Pilot Cars; An Essential Guide to Escort Vehicles

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(Last Updated On: July 8, 2023)

Pilot Vehicle or car

Pilot cars play an integral role in the fleet business and trucking industry. Essentially, these vehicles are assigned to escort other vehicles, particularly those transporting

oversized or exceptionally heavy loads. This practice, prevalent in the transportation sector, is crucial for maintaining road safety – both for the cargo vehicles and the general public.

Overloaded cargo fleet vehicles pose a threat on the road. Their imposing presence might intimidate other smaller vehicles utilized by the general public. Therefore, a pilot car is always on duty to ensure everyone’s safety on the road.

Now that you understand the importance of a pilot car, let’s delve deeper into the world of pilot cars, their drivers, and the services they provide.

 

Getting To Know About The Pilot Cars

The pilot cars, leading the overloaded commercial vehicles, are driven by licensed drivers. Their presence makes it easier for fleet businesses to manage the safety of their vehicles and of others on the road. This way, they can expand the business exponentially without worrying about any legal troubles. Some reasons why these fleet businesses prefer having pilot car loads are as follows:

Ensure Maximum Road Safety

Transporting massive loads through the road is a tough task. Gigantic loads such as heavy machinery and wind turbine elements require the utmost level of care and diligence when it’s being transported from one place to the other. The pilot car, at the forefront, makes sure to signal and warn other vehicles on the road regarding the movement of heavy load. It reduces and minimizes the risks of accidents and mishaps.

One additional benefit that increased safety brings is the potential for lower insurance rates. Improved safety measures, like the use of pilot cars, can lead to fewer accidents, which insurance companies often reward with reduced premiums.

Ensure Compliance Of Regulations

Moving heavy loads from one place to the other is definitely a tricky task and involves a lot of risks and potential damage. This is why local authorities impose certain regulations to ensure the load is well-managed. When an authentic pilot car service is hired for the load’s safety, they adhere to all the rules and regulations related to the weight of the load. With this, there are no legal troubles to be encountered by the fleet business.

Assists In Planning The Routes

A massive issue faced by fleet businesses is planning the routes of vehicles taking heavy loads. Before the vehicles start moving, there is a need to assess the routes and plan them accordingly. By performing a detailed survey of the routes, all the possible hindrances, obstacles, and narrow bridges are analyzed. Narrow roads and bridges cause massive issues for heavy-loaded fleet vehicles and lead to great inconvenience. Efficient pilot car services advise fleet managers and help them choose the best routes for their fleet. Hence, this leads to a trouble-free journey for all the drivers.

Traffic Management

traffic management pilot cars

Managing the traffic on the roads is yet another issue faced by vehicles taking heavy loads. It is a part of the pilot car driver’s job to make sure there is a proper distance between the cargo and other vehicles, and it acts as a buffer between the two. This is how it is possible for vehicles to avoid collisions and fatal accidents. With the help of various communication gadgets, it is possible for the pilot car driver to talk to the drivers and coordinate their movements accordingly.

Offer Expertise

The driver of an oversize load pilot car is an expert and knows his job pretty well. He has quite some experience when it comes to escorting vehicles that are overloaded and gigantic in size. Alongside this, they are experts at managing road traffic issues and can sort out all kinds of problems that may arise. He is in a great position to offer advice to the driver whenever he needs some!

Responsibilities Of The Pilot Car Driver

The pilot car drivers are well-trained. As many as fourteen states of the United States of America provide and accept drivers with proper certifications and training. The candidates for these certifications and training must be age 18 and above. Alongside this, they must have a valid driving license and must have attended an institute’s eight-hour training course. They also have to pass an exam at the end of the course, and only then the certificate is awarded to them.

The reason behind this training and certification requirement being a must for pilot car drivers is the fact that this job is loaded with responsibilities. Some of these responsibilities are as follows:

Keep The Fleet Drivers Under Check

Keep The Fleet Drivers Under Check

The duty of a pilot car driver doesn’t end with just keeping the fleet vehicle taking massive cargo safe on the road. Rather, it has to ensure that the drivers charged with the duty of taking the load from one place to the other don’t end up violating any laws. This is especially relevant when they move from one state to the other.

