The job of a pilot car is more than just a light, flags and signs on a vehicle following along behind an oversize load. Not only do they protect the load from the motoring public but they also protect the public from the load. By either driving ahead of or behind the load, the pilot car can warn the truck driver of any obstacles that might endanger the load or people driving around it. The two are in constant communication by way of CB or 2-way radio as required by law. A driver and his/her pilot car work together as a team to ensure the safe and secure movement of any oversize loads.
Some times the oversize load is not only wide, long and/or heavy, sometimes it is also over height. When escorting such a load, the lead pilot car is required to have a non-conductive high pole attached to the vehicle. Most pilot cars will have this attached to the front bumper with a mirror on the dash to be able to see the top of the pole. This pole will usually be set 6 inches higher than the load and the pilot car driver will check all overhead obstacles with it, e.g. overpasses, lights, power lines, trees, anything that could damage the load or other property if hit.
Good navigation skills and an understanding of the regulations of the states they will be traveling through is imperative. Permits are issued by each state and list a route that the load must travel along with any special conditions that the driver must follow. Not all state issued permits are easy to read and understand. Being able to decipher these permits and all the provisions will help insure that the driver is in compliance with local and state laws and regulations. Getting off the permitted route or violating one of the special provisions can not only cost the truck driver & trucking company lots of money, it could endanger lives and property
The relationship between truck driver and pilot car is very important. The truck driver has to trust the pilot car to do a thorough and professional job. A delicate balance must be maintained to safely escort the oversize load through a state, across the country in all types of weather conditions.