Safely and effectively transporting heavy equipment like excavators, bulldozers, graders, backhoes, and more requires the right expertise—and the right equipment. 

If you’re moving heavy machinery around the U.S., we’ll show you what you need to know. Because of its size, weight, and special securement requirements, transporting heavy equipment comes with a few challenges.  

Once you know the ins and outs of transporting this important (and valuable!) cargo, you’ll have a grasp on what it takes to execute a safe and cost-effective heavy equipment move.  

In This Article

Understanding Heavy Equipment Transportation: Definitions and Legal Requirements

  • What Classifies as Heavy Equipment?
  • What Are the FMCSA Regulations for Securing Heavy Machinery?
  • What Other Regulations Apply to Heavy Machinery Transportation?

– Oversize or Overweight Loads

– Super Loads


Planning Your Heavy Equipment Move: Cost & Scheduling

  • Pricing Out a Heavy Equipment Move
  • Scheduling and Logistics for Your Heavy Equipment Move

Final Considerations & Best Practices for Heavy Equipment Transportation

  • Know Your Equipment
  • Evaluate Each Transportation Partner Carefully
  • Prepare Your Heavy Machinery for Transport

Understanding Heavy Equipment Transportation: Definitions and Legal Requirements

Shipping Heavy Equipment

Let’s start with the basics. What, exactly, qualifies as “heavy equipment” or “heavy machinery,” and how is it regulated in the United States?


What Classifies as Heavy Equipment?

Heavy equipment refers to vehicles designed to assist with heavy-duty tasks in the construction, forestry, mining, maritime, industrial, and agriculture industries, among others.

Common types of heavy equipment include vehicles such as:

  • Tractors
  • Bulldozers
  • Graders
  • Excavators
  • Backhoes
  • Scrapers
  • Pavers
  • Loaders
  • Cranes
  • Forklifts
  • Side loaders

The transportation of heavy machinery is regulated by the cargo securement rules established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

Under 49 CFR 393.130, the FMCSA offers its own definition of heavy machinery:

“Heavy vehicles, equipment and machinery which operate on wheels or tracks, such as front end loaders, bulldozers, tractors and power shovels and which individually weigh 4,536 kg (10,000 lbs.) or more.”

What Are the FMCSA Regulations for Securing Heavy Machinery?

To reduce the number of accidents caused by cargo shifting on commercial motor vehicles—and to align regulations between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico—the FMCSA adopted a set of cargo securement rules in 2002.

As part of these rules, heavy machinery is required to undergo the following preparations before transport:

(b) Preparation of equipment being transported.

(1) Accessory equipment, such as hydraulic shovels, must be completely lowered and secured to the vehicle.

(2) Articulated vehicles shall be restrained in a manner that prevents articulation while in transit.


(c) Securement of heavy vehicles, equipment or machinery with crawler tracks or wheels.

(1) In addition to the requirements of paragraph (b) of this section, heavy equipment or machinery with crawler tracks or wheels must be restrained against movement in the lateral, forward, rearward, and vertical direction using a minimum of four tiedowns.

(2) Each of the tiedowns must be affixed as close as practicable to the front and rear of the vehicle, or mounting points on the vehicle that have been specifically designed for that purpose.


Source: 49 CFR 393.130

Even if you plan to hire a transportation company to handle your heavy machinery move, it’s important you understand these regulations. Knowing the FMCSA rules will give you a better sense of everything that’s involved with your move—always a good thing. Plus, your knowledge will only help you evaluate the knowledge of any potential partners you decide to work with.

What Other Regulations Apply to Heavy Machinery Transportation?

Like other commercial trucks, trucks transporting heavy machinery are subject to federal width, length, and size limits.

In some cases, your machinery may exceed these limits and fall into one of two categories:

Oversize or Overweight Loads

Under federal regulations, there’s a maximum 102″ width limitation for vehicles that travel on the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways, as well as a set of maximum weights:


  • 80,000 pounds gross vehicle weight
  • 20,000 pound single axle weight
  • 34,000 pound tandem axle weight

Loads that exceed these specs are considered oversize/overweight. Permits for these loads are obtained on the state level, and they’re required for every state the equipment has to travel through.

If your load has to cross several states, transporting overweight and oversized machinery can get complicated—and expensive. If there’s anything you can do to reduce the size or weight of your equipment, such as removing or retracting attachments so it doesn’t qualify as overweight/oversize, it will likely be worth your while.

Super Loads

Super loads exceed state overweight/oversize specs. As a result, they usually require a dedicated super load permit. Items like wind turbines or industrial machinery might qualify as super loads.

The exact specifications for super loads vary from state to state. For example, California classifies loads greater than 15′-0″ wide, 17′-0″ high, and 135′-0″ long as super loads.

Super loads require extra special consideration, including careful route planning and permitting. If your load could potentially be considered a super load, leave extra time to account for the detailed logistics involved.

Escort Vehicles

Depending on the size of your load, your heavy machinery load may require escort vehicles.

