High wire and aerial obstruction services are revealed in this 'job of all jobs' for Kenco Bucket Trucks. Judy Van Cleve reports.
Sleepy country towns, piney wood forests and rich Texas farmlands typify the 226 mile journey from the Texas Terminal Complex in Channelview, TX to the Sandy Creek Power Plant in Riesel near Waco, TX. Driving the speed limit, the trip usually takes about three hours.
That is, unless you are moving one of the largest generators ever built by Toshiba at 17 feet 9 inches high, 17 feet wide, 45 feet long and weighing in at approximately 886,000 pounds. The loaded dimensions were a colossal 320 feet long, 39 feet wide, 22 feet high and weighing approximately 1.8 million pounds.
Houston-based Kenco Bucket Trucks was contracted by Mammoet USA, based in Rosharon, TX, for high wire and aerial obstruction services. The trip to the Sandy Creek Power Plant became the "job of all jobs" for Kenco, the company says.
Mammoet's convoy started out January 4, 2010 and ended February 11, 2010, 30 days from port to plant. The convoy averaged 10 miles a day at approximately 10 mph. According to Kenco the level of difficulty in a range of 1 to 10 was 9.75.
In planning the route, Kenco owner Ken Mungle worked closely with the Texas Department of Transportation and Mammoet's project managers. As expected, some roads, bridges and turns could not accommodate the width, height and weight of the generator. Route revisions were necessary and planning the route took about nine months.
"Because the generator was high, wide and heavy, moving a mile was a milestone," says Mungle. "We encountered everything you can imagine along the route, including below freezing temperatures, snow, wind and ice. Not a typical January day in Texas. To do this kind of work you have to be patient, there's a lot of waiting and good communication skills are an absolute must."
Mammoet's convoy included 28 support vehicles plus nine Harris County motorcycle police officers for traffic control and 24-hour around-the-clock security. TXDOT inspectors met the convoy at various check points, and permits started and stopped the convoy as it entered county and city jurisdictions.
Each day started at daybreak with breakfast, a pre-trip briefing and equipment checks. Mungle's pre-trip review covered the day's route, unusual difficulties, expected weather conditions, and what would be required of each team member and truck.
Communication with the convoy at all times and following strict safety codes were stressed in every briefing.
Residents of nearby towns turned out to watch the convoy pass, gasping at difficult turns and complicated high-wire maneuvers. Some days the convoy moved the day's desired course, and on other days it crept down curving and narrow country roads. High wires were cleared, trees trimmed and other obstructions removed and replaced. Kenco's team removed and re-installed six sections of bridge guard rail and too many Texas highway signs to count. No two days were the same.
Kenco Bucket Trucks distinguished itself with its in-house capabilities. Crews are trained to handle all aerial obstructions, including communication cables, fiber optics, utility wires and traffic signals. Kenco's full-service capabilities reduced the number of vehicles and contractors on the convoy.
To expedite the Sandy Creek Plant transport, Kenco did all sorts of pre-trip prep work on traffic signal arms and lines, loosening bolts, pre-lubricating fasteners and pulling slack in aerial cables.
With eight utility trucks and from 14 to 17 men present on any given day, Kenco crews cleared 556 aerial wires and signals. The company performed 390 lifts of communication cables and other aerial wires; removed and re-installed 115 signal lights; and removed and re-installed 51 traffic signal arms. In addition, if a job on the project needed more hands, Kenco crews helped out there as well.
"Our crews are trained to keep their eyes on the job at all times," says Mungle. "We work as a team to keep cargo moving. If that means helping out with traffic control or changing a tire, we do it. Mammoet is one of the best when it comes to logistics, but everyone knows there will always be some surprises along the way."
Road and weather conditions were generally good from Channelview to Bryan College Station. Texas highway directional signs over freeways had to be removed and re-installed. The largest freeway overhead sign was at Highway 6 and Highway 190 in Bryan College Station. The entire sign had to be removed and raised 2 ½ feet to accommodate the load's 22-foot height.
At Old San Antonio Road, the convoy slowed to a crawl because several bridges had to be reinforced with additional structural bridge beams to support the weight requirements. After the convoy passed over the bridge, the reinforcement structure was removed and the bridge rebuilt to its original condition.
"We work well with Mammoet because we know they have high standards and expectations." Mungle says. "The Sandy Creek Power Plant project was a challenge for everyone, but team work prevailed. Mammoet knows Kenco will save them time, money and many headaches. That's the bottom line."
When the Mammoet convoy arrived at the Sandy Creek Power Plant, Kenco crew members had been away from home for more than a month. The trip home would be much shorter, only three hours. Another haul would start in two days, this time out of Littleton, CO to Decatur, AL for an aerospace organization.
Kenco Bucket Trucks handles long and short hauls throughout the continental US. Mungle and his team meet with authorities along the routes it travels to clear the way for a planned transport and pre-plan traffic control should unexpected incidents cause road closures. While authorities will vary, it's not unusual for Mungle to meet with officials from the emergency management offices, department of transportation, county judges, school districts, power companies, fire departments and law enforcement agencies to get approvals.