When you ship an ocean container over the road, a standard trucking company might be all you need. But certain shipments really call for a heavy haul trucking company – a carrier that can operate legally at more than the federally-defined maximum gross weight.
And sometimes – even if a heavy shipment wasn’t your original plan – you can save a lot of money by working with a heavy haul expert.
The difference between standard weight and overweight cargo
Gross weight is the number that registers when that truck rolls onto a scale at a state weigh station. It includes the weight of everything—truck, chassis, container, cargo, driver, fuel in the tank. According to federal regulations, the maximum allowable gross weight for a commercial truck is 80,000 lbs.
If you subtract the typical weight of a truck, chassis, container, etc., a shipper can usually fit about 44,000 lbs. in a container and stay below the federal limit.
In most states, though, a truck can actually operate at up to 90,000 lbs. gross weight, and in a few states the upper limit is 100,000 lbs. That lets shippers pack a lot more cargo into a container. In some instances, it could legally be up to the maximum cargo weight listed on the container door. You gain a major savings opportunity when you opt for heavy cargo shipping. That’s because you can ship the same volume of ocean freight in fewer containers.
But to seize that savings opportunity – or send any load of more than about 44,000 lbs. over the road legally – you must work with a properly-qualified heavy haul carrier.
What can a heavy haul trucking company do for you?
1. Provide suitable equipment for a heavy load. Inadequate equipment can trigger an accident. And accidents can cause a whole host of woes – delays, cargo and equipment damage, bodily injury, legal liability. A trucking company that specializes in overweight loads reduces risk for your shipment by using a chassis that can handle the extra weight safely.
2. Eliminate the need for overweight permits for certain loads, or move more cargo weight in states that do not issue heavy load permits. Some savvy heavy haul truckers use lighter-weight chassis with wheels made of aluminum rather than steel. While perfectly capable of handling a heavy load, those chassis contribute less to the truck’s gross weight. Some heavy haul carriers use trucks with day cabs rather than bigger sleeper cabs. Some will show up at your facility with half a tank of gas if that’s all they need to get your container to the port. All these strategies decrease the weight of the truck, letting you fit more weight in the container while staying below the 80,000 lbs. gross maximum.
3. Obtain the necessary permits to keep your load legal. If the truck’s gross weight does exceed 80,000 lbs., your trucker will keep you compliant with the law, securing a permit for each state your cargo crosses. If the load is oversize as well as overweight, the trucker will get permits to cover that as well.
4. Improve container loading to control your shipping costs. When your trucker has the right equipment for a heavy load and secures the necessary permits, you can load more cargo in the container. Say you’re shipping cartons of product that weigh 440 lbs. each, and the steamship line charges $3,000 per container for the ocean freight. If you work with a standard trucking company, you can ship 100 boxes on the ocean, for a total of 44,000 lbs., at a cost of $30 each. But if you work with a heavy haul trucking company, you might be able to ship 125 cartons in the same container, for a total of 55,000 lbs. That makes the cost on the ocean $24 per carton. Essentially, you’re shipping 25 cartons for free! Over a year, heavy haul trucking could help you cut the number of containers it takes to ship your freight – for example, from 100 to 90 – saving you many thousands of dollars.
5. Save valuable time with more effective over-the-road routing. Some local roads between your facility and the port might have weight restrictions that put them off-limits for your heavy load. A local trucker with expertise in heavy transportation knows where those roads are and might be able to propose an alternative route. Better to plan a slightly longer trip in advance than discover the problem only when the driver reaches the restricted road and then loses time inventing a solution on the fly.
What could possibly go wrong?
Some truckers might assure you that they can handle an overweight load, even if heavy haul service isn’t part of their day-to-day business. But beware of promises without proof.
Can this trucking company demonstrate that it has the right equipment for your load? Can it obtain the necessary permits? Are you sure it won’t try to make the run without those permits?
Imagine what could happen if the truck breaks down en route because your load’s weight proved too much for the equipment. Best-case scenario, the trucker could end up with an unexpected repair bill for a damaged chassis that belongs to a chassis pool. Worst-case scenario, the breakdown triggers an accident involving other vehicles. People get hurt, and if police on the scene discover that the trucker doesn’t have an overweight permit, you’re in a world of trouble.
How to find qualified heavyweight carriers
One more important fact about heavy haul truckers: a good one can be hard to find. Only a select number of carriers offer heavyweight services, and sometimes competition for that limited capacity grows fierce.
Luckily, there’s a sure way to connect with a heavy haul carrier when you need one. A freight forwarder that specializes in overweight container services has relationships with numerous truckers that move heavy freight every day. When it’s time to ship a heavy container, that forwarder can coordinate safe, legal over-the-road transportation while also arranging the ocean crossing.
To discuss the best way to ship your overweight loads, and how to save money by building heavier loads, contact I.C.E. Transport.