Live Power Poles And Wires: Understanding The Hazard

Power pole and wires

Every year, accidental collisions with power poles and overhead wires by the road transport industry have a significant impact on power infrastructure and supply.  

An accident resulting in loss of power supply can inconvenience thousands of homes and businesses. More importantly, fallen powerlines can and do kill.

In this article, we’ll go through all the protective measures you can take as well as your legal responsibilities as a driver or fleet manager.

Know your responsibilities

If you’re driving an articulated vehicle, moving an oversized load, operating a tipper truck or plant and equipment near powerlines, it’s your responsibility to know the clearances required to operate safely. 

While each state and territory has its own rules and regulations, generally speaking, the Danger Zone means operating a vehicle anywhere that is within:

  • 0.5 metres of a live insulated overhead power line or aerial bundled conductor line of a voltage of not more than 1 000 volts; or

  • 1.0 metre of a live uninsulated overhead power line of a voltage of not more than 1 000 volts; or

  • 3.0 metres of a live overhead power line, whether insulated or not, of a voltage exceeding 1000 volts but not more than 33 000 volts; or

  • 6.0 metres of a live overhead power line, whether insulated or not, of a voltage exceeding 33,000 volts.

Large trucks and oversized loads

Did you know if the height of your load exceeds 4.3 metres or 4.6 metres for livestock or towed agricultural vehicles, planning your route must include special precautions to avoid impact with low bridges and overhead power lines?  As regulations can differ, check with the authorities in your state or territory.


A permit is required before an oversized load can be transported by road.   Operators are required to submit the planned route and obtain authorisation from the local authorities in advance.  If powerlines have to be moved, special arrangements will be put in place and charged out at a specified rate. Special arrangements include escorts, technical assistance, and time restrictions.


Be aware of any overhead cables, powerlines or power poles in the area you are working in. Extreme care must be taken when operating plant and equipment or offloading tipper trucks near live power cables.   

Know the clearances required and the height of your vehicle when it is elevated. Always have an experienced spotter to ensure the vehicle has safe clearances.  

Also check the site for underground power infrastructure (domed green pillar boxes). Ensure tippers and cranes are lowered completely before moving the vehicle.

Safety first

If the vehicle you are operating comes into contact with live power lines, stay inside the vehicle and call 000 immediately. Always comply with instructions from emergency services personnel.

If fire or chemical spill poses a threat to your life, check the area for fallen power lines and evacuate the vehicle with extreme caution.  

To avoid electrocution, jump from the vehicle and land on both feet. Avoid touching the vehicle and slowly move away keeping both feet on the ground until you are a minimum of 8 metres from the vehicle. Ensure no one else approaches the vehicle until emergency services arrive.