Different states within the United States have different traffic rules. A lot of times, the driver habitual of driving in one state cannot comprehend the state’s rules. A pilot car driver escorting the loaded vehicle guides the driver while moving into a new state. They advise them regarding various regulations and set rules such as shifting from one lane to another, making turns, and crossing borders.

Use Monitoring Devices To Check The Drivers

The pilot car drivers have specific monitoring devices that they use to keep a check on the loaded vehicle drivers. These special devices enable pilot car drivers to monitor the actual location of the loaded vehicle at all times. At times, there may be a distance between both cars, which can cause inconvenience for them both. It can also lead to hazards along the way and affect the performance of the fleet. Hence, real-time information regarding the location and speed of the vehicle is of immense importance.

Inspection Of The Vehicle

Inspection Of The Vehicle

The fleet vehicle taking a heavy load from one place to the other needs to be in the perfect shape and performance in order to ensure everything remains safe. It is the responsibility of the pilot car driver to perform a detailed inspection of the fleet vehicle even before it is loaded. Checking its lights, brakes, and other elements is a must before it’s put to work.

Communicate With The Driver

This is probably the basic and most important responsibility of the pilot car driver. He has to communicate with the fleet vehicle driver and stay in touch with him constantly. At times, he has to convey urgent messages in the most precise manner possible. This is why it is necessary for him to be a good communicator and be able to send his message clearly.

There are various mediums that he can use to communicate with the fleet vehicle driver. The most common and cost-effective medium of communication is the mobile phone. With both drivers having their phones handy, they can easily communicate when needed.

Apart from this, the pilot car driver can also use the two-way radio to talk to the fleet vehicle driver. Also referred to as CB radios, the two-way radios help the two drivers talk to each other in real-time. They make it easy for the fleet vehicle driver to seek advice from the pilot car driver, and the latter can swiftly instruct the former and ask him to make the much-needed move!

Hands-free or Bluetooth-enabled devices are also quite useful for drivers when it comes to communicating with each other efficiently. In fact, these devices are more convenient than other types as they don’t require a hands-on operation, thus minimizing potential mishaps. Hence, all the chances of a possible mishap are minimized.

The company policies and the local regulations are two major factors that affect the kind of communication channel the driver will use to talk to each other. Anything that is prohibited or forbidden in a particular state is avoided.

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Utilizing Tracking and Monitoring Devices in Oversized Vehicles

An important facet of safely escorting oversized vehicles involves the use of tracking and monitoring devices. These technologies provide real-time information to the pilot car driver, enabling them to stay updated on the location, speed, and potential hazards on the path of the oversized vehicle. Common tracking and monitoring devices include GPS trackers, speed monitors, and hazard warning systems.

tracking and monitor overseas cars

GPS trackers utilize satellite technology to relay the location of the oversized vehicle. The information can be displayed on a map or dashboard, providing the pilot car driver with an immediate update on the vehicle’s location. Speed monitors track the speed of the vehicle, ensuring adherence to speed limits. Hazard warning systems, using sensors like radar or cameras, alert the pilot car driver about potential hazards, such as oncoming traffic, pedestrians, or low bridges.

In addition to these, communication devices like radios and cell phones are also employed. Radios offer real-time communication, which is crucial for sharing information about traffic conditions, imminent hazards, and other vital information. Cell phones serve as a conduit for non-emergency updates, such as changes in the route or schedule.

By integrating the use of tracking and monitoring devices, communication equipment, and the pilot car driver’s experience, the transportation of oversized vehicles can be made safer and more efficient.

