Abnormal Road Transport

Heavy road transport loads surpassing allowed limits – or abnormal loads – constitute an economically important segment of commercial road haulage.

They include anything from wind turbines and bridge beams to exceptionally large and heavy indivisible loads such as pre-built homes, electric transformers, chemical reactor vessels and airplane fuselages or wings.

As a result, heavy transport companies tend to work mostly in the renewable energy, civil engineering and infrastructure, oil and gas, heavy industry and power generation sectors.

Abnormal road transports often need to travel considerable distances, in many cases, across national borders. As they do not comply with the general European legal requirements on vehicle weights and dimensions, an exemption or permit is needed prior to carrying out an abnormal road transport operation. 

Authorities need to verify that bridge structures on the road route can accommodate the often heavier-than-normal vehicles, and that roads are appropriate for the size of load being moved.

Currently, in the absence of European harmonisation, international transporters are confronted with a panoply of rules and procedures before they can obtain an abnormal road transport permit. 

For example, these different rules and procedures might cover vehicle escorts; time frames allowed and authorised speeds; lighting requirements, required vehicle information documents; and abnormal road transport application forms.

The changes in rules and procedures vary from country to country – and sometimes even from region to region – often resulting in delays and creating difficulties for the carriers in making precise cost calculations or meeting their contractual obligations to shippers and customers.

The rules as to what constitutes an abnormal load also vary between the different EU countries, but a broad definition is a vehicle that has any of the following:

  • a weight of more than 40,000kg
  • an axle load of more than 10,000kg for a single non-driving axle and 11,500kg for a single driving axle
  • a width of more than 2.5 metres
  • a rigid length of more than 18.65 metres