Transporting oversize cargo (also called out of gauge – or OOG – cargo) is a highly-specialized discipline. If you don’t understand the process in detail, you could end up wasting a lot of time and money, and maybe even breaking the law. Here are six big mistakes to avoid when you’re shipping OOG cargo.
1. Your trucker doesn’t specialize in OOG cargo
Only a minority of trucking companies transport oversize cargo. Others might tell you they can handle the load, but do they have the equipment needed to move your freight safely, legally and cost-efficiently? Do they understand permit requirements for oversize cargo? Know how to perform a route survey to avoid hazards such as low overpasses? A trucking company that doesn’t have solid experience with out of gauge loads could steer you down the road to all kinds of trouble – cargo damage, transportation delays or highway accidents that might land you in court.
2. You give your logistics provider insufficient information about your load.
A large item’s specifications determine the equipment needed to transport it, and how it should be loaded and secured. Also, state permits for over-the-road transportation must include accurate numbers for the load’s dimensions and weight. If the permit says the load is 120 inches tall, but then the trucker finds that the height is really 130 inches, you might have to spend extra time and money redoing the permits.
If the trucker doesn’t catch the mistake, an inspector at a weigh station might and then sideline the truck for hours, or even days, until the trucker gets new permits. Or else crews at the port might handle the load incorrectly because they don’t have the complete specs.
If you don’t give your transportation service provider accurate measurements, plus technical drawings or photographs if possible, you’re making a big mistake.
3. You fail to account for weight distribution.
According to a federal requirement called the Bridge Gross Weight Formula, the more an oversize load weighs, the longer the chassis you need to put under it, with more axles underneath. The aim is to distribute the weight of the load so it doesn’t exert a damaging amount of force on the highway. When the truck transporting your OOG freight pulls into a weigh station, even if the trucker’s permit shows the right dimensions and weight, if that weight isn’t distributed correctly over the axles, an inspector might pull it off the road.
Weight distribution is especially tricky when you ship factory equipment, construction machinery or other huge items that are shaped irregularly, with more weight concentrated in some parts than others.
4. You let the load obstruct one or more corners of the container.
When you use an open top, flat rack or platform container to ship out of gauge cargo on the ocean, the cranes that lift the cargo on and off the vessel must attach to the corners of the conveyance. When your container arrives at the port, if the load blocks any of the corners, the port will refuse it. Then you’ll have to get your trucker to transport your cargo to some sort of nearby facility. If you’re very lucky, you’ll then find a way to reconfigure the load to leave all four corners free. But more likely, you’ll have to arrange to unload the freight so the trucker can return the empty container to the port. Then you’ll need to rebook your cargo on a RO-RO (roll on-roll off) ship.
The lesson isn’t just that you need to be careful about how you load an oversize shipment. It's that you should consider the size and shape of oversize cargo before you make a booking. Some OOG cargo simply doesn’t fit on any kind of container. To avoid wasting money and time, think hard, early on, about whether it’s best to use a flat rack or RO-RO.
5. You secure the load incorrectly.
To prevent shifting in transit, shippers generally use straps, and often chains as well, to secure oversize cargo. They also use lumber to fill any empty space. How exactly to secure an OOG load depends on its weight, size and shape. It’s extremely important to get this process right, since shifting could damage the load or maybe even trigger a highway accident.
Improper blocking and bracing poses an extra risk when you ship oversize cargo on a flat rack container. Before port employees load a flat rack on a vessel, an inspector examines it to make sure it’s secured according to standards set by the National Cargo Bureau (NCB). If you fail the inspection, you’ll have to pay someone to rework the freight so it will pass. That creates an extra cost, and the delay could even make you miss your sailing.
6. You use the ocean container for last mile transportation.
If you transport your OOG load all the way to the final destination on its open container, flat rack or platform, the trucker will charge you for returning the empty container to the port. Unless the final destination is very close to the port, it’s usually cheaper to transfer the cargo to a truck chassis for the final leg of the trip.
How to avoid trouble with OOG freight
OOG cargo comes with extra risk. A seemingly minor slip-up could trigger oversized consequences – a huge machine sidelined at a weigh station, an urgent shipment turned away from the port, thousands of dollars in extra expenses, even a costly lawsuit.
Of course, you can also ship oversize cargo without any of those problems. Companies do it every day. The key is to understand the whole process, plan the transportation carefully and then execute that plan correctly.
If you don’t have the necessary expertise in house, consider teaming up with a freight forwarder like I.C.E. Transport that specializes in out of gauge cargo shipping. A logistics partner that knows how to evaluate all the options and avoid the pitfalls can help you make successful decisions steer clear of pricey mistakes.
For help with an upcoming OOG shipment, call the experts at I.C.E. Transport.