Benefits Of Having The Pilot Car Services

Contrary to what some believe, paying for pilot car services is not an additional cost that the fleet owners have to endure. Rather, once they get to know what a pilot car is, they would definitely want to have one escorting a vehicle taking a massive load. Here are some significant reasons why a pilot car driver escorting an oversize load pilot car is beneficial:

Improves The Efficiency Of The Drivers

Taking heavy loads from one place to the other is no joke! It’s a tough task, and a lot of new fleet drivers may get overwhelmed while doing so. This may end up affecting their efficiency and the overall performance of the business. The presence of a pilot car helps in augmenting the efficiency of the drivers, ensuring that they are able to deliver the load to the destination at the right time with the utmost amount of safety. The pilot car drivers guide the fleet drivers through the tough and tricky twists and turns, making sure they are able to avoid the incoming traffic.

Once driver efficiency improves, it becomes easier for the fleet business to maintain a good track record. Resultantly, the business is able to expand and grow exponentially, leading to adding many more vehicles, drivers, and pilot car drivers in its books. Hence, it’s a win-win situation for all!

Protect The Infrastructure

An overloaded fleet can adversely affect infrastructure if proper care is not taken. An uncontrolled and overloaded vehicle might scatter some elements from the load on the road while making sudden turns, which could significantly damage the infrastructure. The pilot car drivers guide the overloaded fleet regarding their movement, thereby protecting the infrastructure and preventing any harm.

By preserving the infrastructure, pilot car drivers contribute significantly to society as well.

Sort Out Traffic Congestion

The worst thing that can happen on the road is congestion. It gets even more tricky to sort when a heavy vehicle with a massive load on it gets stuck in the middle of the road. One reason why it may happen is the loaded vehicle being unguided. Pilot car drivers guide the loaded vehicles through traffic, helping to avoid congestion. This way, they make sure that the fleet vehicle reaches its destination on time and that no time is wasted for the other vehicles on the road as well.

The pilot car drivers give real-time directions and instructions to the fleet vehicle driver and tell him when to proceed on the route and when to stop. They also instruct about slowing down or increasing the speed of the car according to the road situation.

Prepare The Route Beforehand

Pilot car drivers are well-equipped with the knowledge of routes of the state they operate on. Hence, they are better positioned to prepare the route for an overloaded vehicle beforehand. They plan routes in a way that they avoid all kinds of low bridges and narrow roads. These drivers also stay updated on the construction of the roads and hence plan routes accordingly. Wherever there is even a slight chance of inconvenience, they make sure to avoid it and change the route.

Most of the time, the pilot car driver collaborates with the fleet manager to discuss potential routes. The possibility of traffic volumes, the most efficient route, and the cost-effective path are then decided upon. The assigned route is also discussed with the driver before the journey starts. This is to ensure no confusion once the vehicles set out on the journey.

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Reporting The Performance

A lot of times, the fleet owners may require the pilot car driver to report the performance of the fleet vehicle driver. This way, the fleet managers get to know about the working capabilities of the drivers. These reports also talk about the adherence of the fleet driver to the rules and regulations. This is only a part of the pilot car service when it has been discussed beforehand, typically during conversations about future services.

These reports may include various aspects of driving, such as adherence to traffic rules, driving the vehicle safely, and following the pre-designated route. Considering these reports, the fleet managers can decide on the appraisal of the driver.

Final Thoughts

Transporting and taking heavy loads from one place to the other is a tricky task and requires a lot of care and support. Fleet businesses responsible for transporting overloaded vehicles ensure all necessary steps are taken to keep the cargo safe. Keeping a pilot car ahead of the overloaded vehicle to escort it all the way to the destination ensures the safety of the cargo vehicle as well as protects the traffic on the road. Hence, getting the services of a pilot car driver is necessary as it minimizes the risks and hazards on the road.

 

 

 

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About the author

Laraib Shah

Laraib Shah

Laraib is a freelance writer and a proud cat mom. She is passionate about the trucking industry and loves to share her experiences through writing. When she is not writing, she spends most of her time traveling. She is a lover of cookies, ice cream, and coffee.

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Share what you learned!

About the author

Laraib Shah

Laraib Shah

Laraib is a freelance writer and a proud cat mom. She is passionate about the trucking industry and loves to share her experiences through writing. When she is not writing, she spends most of her time traveling. She is a lover of cookies, ice cream, and coffee.

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