Demand for construction equipment hauling is expected to spike—are you ready?

Story by

Jim Heide

Tags /

  • Freight
  • Supply Chain
  • Transportation

An American construction boom is on the horizon.

Sure, the infrastructure bill hasn’t completed its run through the legislative gauntlet quite yet, but a bipartisan proposal has already passed the Senate, and a House vote is scheduled for late September. With 63% of Americans in favor of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and legislators from both parties looking to put a check in the win column, I’m confident we’ll see something pass very soon.

And, yes—this could be a huge boon for both the construction and transportation industries.

As it stands, the $1T bill invests heavily in infrastructure modernization—from rural broadband, roads and bridges, electric vehicle charging stations, drinking and wastewater infrastructure, and more. Meaning, opportunity is coming to construction companies—and the carriers equipped to haul heavy machinery.

In fact, I expect many carriers will move into the construction equipment hauling space to seize on these lucrative, high-value loads.

Of course, moving oversized, overweight, large-capacity contractors’ equipment that’s valued in the six figures carries with it a whole added level of risk. Just ask our CMO/CXO, Meshach Weber, who happened to be following a heavy load when a massive cylindrical steel part broke free in “slow-moving Michael Bey film fashion,” as he described it. (Thankfully, no one was hurt.)

It’s why I wanted to share some advice with brokers and carriers on how you can reduce risk and protect your balance sheet.

Heavy equipment transport: What are you really getting yourself into?

Fail to plan, and you plan to fail, as they say. Nowhere does this wisdom ring more true than in the world of heavy haul.

So, before you begin, be sure you understand what’s really involved because this isn’t the same as pulling a dry van trailer—you can’t just pick up a load and hit the highway at 65-70 MPH like you can hauling a general commodity.

In fact, it’s not uncommon for a load that’s reaching 16 feet wide or 16 feet tall to require two weeks of pre-trip planning—from road surveys and identifying curfews to securing necessary state and county permits, pilot cars, maybe even police escorts.

It’s also important to recognize how long it will take to move a load. If you’re putting in 750-800 miles a day pulling a dry van trailer, at best, you’ll get 600 miles a day when heavy hauling.

Making your start in heavy haul

If you’re new, our good friend, Adam Seefluth of Midwest Specialized Logistics, suggests you start small—don’t haul something that’s 15-feet wide right out of the gate, as those larger loads bring with them far more complex requirements.

So, what to-dos need to be on your heavy haul readiness list?

  • Conduct a thorough heavy equipment transportation risk assessment, noting your transportation timeline, equipment weight and dimensions, transportation risks and mitigation strategies—and document everything
  • Use modern route planning tools to route around low bridges, road weight restrictions, and severe weather—and opt for routes that minimize terrain, bridges, stops and starts, and turns
  • Research oversize permits, rules and regulations, and escort vehicle requirements for each state and county on your route and secure the permits, escort vehicles, and assets (e.g. “oversize load” signs, banners, and flashing lights) that ensure you remain in compliance
  • If an escort vehicle or two are required, be sure you have CB or two-way radios in place to ensure safe communication between all drivers involved
  • Conduct a thorough pre-trip inspection, paying special attention to tire pressure, brakes, brake lights, and tie-down points
  • Properly secure the heavy machinery—avoiding any twists or slack—and ensure your tie-downs comply with federal cargo securement rules and state heavy haul laws (4-5 tie-downs are typical but states may differ)
  • Ensure a spotter is on-hand when loading contractors’ equipment as the operator won’t have a clear line of sight, which can endanger operator safety and damage machinery
  • Bring the equipment to a stop toward the front of the trailer—distributing its weight forward helps prevent fishtailing when the load is in motion
  • Set equipment parking brakes—and leverage cradles, chocks, or wedges to restrict movement on construction equipment that’s likely to roll
  • Conduct regular inspections while the heavy equipment load is en-route, including during the first 50 miles, once every 150 miles or every three hours, and at every duty or driver change
  • Construction equipment hauling company moving a backhoe in heavy traffic

 

Building the relationships that will sustain your heavy haul business

This can be a dog-eat-dog business, so Adam also advises that you invest in building trusted partner relationships with your customers.

That begins by really understanding all of the costs involved—and being fair and up-front with your customers. Some brokers and carriers will say they can haul a $10,000 load for $5,000—but that just reveals their lack of insight into the labor and fees required to safely transport this equipment. And, it could mean the customer load gathers dust on a load board.

If you understand the full scope of the job at hand, and you can walk your prospective customer through both the fees involved and the steps you’ll take to protect their business-critical equipment, they’ll be fair with you.

Addressing the risk associated with construction equipment hauling

As you no doubt know, the value of heavy machinery far exceeds the typical carrier cargo policy—and ensuring that the load is fully covered is critical to protecting both your bottom line and your business relationships.

So, be sure you understand if there’s any exposure there. And, if so, be sure you protect that expensive piece of construction equipment with a single trip cargo insurance policy to cover the gap in coverage.

For carriers, this increase in coverage may be necessary to secure the heavy haul load in the first place. Where it’s not, you can protect your customers from the event of a loss, giving them more control over the process and speeding up claims settlements (not to mention, giving them confidence and comfort in you).

What questions should you be asking of prospective shipping insurance companies?

  • What’s your company’s financial rating?
  • Are you authorized and regulated to sell insurance?
  • Will your cargo insurance policy pay the full value of my lost or damaged heavy machinery?
  • How long does it take to secure per-load cargo insurance?
  • How long does it take to settle claims?
  • How long does it take to receive settlement payments?

With this risk management in place—and all of your logistical i’s dotted and t’s crossed—you can confidently transport heavy equipment, seizing a boom of opportunity that’s waiting just around the corner.