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How to Become a Pilot Car Driver for Oversized Vehicles

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Depending on your state's requirements, you may or may not need to get special licensing to become a pilot car operator. Regardless of licensing, you must be able to lead or chase oversized vehicles, and understand permit requirements and roadways.

Department of Transportation

Check with the Department of Transportation in your state to see if there is a class and licensing requirement for pilot cars of oversized vehicles. If there is, complete all steps to get licensed. If you plan on being a pilot car across state lines, make sure you know the applicable interstate laws.

If you aren't required to get a special license, it is still good to start with the Department of Transportation to learn the rules and regulations of what constitutes an oversized vehicle and the types of permits required for each. As a pilot car, your clients expect you to know the details for them to remain compliant.

For example, in California there is a $16-per-trip permit required for up to a five-day trip. Any load over 12 feet wide or 85 feet long must have a permit. Learn to identify potential problems with loads in terms of length, overhand or height to prevent problems or police stopping the transport.

Route Expert

A pilot car driver leads the route. As such, you must know the routes that a wide or oversized load are able to navigate. If a load can't make it under an overpass or bridge, you risk the target delivery failure and potentially damaging the load or transport vehicle.

Pilot car divers need to know where all potential obstacles are on the roadways, including low passes, narrow roads and light-load-only streets. Additionally, pilot drivers should perform a preroute check for any construction or road work happening on the days the trip is planned. These pose problems that might dramatically affect the ability for the oversized load to navigate the streets.

Emergency Prep

If a problem occurs, the pilot car is the one best able to respond. Maintain a supply of roadside emergency tools, including cones, reflective vests and a basic mechanic's kit. Identify places that can help with an oversized vehicle's mechanical breakdown. Things happen even under the best circumstances. Knowing what help is available along the route can expedite getting up and running again. It is wise to also have communications established between you and the driver of the oversized vehicle. While cell phones are commonly used, having a two-way radio is often quicker and more reliable in remote areas. This way, you can help the driver foresee problems before he encounters them, such as potholes or major road dips.


Once you are prepared with the right tools and licensing, network with trucking, moving and shipping companies. Offer your services and leave a card. Talk to other pilot car drivers -- they may know who is hiring or needs a sub. Ride along with them if possible, and learn from their experience as you build your resume.


Kimberlee Leonard has trained more hundreds of professionals in telemarketing, sales and promotional events over the past 20 years. She brings humor and simplicity to her writing whether writing for small local brands such as Hawaii's or major marketing sites such as Kimberlee is a proud fourth generation Hawaii local.

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