Pilot/Escort Vehicle Operator Certification

The key to keeping our roads safe

Pilot/Escort vehicles, also known as pilot cars, escort vehicles, flag cars, and chase cars, accompany Oversize Loads to help protect them and others on the road during transport. They play a critical role in protecting lives and preventing costly accidents.

Bridge hits and other accidents result in millions of dollars of damage each year, and states are largely picking up the bill.

63% of U.S. freight is hauled by truck, and specialized carriers that haul Oversized freight are one of the most profitable types of transport. However, they also present the highest risk to property and human life.

Oversize Loads require longer stopping distances, height clearance, and specialized routing, and they carry a higher risk of crashes and fatalities. Accidents such as the 2018 Artillery Road Bridge strike, which caused $1.8 million in damages, have been rising steadily. Between 2007 and 2017, there were 3,705 documented instances costing an average of $300,000 per incident, accounting for billions of dollars in infrastructure damage, fatalities and route obstructions.* most of these accidents could have been avoided through proper training and adherence to permitted dimensions and approved routes.

According to a 2019 report by the North American Pilot Vehicle Safety Alliance (NAPVSA), Bridge strikes due to vertical clearance issues continue to rise. The damage caused has resulted in serious injury and fatalities and billions of dollars of repair costs which far too often are left to an ever-decreasing transportation budget.

Pilot car certification increases safety on our roads.

Data shows that the majority of fatal crashes involving heavy trucks may actually be caused by drivers of other motor vehicles. This means that pilot car operators play a crucial role in preventing collisions and fatalities since it is their job to protect not just the Oversize Load, but other motorists on the road. However, piloting an Oversize Load requires an advanced set of skills. P/EVO certification is the only way to ensure that pilots have been given the background necessary to comply with the law, guide Oversize Loads safely along their routes, and protect the motoring public.

Currently, only twelve U.S. states require training for pilot car operators. Organizations like Evergreen Safety Council provide training and for pilot car operators, but states need to do their part by making it a legal requirement.

States can help by implementing pilot car training requirements and standardizing regulations on Oversize Loads.

It is a significant challenge for trucking companies to convey over-dimensional loads across multiple state lines due to the many different requirements in each jurisdiction. Leaders in the heavy trucking and pilot car industries are calling for a move toward “harmonization”—an effort to more closely align the requirements placed on the carriers of over-dimensional loads amongst all states.

Following the 2013 Skagit River Bridge Collapse, the National Transportation Safety Board has recommended instituting a training and certification process that includes reciprocity of pilot car certification in all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Reciprocity means the recognition and allowance of one state’s pilot car certification in another state by way of a formal agreement or acknowledgement. This means that states without a current certification process can choose to accept pilot car certification from one or more other states rather than implement their own.

Evergreen Safety Council supports these efforts in industry and government to promote the efficient movement of Oversize Loads across state lines while still maintaining an appropriate level of safety.

Implementing pilot car certification is cost-effective if done with a partner like Evergreen Safety Council.

Evergreen Safety Council has partnered with the states of Washington and Colorado to develop a training program based on current federal best practices, industry standards, and state laws and regulations.

Pilot car standards can vary slightly across states, but the basics of safe operation remain the same. A program like Evergreen’s is designed to be easily adapted for states’ specific requirements, with modular components that can be edited or switched out according to need.

Evergreen Safety Council currently administers trainings for Washington and Colorado. Students pay for the training, and ESC oversees the registration and certification process, providing detailed reports to the state. ESC can track and distribute certification cards (as we do with Washington), or share certification information with the state, who can then provide the cards directly to the students (as Colorado does).

ESC P/EVO training students can attend classes in person or online. Our online exams are administered using secure software.

Evergreen Safety Council works with state and industry experts to increase roadway safety.

Our training is developed by a team of safety education professionals, working in conjunction with state and industry leaders. Our robust and adaptable curriculum allows states to meet the growing need for protection around Oversize Loads without having to create their own training programs.

Our goal is to keep roads safe — together.

* This data was compiled by Dan Wells, CDOT (ret.), in cooperation with other organizations, including Evergreen Safety Council. The numbers shown here represent only reported bridge strikes in a sampling of states. The actual number of bridge strikes nation-wide is in reality much higher, and the financial impact understated. There is a vital need for more comprehensive data on bridge strikes. We encourage state departments of transportation and law enforcement to consider enhanced data collection to better define the nature and magnitude of these incidents.

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