March 27 - Robert Moore, NBIS chief legal officer, says it is imperative that specialised haulage companies have an agreement with the pilot/escort outlining the roles, responsibilities and assumption of risks in escorting the oversize/overweight load.

He noted that many carriers continue to operate on an invoice, or even worse a handshake, for these types of situations.

"Imagine the following, everyday scenario, that could happen to anyone," said Moore. "Your company is pulling an oversize, overweight, permitted load in a crowded and dense area. You've contracted a lead escort with a height pole, and have a company escort following behind your load. You don't have any type of agreement in place with the lead escort, other than an invoice with minimal information about the job.

"The load has skidder boards over the length of the top of the load to allow wires to slide over the load without catching. Your driver is in constant communication with the lead and rear escort, particularly as they are directing your load under the wires. The wires slide seamlessly across the wire skidder boards, but, as they come off the rear, they drop down and the weight of the wire causes one wooden pole on one side of the road to break, and another pole on the opposite side of the road to completely come out of the ground.

"The weight of the wires and the two poles cause another third pole to break and fall, striking an aluminium traffic signal pole, and causing it to fall. As the traffic signal falls, it strikes several parked and stopped vehicles. Some passengers in the stopped cars complain of injuries. Almost all the cars have damage from being struck by falling poles."

"As a result of the accident, several different vehicles owners and operators come forward presenting claims to your insurer for the damage to their vehicles and alleged bodily injury. Additionally, the utility companies present claims for damages to their power lines. You feel the escort should pick up defence and indemnity because they were leading the load and you were following their height pole, and their directions.

"However, you don't have any agreement in place with them, and as a result they are under no obligation to defend or indemnify you, costing you substantial legal fees from the multiple suits presented. Their negligence, if any, will be determined over the course of the various lawsuits."

NBIS has recently developed a new escort/pilot car agreement for this purpose. Some of the key provisions include: independent contractor relations; indemnity and hold harmless; route survey indemnity; insurance; and compliance with applicable laws.

Read more here.