How To Get Oversized Load Permits For Your Freight (3 Easy Steps)

Oversized load permits are required for non-divisible shipments that exceed the legal dimensional restrictions for the states, counties and townships they traverse during transit. 

That said, these dimensional thresholds fluctuate greatly from one state, county and town to the next. 

Even the way permit prices are calculated — be it by the dimension of the load, tons of weight, weight increments, per mile or a combination of these factors — changes substantially from one state to another. 

You’re looking to nail down some permitting for an upcoming shipment but don’t know how to go about doing so, how much time it will take to obtain the permit, how long the load may take to move or what information you will need to coordinate this process. 

Since you’re hoping to make this process as smooth as possible, you know that this information is important to understand. 

And so, you’re here for a bit more information on this process, some further insight into how your oversized freight permitting should be handled.

Here at ATS, we’ve been helping shippers, just like you, get the oversize/overweight permitting they need for decades. As such, we understand the intricacies of this process and what it takes to get it right. It’s time you did too. 

Below, we’ll outline:

  • The steps you should take to get the oversized permitting you need. 
  • How long you should expect securing your permit to take. 
  • What you can do to make this process a smooth as possible.

Step 1: Understand Your Freight’s Route

Before the process of obtaining the permits needed to move your freight begins, you’ll want to figure out the best route possible for your shipment. 

Moving over-dimensional (OD) freight can get expensive, even with proper planning on the front end. 

As jurisdictions change from one state to the next, so too do permit requirements and the cost of purchasing them. 

The more you can do to keep your shipment’s route as pocket-book-friendly as possible, the better. Unfortunately, planning your shipments route — without the help of an expert — can be nearly impossible. 

For example, let’s say you have a shipment that’s 12 feet, 7 inches wide and needs to travel from Wichita, Kansas to Des Moines, Iowa. Normally, for a load of legal dimensions, the best-fit route for this shipment would take it straight through the upper half of Missouri. 

Since this load exceeds 12 feet, 6 inches in width though, moving it within Missouri will require escort car services. Escort services are typically billed on a rate-per-mile basis ranging between $2-$3 per mile

With this in mind, it can be determined that the most cost-conscious route for this shipment isn’t the most direct one. 

Instead, moving this shipment up through Nebraska — a state with flat permitting fees and where an LED light bar can be swapped for an escort vehicle on divided highways— and then on to Des Moines, may cut down costs substantially. 

Although this will add miles to the overall route of your shipment, in the end, you’ll save money. 

Every state has unique rules and regulations for oversized transportation.

And without understanding state and county permitting rules throughout Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa and Kansas, making the most of your transportation budget on this haul simply wouldn’t be possible. 

Related Article: When Are Escorts/Pilot Cars Necessary For Oversized Freight Shipments?

Work with your transportation provider to figure out your freight’s best route before beginning the process of securing permits.

Doing so will help you avoid costly delays as all necessary permits have been purchased before the process of moving your shipment begins.  

Two oversized semi loads

Step 2: Figure Out What Kind of Permits You’ll Need 

Most OD shipments, depending on which route is chosen, will need at least one of the following types of permits:

  1. State-level oversize permits
  2. County-level oversize permits 
  3. Township oversize permits

The type of permitting you’ll need to get depends, primarily, on which entity owns the road your load will be utilizing. 

For freight moving along an interstate highway, for example, a state permit is needed. For freight that needs to move throughout a metropolitan area at either end, local routes will require local permitting. 

When Do You Need State-Level Over-Dimensional Permits?

Any time you’re moving freight that exceeds the dimensional restrictions for your equipment type — whether it’s over in total weight, length, width or height — you’ll need to get an OD permit for every state it travels through. 

Although the prices of these permits fluctuate substantially from one state to another, when OD freight is transported along any state-owned road such as a highway or interstate, you’ll need permitting


When Do You Need County Level Over-Dimensional Permits?

When your OD load is transported along a county-owned road such as a county highway, you’ll need to get a permit to do so from the local governing body. 

Once again, these rates will change depending on the county you’re moving freight in and the weight/dimensions of the load in question. 

When Do You Need Township or City Permits?

Often, oversized freight needs to be moved within the confines of a city or town at either end of its journey. To move loads along the streets in these areas, you’ll likely need an additional permit issued directly by each town’s governing body. 

The best transportation providers boast home-grown automated systems to help them estimate the cost of each load’s permitting requirements. Since these rates fluctuate so frequently, systems like this help these companies offer the most up-to-date information to assist their customers.


Step 3: Obtain All Necessary Permits

Once you’ve determined your route and the type of permitting your load will need, your next step is simple; go and get them. And, for the companies that need them, permitting for OD loads can be obtained in one of two ways.

  1. Obtain permitting directly from the governing body
  2. Obtain permitting by using a permit service

How To Obtain Permitting Directly From Each Governing Body

To get an oversized permit in a state, county or town, shippers and/or their transportation provider are often required to have a pre-existing account with each governing entity. 

To hold some of these accounts, and secure consistent permits for their customers, transportation companies may need to sign contracts and bonds. These documents signify each company’s ability to obtain a permit for their freight and, when consistently maintained, serve to expedite this process. 

