An oversized load is an item or load of goods that may exceed size-related safety guidelines on a road. While the load may still be safe to carry, it is typically wider than most of the other vehicles on the road, and thus may be a potential safety hazard. Different regions may have varying safety laws regarding oversize loads; many regions require those transporting an oversize load to take special precautions, including the use of permits, special signals and signs, and even the use of other vehicles to surround the primary truck or car.
Carrying an oversize load may sometimes be the only possible way to transport certain goods. Large but mobile cargo may be too large to transport by air, and not practical or possible to send by container ships. Usually, an item that constitutes an oversize load cannot break down to travel by a regular method; mobile houses or classrooms, carnival rides, and even super-sized movie props are all common types of oversize loads. In some cases, the qualifying factor may not be the size of the item, but the relative size of the vehicle; trying to fit a 20 ft (6.09 m) tree on top of a normal-sized sedan will also create an oversize load.
In most regions, a load must still be deemed safe for the vehicle and roadway in order to qualify for oversize permits. In the example above, a normal-sized sedan might be considered too flimsy to bear the weight of the tree, and thus might not actually qualify for a permit. In addition to weight requirements, a load may also be subject to very specific rules about security methods that will prevent the item from rolling, falling, or otherwise endangering the roadway or any vehicles. Since each region has its own laws regarding weight, maximum size allowed, and security methods, it is important to check with local road authorities before setting out with an oversize load.
Even if a load is approved, a transporter may need to post signs or take other precautions based on the size of the items. Signs may include red flags attached to the edges of the item, signs that read “oversize load,” or flashing lights. For some loads, the driver must provide other cars which drive to the front and rear of the main vehicle in order to warn and protect other motorists. These cars may also need to display signs or flags. Without these precautions, a driver may not be issued a permit, or may be subject to legal consequences.