The Best Way to Safely Transport Heavy Equipment

By Emily Newton

Transporting heavy equipment efficiently and safely can often be a major challenge. No matter what kind of machine you need to move, the weight and size often make transportation a daunting task with significant safety risks.

The right practices can make the process easier and safer for your team. These are the guidelines and techniques any company will want to follow when moving heavy equipment.

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Key Difficulties in Moving Heavy Equipment

Improperly secured loads pose a risk for any business. Even if the equipment makes it from point A to point B, it may be damaged in transit due to how it was secured. Repair and replacement components can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars.

The company may also be subject to fines and fees if the equipment was not secured to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) standards on moving heavy equipment. This can impact compliance, safety and accountability (CAS) ratings and the driver’s safety record.

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In a worst-case scenario, the heavy equipment can fall from the truck it’s carried on, potentially injuring or killing drivers — or triggering a chain reaction of crashes.

These challenges remain even when items are being moved just a short distance, such as a few blocks from one construction site to the next.

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Moving large objects of any type is always a challenge, and the weight, irregular shape and technical complexity of a heavy machine can create additional difficulties.

Transport Heavy Equipment Safely With a Transportation Company

Most construction professionals — including general contractors, sewer and septic professionals, linemen and highway contractors — typically look for professional help when moving heavy equipment simply due to the risks involved.

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A company that moves heavy equipment should have some form of fleet compliance policy. This will keep drivers and equipment compliant with federal Department of Transportation safety regulations.

Transportation companies without fleet compliance policies may also be missing establishing good practices for moving heavy equipment — potentially putting teams at risk of damaged or lost machines.

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Drivers who transport heavy equipment for the company likely fall under the FMCSA’s enforcement program and are in a specific Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category (BASIC) percentile.

There are seven BASIC categories, each representing an area of driver and transportation safety:

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  • Unsafe driving
  • Crash indicator
  • Hours-of-service compliance
  • Vehicle maintenance
  • Controlled substances/alcohol
  • Hazardous materials compliance
  • Driver fitness

A driver will have a BASIC percentile ranging from 0 to 100, with higher percentiles representing worse performance. Load securing violations fall under the “vehicle maintenance” BASIC, meaning that a high percentile for that category could suggest past failures.

You can review motor carrier safety and performance data for a specific driver or company using a number search on the Department of Transportation’s website. That will also provide information on the number of drivers the company has, the company’s licensing and insurance status, and safety rating, if available. Information from this search can alert you to significant safety violations that certain transportation companies or drivers may have made in the past.

Asking the transportation company if they’ve moved the type of equipment you need to transport may also be helpful. Not every business will have experience with the wide variety of construction equipment available, for example.

Each of these machines can have significantly different weight points and dimensions. Previous experience with moving a similar type of machine may make a transportation company much more qualified for a particular job.

Best Practices for Moving Heavy Equipment

You should be able to properly vet drivers and transportation professionals even when your team isn’t fully responsible for moving its heavy equipment. They should be familiar with best practices and confident in their use when it comes to moving machines efficiently and safely.

A basic understanding of these best practices will help you tell if a driver or company truly understands the steps they need to take to move machines and heavy equipment.

Successful load securement depends on a few key steps:

  • Knowing the dimensions, weight and shape of the object
  • Knowing the dimensional capacity of the hauling components
  • Familiarity with relevant FMSCA guidelines on load securement
  • Inspecting the hauling equipment, including the vehicle, trailer and any anchor points, after securing the load and before moving it

Additionally, the transportation company should ensure the heavy equipment will not interfere with the movement of the hauling vehicle. A best practices checklist can help a driver follow the most important steps in securing items.

Ideally, a secure load does not move while in transit, even when the driver must make a hard turn or sudden stop — regardless of the route taken. However, route planning is often a good complement to effective tie-downs and load securement practices. A machine that is properly secured to a truck shouldn’t shift or fall when turning onto a road with a steep mountain grade, but conditions like these may increase the likelihood that heavy equipment is damaged while in transit.

A transportation company should be able to optimize the route between the pickup and drop-off point to minimize the overall distance and the strain the trip will place on the equipment.

The user manual for a machine may offer specific advice about how to load and secure the equipment, including information on components that may be damaged during transit. The manufacturer or dealer may also provide assistance or guidance in moving the item from site to site.

A professional transportation company may need some of this information — or contact details that will allow them to get in touch with your machine’s OEM.

How Construction Professionals Can Move Heavy Equipment Safely

Working with a professional transportation company is usually the best option for construction and infrastructure professionals that need to move heavy equipment. Those with experience and strong safety records will usually provide the best advice and service.

Familiarity with relevant standards and best practices will help you vet the companies you choose to work with. Taking these steps will ensure your heavy machinery will reach its destination safely.

Emily Newton is a construction and industrial journalist. She is also the Editor-in-Chief for Revolutionized Magazine. Keep up with Emily by following her on LinkedIn.