also be municipal or other local certification or licensing requirements. 

Employers may require proof of certification upon hiring a lift operator or ensure that the operator receives the required training. Operators may have their own OSHA-compliant training and certification process. Workers who have completed OSHA-approved training receive a Certified Operator card.

In summary, the services of a bucket truck operator are an essential partner in moving superloads, especially in congested areas.