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How to become a load pilot

Load pilots help oversized loads be transported on the roads without causing a danger to other road users. These loads are wider, taller and/or longer than the maximum vehicle dimensions. Our roads have signs, lanes, roundabouts and traffic islands based on normal-sized vehicles, so a huge vehicle can cause problems. Load pilots escort these vehicles and loads, warning other road users about them.

An oversized load like this house on a truck has a load pilot in front and behind to direct traffic

How do you get a job as a load pilot?

You must have a full class 1 (car) licence.

Class 2 qualification

The class 2 qualification is simple: fill out the application form and send it with the required fee to NZTA. They will send you back the load pilot guide. Answer the questions, send them in, and if you got at least 20 out of 24 correct, you’ve passed.

Class 1 qualification

You must have had either:

  • 3 years’ experience as a class 2 load pilot
  • experience working on at least 25 jobs with a class 1 pilot

You then fill out the class 1 load pilot application form and send it to NZTA who will send you back a list of approved courses which are supplied by MITO or Tranzqual-approved course providers. This course takes around 9 months.

Applying for a job

It’s helpful if you have other skills such as a mechanic, engineering or construction, a commercial road transport qualification or licence classes that allow you to drive trucks (classes 2-5). Contact companies that use load pilots:

  • Traffic management
  • House movers
  • Specialist machinery movers (e.g. boat haulage)
  • Specialist load pilots

You will need a good CV with no spelling errors detailing your qualifications and any other relevant experience. You might not start as a pilot, but once you’re in the company you’ll be able to work your way into that role.

What’s the difference between a class 1 and class 2 load pilot?

Class 1 pilots have additional training (including optional unit standards 23892 and 1768) on technical and practical issues associated with managing traffic that very large and complex loads require. For example, all loads above 5m wide require at least one class 1 pilot and two class 2 pilots.

The following diagram explains the requirements for the number and type of load pilot drivers.

Why do load pilots frequently use utes?

The load pilot has driven over the kerb onto the grass verge to check clearance down the side of the truck

Utes have the advantage of:

  • Having better ground clearance than a car if the vehicle has to drive on a verge (i.e. the side of the road) or over kerbs
  • Four-wheel drive, again for driving on the verge
  • An area for tools, strops and other equipment that might be required – recommended items include road cones, road flares, safety hazard triangles, fluorescent red flags and a stop/slow paddle
  • Being taller and more visible than a car
  • Good towing capacity if used for towing a trailer as a rear pilot (front pilots are not permitted to tow a trailer)

Pilot vehicles must be predominantly white and carry signage.

How much money will you make as a load pilot?

Contract load pilots working for themselves usually charge between $60-110 per hour, or charge by the kilometre. If you are working as an employee for a load piloting company, wages are fairly low and not far above minimum wage. Class 1 drivers earn more than class 2 drivers.

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Darren is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and the NZ Motoring Writers' Guild

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