Q: What authority do pilot-car drivers have to regulate traffic flow to get oversize cargo safely to its destination? – Bill Z., Spanaway
A: Now Bill isn’t just curious about this topic.
He works as a pilot-car driver and is getting a little sick and tired of the traveling public giving him a hard time whenever he stops traffic to allow the big truck he’s escorting to get through.
“People yell at me, honk their horns,” Bill told us here at Traffic Q&A headquarters. “Would you please educate people about what we’re allowed to do?”
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First, though, we needed to educate ourselves, so we put the question to one of our go-to sources, Sgt. James Prouty of the Washington State Patrol.
“Yes, pilot cars are allowed to stop traffic and facilitate the movement of an oversize load through congested areas and other situations that would cause a danger to the public.
“WAC 468-38-100 describes the requirements to become a pilot-vehicle operator and what they are required and allowed to do.”
On to the WAC went we, and, let us tell you, it goes on and on about the rights and responsibilities of pilot-car operators.
The law states that a pilot-car operator is to “provide guidance to the extra-legal vehicle through lane changes, egress from one designated route and access to the next designated route on the approved route itinerary and around any obstacle.”
A pilot-car operator also is required by law to “be far enough in front of the extra-legal vehicle to signal oncoming traffic to stop in a safe and timely manner before entering any narrow structure or otherwise restricted highway where an extra-legal vehicle has entered and must clear before oncoming traffic can enter,” according to the WAC.
That sounds suspiciously to us like the authority to stop traffic.
Now, with great authority comes great responsibility.
Not just anyone with a late-model compact pickup with flashing yellow lights on top can be a pilot-car operator.
One must be certified by the state in order to escort those big loads, and certification is no slam dunk.
This from the WAC:
“Every applicant for a state of Washington pilot/escort operator certificate shall attend an eight-hour classroom training course offered and presented by a business, organization, government entity or individual approved by the department.”
And just showing up to class isn’t enough, per the WAC:
“At the conclusion of the course, the applicant will be eligible to receive the certification card after successfully completing a written test with at least an 80 percent passing score.”
Certification is good for three years.
So, let us endeavor to be good sports the next time a pilot-car driver signals us to stop.
It might be Bill under those flashing yellows, and he knows what he’s doing.