Although the investment to maintain these contracts can be hefty on the front end, many trucking companies have no trouble shouldering this burden. You see, providing their service at the highest level is made easier by holding permitting accounts in the areas they frequently service. 

These accounts allow companies to obtain a permit quickly, and relatively inexpensively, as they’re able to forgo paying the fees associated with using a permitting service. 

As such, find a transportation provider that holds accounts in the areas you’re looking to move a load through. Doing so can save you money on your freight rates and help you stick to your timeframes.

Provided your transportation company has an ongoing account with the states you need, securing permits can be done quite easily — with a bit of information. 

To get accurate pricing on your permits, you’ll need to supply specific information that includes, but isn’t limited to:

  • Transportation provider’s DOT number. 
  • Truck and trailer information.
    • Make, model, serial numbers, license plate, state, equipment dimensions, axles, spacing distance
  • In-depth descriptions of all freight.
    • Height, weight, length, width, exact nature
  • Starting and ending points.
  • Target transportation date.

The information you’ll need to relay will change depending on the requirements of the party you’re working with. Since many of these details are specific to your carrier, working closely with your provider through this process will be very important. 

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How To Obtain Permits from a Permit Service

If you’re looking to move freight on your own but don’t hold an account within the necessary areas, you’ll need to utilize a permit service. 

Permit services are companies that work to obtain transportation permits for their customers. Among other things, permit service providers utilize their comprehensive understanding of each state’s permitting requirements to secure the oversized permits their customers need.  

Working with permitting service providers can save you time and money as they utilize their expertise to fit your freight with appropriate legal permitting. 

That said, not all companies will help you plan your shipment’s route. 

And, if you’ve already selected the most cost-effective route for your shipment and only need assistance securing permits, these services will fit your needs nicely. 

In this case, you’ll simply need to supply all necessary information to your permit service provider and let them secure your documents.

Note, the companies that offer these solutions tack a service fee onto the price of getting your load’s permits. 


How Long Does It Take To Receive Permits?

Provided that you, or the transportation company you work with, have an active account with the states and jurisdictions you need permitting in, this process should be quick and painless. 

Permitting a 2-axle trailer—like products moved on a traditional flatbed, step-deck and lowboy — should be relatively quick, if not instant.

For other over-dimensional freight that is on the small side (less than 53 feet long, 14 feet wide, 13 feet, 6 inches high, and weighs less than 45,000 pounds) expect to get your permits processed and approved within four to eight hours

Conversely, if the total weight and/or dimensions of your freight exceeds these thresholds, permitting may take a bit longer. 

You see, as your load increases in size, moving it from A to B can be difficult as construction limitations, district review, bridge engineering and pre-run surveys need to be done on selected routes. 

When these extra precautions are taken, permitting your freight can last an extensive amount of time. It’s not uncommon for receiving OD permits on larger shipments with these requirements to take between two to six weeks.   

Make Your Over-Dimensional Permit Process Easier

Although moving oversized and overweight freight isn’t simple, it certainly doesn’t need to feel difficult. 

Having the right transportation partner — a partner with the experience, competencies and expertise you need — can remove a lot of the complexity from this process. 

Too often shippers overpay for their OD freight because they fail to understand the role a great partner can play in this process. The companies that move large freight day in and day out, know what they’re doing and they’ll show you how. 

Sure, the cost of permitting OD freight under 200,000 pounds is billed at a stagnant flat fee in Nevada and an incremental rate in New Mexico, that’s ok. A good provider will help you understand this and plan the best possible route for your shipment.  

But how can you choose? And, how can you verify that the company you trust with your freight, budget and supply chain has the experience you need to get the job done? 

You want to be the supplier that always delivers. To do this, you need a transportation company that will save you money on the front end and heartache on the back. 

Before tendering your freight, ask any potential provider questions like:

  • “What is your history moving loads like mine?”
  • “What can I do to save money on my permits?”
  • “Do you hold accounts in the states I’ll need permits in?”
  • What is your experience working with permitting service companies?”
  • “Do you have an internal system for estimating permit and escort costs?”

The way transportation companies respond to these queries will give you a good idea of their capabilities. Routing over-dimensional freight isn’t a “fake it ‘til you make it” enterprise. Great companies will answer these questions fluidly and transparently, these are the providers you should look for. 

Here at ATS, we understand how overwhelming moving OD freight can be. Over the past 65 years, we’ve seen many shippers struggle to get this right. That said, we take pride in our ability to make this process pain-free

For more information on what your OD shipment will cost, check out this article where Ben outlines what you should expect to pay.

Tags: Transportation Services, heavy haul, Oversized Shipping, Specialized Flatbed Shipping, Over Dimensional Shipping

Joanna Jungels

Written by Joanna Jungels

Joanna Jungels began her career with ATS in 2005 as a Fleet Manager. Soon after, she was promoted to oversee and enhance a growing OS/OW permitting team which created a system to retain and output rules and requirements for both state and local entities. Today, Joanna regularly attends state transportation meetings, and currently serves as chair of the Permit Policy Committee at the Specialized Carriers & Rigging Association, where she advocates for, and promotes the importance of, creating useful resources to better understand and increase awareness around the complexities of oversized freight. In her role at ATS, Joanna enjoys working with others to brainstorm, solve problems and learn new things while continually striving to improve the processes and resources available to ATS' customers.

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