Tim Schewe

Tim Schewe

Drivesmart column: Commercial vehicles: meeting a wide load

The driver of a pilot car may give instructions to traffic

By Tim Schewe

“Could you do an article on wide commercial loads when a pilot car is used? The reason I am asking is that I almost got run down once when a wide load came over into my lane, oncoming, to swing wide in order to make a right turn. Understandable, except there was no warning because the pilot car had already made the turn and was nowhere in sight.”

Wide load, long load and the dimensional signs, flashing amber lights and pilot cars are all part of moving an oversize load on B.C.’s highways. They do the job of advising the surrounding traffic that something out of the ordinary is present and that they must prepare for the possibility of taking out of the ordinary action because of it. Which combination of them must be used is contained in the conditions attached to the oversize vehicle permit that authorizes the move to take place.

These conditions may require the use of one or two pilot vehicles to precede or follow the oversize vehicle in order to warn approaching traffic that a hazard exists. The Commercial Transport Act Regulations even goes so far as to specify the distances pilot vehicles must maintain from the load they are escorting.

The province has created a manual, Pilot Car Load Movement Guidelines that is intended to clarify, enhance and support the conditions for travel that are set out in provincial permits for oversize and overweight loads.

The TranBC website has a page titled “9 Clues to Solving the Mystery of the Pilot Car” to help you understand what to do when you meet an oversize load.

In your case, because the pilot car did not provide direction, the ultimate responsibility lies with the driver of the vehicle carrying the oversize load. In order to encroach on your lane or do anything else out of the ordinary it must be determined that the movement can be carried out in safety, without unreasonably affecting other traffic.

It is a heavy responsibility as traffic is often reluctant to slow, wait or move out of the way and there may be short sight distances involved.

The driver of a pilot car may give instructions to traffic, such as holding a stop sign out of the driver’s door window. Failing to obey these instructions could result in a fine and penalty points.

As you will see in the various examples of case law on the DriveSmartBC.ca website, a driver does not always have the exclusive right of way. The presence of pilot cars along with signs and flashing yellow lights on the oversize load tell you that you may have to do something other than carry on. If you fail to adapt to the situation you may be held partially responsible for an ensuing collision.

Knowing this, when you approach an oversize load from any side, you must be prepared for the possibility that you may have to slow, stop or change lanes to facilitate a movement of the oversize load.

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca


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