Exact regulations vary by state, but escort vehicles all serve the same purpose: partnering with the driver to ensure safe arrival at the destination. Escort vehicles are generally stocked with safety equipment like a flashing amber light, as well as signs, cones, flags, flashlights, etc. In some states, drivers of pilot/escort vehicles are required to be certified.

If your load requires an escort, leave extra lead time for booking and scheduling.

Planning Your Heavy Equipment Move: Cost & Scheduling

Transporting Heavy Equipment

Now that you understand the regulations and overall considerations when moving heavy machinery, let’s talk about the big factors you’ll have to consider: cost and scheduling.

Pricing Out a Heavy Equipment Move

When you’re planning your heavy equipment move, we suggest gathering a couple of quotes so you can get the lay of the land before making a final decision.

Factors that will influence your price include:

  • Distance of the move
  • Weight of the load
  • Size of the load
  • Origin and destination point, including potential congestion in the pickup or delivery zone
  • Equipment needed to move your machinery
  • Timeline—especially if you need to move your equipment fast
  • Insurance coverage
  • Any special handling or permits required
  • Any fuel surcharges in effect

Scheduling and Logistics for Your Heavy Equipment Move

Time in transit means time that your equipment isn’t performing its tasks. That said, there are plenty of benefits for leaving a generous window of time to get your heavy equipment where it needs to go.

A well-considered, deliberate timeline means that you’ll have the chance to gather multiple quotes and evaluate them carefully before making a final decision.

It also means that you’ll have the time you need to:

  • Carefully load and unload your equipment with safety as the highest priority
  • Secure all the necessary permits, including escort vehicles, if needed
  • Plan the most effective route
  • Deal with potential congestion in busy areas
  • Stay flexible in case of the unexpected, like road closures, breakdowns, or inclement weather

A rush job can mean accidents or damage—and a short timeline will ultimately cost you more. The more time you’re able to factor in for your heavy equipment move, the better.

Final Considerations & Best Practices for Heavy Equipment Transportation

Heavy Equipment Freight Transport

Finally, we’ll leave you with a few last thoughts—and a few tips—for a smooth, safe, and cost-effective heavy equipment move.

Know Your Equipment

The dimensions and weight for your equipment will be a key factor in the planning and quoting process of your heavy machinery move.

The better you know your equipment, the easier this process will be:

  • Make sure you have the exact dimensions and weight for your machinery ready when you request a quote.
  • If certain items or accessories can be removed to reduce dimensions or weight, make note and share this information with any potential partners. It could help you avoid your load being classified as oversized/overweight—and save you all the costs and permitting that come with that classification.

Ultimately, the more concrete details you can provide with your quote, the more options you’ll have, including options that might save you money.

Evaluate Each Transportation Partner Carefully

When you’re transporting large, heavy, and expensive machinery, this isn’t the time to cut corners.

Instead, insist on a professional transportation provider with:

  • Plenty of experience hauling heavy machinery, ideally equipment that’s similar to yours.
  • Insurance coverage to protect your equipment in transit. During the quoting process, inquire about the specific details of the coverage your transportation partner offers. Share the details with your own insurance broker or agent to ensure you’re fully covered. This will give you the chance to address gaps in coverage or inadequate limits, all of which can cause serious problems down the line.
  • All the right equipment to do your move right. Even if you’re not an expert in heavy machinery transport, a few key questions can reveal the depth of your partner’s expertise. (Or suggest you might look elsewhere!) If you’re new to heavy equipment transport, here are a few questions to get you started:
  • Will they be using a flatbed, a step-deck, a low-loader, a gooseneck trailer, or something else to move your equipment?
  • What’s the plan for securing the load? What about blocking and bracing?
  • Will they be using chocks or wedges to secure the wheels? If the machinery has a metal track, will they use a friction mat to keep it from sliding?

Make sure you choose a provider you can trust for your heavy machinery move. This equipment represents a significant investment, and your provider should treat it with the professionalism and seriousness it deserves.

Prepare Your Heavy Machinery for Transport

Once you decide on a transportation provider, talk to them about how they want you to prepare the equipment for transportation.

Giving it a good cleaning and doing a full inspection—with pictures and video—will establish a baseline so you know the equipment’s condition before handing it over.

You may want to secure some of the elements of the equipment before transport, including anything that might come loose in transit. Or, you might choose to cover it with a tarp.

Whatever you choose to do, make sure you coordinate with your provider so your preparations don’t interfere with their loading procedures.

Moving Your Heavy Equipment—Safely and Cost-Effectively

Moving equipment of significant size, weight, and value takes specialized expertise. Now that you understand the factors involved with heavy machinery moves, you’re better positioned to find a provider who can help ensure a safe, easy, and cost-effective move, which will get your equipment back up and running with minimal down time.

Looking for help with your next heavy machinery move? Our trucking experts would be happy to help. Just reach out to us for a complimentary quote. No project too large or challenging!

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