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Oversize load
Categories and authorisations to know

Oversize load involve major challenges in terms of road safety and infrastructure integrity, as their unusual size requires special routes and escorts to minimise risks. In addition, coordination with local authorities and obtaining permits are essential to avoid traffic disruption and ensure the safety of these massive transports.

In this article, we explore oversize loads, which are essential in the construction and public works industry for transporting massive equipment. They are classified into three categories according to their size and weight, detailing the authorisations required (APL and Individual Authorisation) and examining the process of moving them safely, including route adjustment and the use of specialist escorts.

What is an oversize load?


Oversize loads are a crucial solution for transporting massive equipment and materials in the construction industry. These convoys can include items such as generators, excavators, prefabricated parts of building structures or bridge components. The key characteristic of an oversize load is its unconventional size, whether in terms of width, length or weight. Because of their non-standard dimensions, they cannot be transported on the roads in the ordinary way.

The 3 categories of oversize loads

They are generally classified into three distinct categories according to the nature of their characteristics. Whatever their category, oversize loads require in-depth preparation, close coordination with the local authorities, and strict compliance with the regulations in force to guarantee road safety and the preservation of infrastructure. Carriers must systematically obtain the necessary authorisations before embarking on an oversize load, whatever its category.

Example of oversize load types by category

Category 1:

Medium construction equipment: This may include moderate sized excavators, crane trucks, or mobile power generators.

Steel beams: Steel beams used in the construction of buildings can often be transported in category 1 due to their relatively limited width.

Category 2:

Metal structures: Metal structural elements for warehouses or industrial complexes often fall into this category.

Bridge sections: Prefabricated bridge sections, such as decks, may require category 2 classification.

Category 3:

Wind turbines: Large wind turbines, with their imposing blades, are often transported in this category.

Massive industrial equipment: This can include giant power generators, oil refining units or power station components that far exceed standard width limits.

Space station components: In the case of special projects such as the transport of components for space stations, category 3 is commonly used because of the considerable size of these loads.

It should be noted that this list is not exhaustive. It does, however, give a clearer idea of which category the various convoys fall into.

The different authorisations for abnormal loads

Local french authorisation (APL) for oversize loads:

The local french authorisation, often abbreviated to APL, is a document issued by the prefect of a specific department. This authorisation is generally intended for oversize load operations that intend to travel in that region. It is designed to regulate and supervise such transport for reasons of road safety, infrastructure protection and local traffic management.

Examples of transport covered by an APL

Public works machinery: This covers the transport of large construction machinery, such as excavators, bulldozers or cranes.
Long indivisible parts: These are large industrial components or structures, such as beams, heavy machinery or special equipment, which cannot be dismantled for transport.
Container transport: These may be sea containers or other types of large containers.
Tree trunks: This type of transport is commonly used in the forestry industry to move tree trunks to sawmills or other facilities.

French individual authorisation for oversize load

An individual authorisation is a document that differs from the APL in that it is permanent and nominative. As with the APL, it is generally issued by the local chief from which the convoy starts, and is valid for a specific number of transports over a given period, depending on the planned itinerary. This authorisation is often required for oversize load crossing several regions.

Transport operations covered by an individual permit are generally large-scale and present particular challenges in terms of logistics and safety. The specific characteristics of the transport, such as dimensions, weight, escort equipment and exact routes, are specified in the individual permit. It is issued according to the category of transport, which means that different types of oversize load may require separate individual permits.

Applying for an authorisation:

APL applications are generally submitted to the competent authority using specific forms, such as the Tenet form or the CERFA form (french regulation). The authorisation also details the characteristics of the transport, the authorised roads, the transport times and the safety measures required.

How an oversize load works

Obtaining permits:

The process of transporting an oversize load begins with obtaining special permits, as seen in the previous section. This involves submitting applications to the relevant authorities, who assess the risks and grant the necessary permits.

Adjusting the route and itinerary:

Once the permits have been obtained, the route is thoroughly inspected to ensure that it can safely accommodate the oversize load. This may involve reinforcing bridges or roads, temporarily moving traffic signs or infrastructure, and other necessary adjustments. During transport, specialist escorts follow the convoy to ensure its safety, including pilot vehicles, safety vehicles and teams of traffic managers.

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