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High Poling Do’s and Don’ts

Updated: Sep 20, 2018

Contributed by R.E. Ward Pilot Car Service

High poling is a highly specialized practice that is used every day in the United States - but not widely known or recognized.

What is high poling?You may have noticed while traveling on our nation’s highways, a vehicle with a long non-conductive pole attached usually to the front bumper and stretching high into the air. The pole is usually yellow in color and riding on a vehicle that carries a sign that says oversize load.

This pole is used to determine the height of objects that a truck loaded with various materials may pass under. The load could pass under many different things such as bridges, underpasses, power lines, phone lines and let’s not forget the elusive tree limb and the fuel island canopy. You can imagine what would happen if the load is too high to pass safely under these objects.

Drivers of these high poling vehicles should never assume they know the height of a load, just because they were told it was a certain height. A device is required to check both the height of a load and the height of an object it would pass under. Check the permit for the listed height but it is wise not to trust the permit and double check all the numbers yourself as well as the intended route.

Never take the route for granted even though you may have run the route before. It rarely is the same each time, so discuss this with your load driver. Even though you may be running similar loads with other trucks, you may not be running the same route. Obstacles on these routes can change almost daily.

Constantly check the height of your pole to make sure it is set correctly. Even check it while en route. It may not remain stable at a certain height.

Distractions can cause accidents. You must pay attention to all things above and alongside the path of the vehicle. Never carry pets in your vehicle because they cause distraction and are outlawed in many states, while escorting.

Stay in touch with your load driver and don’t get too far ahead. Eye contact is best but never be out of radio range. Inform the driver which lane of traffic you have checked so he can make adjustments if necessary. Advise the load driver of any hazards or obstacles he may encounter, including traffic lights and which lane is best to avoid hitting any of these objects. Always, maintain a clear view of the tip of your height pole.

Different states have different requirements and you must know each one. This includes flag regulations according to size, color and location. In some states, the distance between the flag tips cannot exceed a certain width.

Also be aware of any lighting prerequisites, including the light size color and whether it should be flashing, rotating or strobe. The same holds true for banners and those requirements will vary from state to state. Some require a roof mount, or a sign or banner on the front or rear, perhaps a combination.

High Poling is a very important job and requires a great deal of study and preparation to do it safely and effectively. Done properly, it will result in safer roads for everyone. 


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