Hauling a classified piece of military hardware across seven states from Alabama to a military base in California was not quite a joy ride. Terry White reports
In July and August 2009, Emmert International, Clackamas, OR, undertook a 4,170-mile transport of classified military hardware weighing 83,000 pounds.
Emmert crews worked with route runners to ensure the load-measuring 166-feet 9-inches long, 21-feet wide and 17-feet 6-inches wide with a gross weight of 184,000 pounds-was able to travel the proposed route through Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.
Challenges encountered on the 22-day journey from Alabama to a military base in California included tight turns and clearances; terrain changes; the need to coordinate with many municipalities and utilities; and around-the-clock security. The transport route consisted mainly of two-lane county and state roads, many of which were barely as wide as the load.
Before the move, a crew of tree trimmers cleared the way on narrow roads in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Emmert's two-person logistics crew traveled two days in front of the load to notify the transport of any unexpected construction and to remind cities, counties and utilities contacted earlier of the load's impending arrival.
The transportation crew stayed in constant radio communication and watched the trailer to determine if it would require lifting or lowering for clearances. Members of the crew also removed and replaced road signs when necessary.
Following the transport were a service truck and a crew truck with a trailer to support any needs that arose. A 40-foot motor coach served as a mobile command center to follow and observe the move and confirm the location and speed of transport, which was limited to 45 mph and 5 to 10 mph on bridges. Because the client required the lead driver to remain with the load during non-transport time, he also used the coach as a sleeping and eating area when the transport had to be moved because of compromised security issues.
The completely illuminated transport vehicle and other vehicles in the Emmert International convoy that embarked on its journey at midnight stretched almost a quarter mile. Alabama required night moves because of the high traffic count on the two lane roads during daylight hours. The crew overcame first-night jitters, numerous 90-degree turns, and utility wires that needed to be raised. Because so many signs required removal to permit the width or swing of the trailer, the crew quickly because proficient at that task.
As the load traveled south through small towns in Mississippi, accompanied by two state police and four pilot cars, the team used the custom-built trailer's capabilities as the road narrowed from two lanes in each direction to single lanes. The crew remotely steered the back of the trailer and raised each end as much as 30 inches to maneuver over humps in the road, railroad tracks, medians and to navigate the 90-degree turns.
In other cases, the crew lowered the load to the ground to maneuver under an overpass. Bucket trucks watched the top clearance of the load while ground personnel maintained proper clearances, which were sometimes extremely close. Often, cars were positioned in safe area to allow the load to pass safely.
Travel through Louisiana proved challenging because miles of low tree branches had to be trimmed and many 90- degree turns along the route had to be negotiated.
In Texas, the convoy arrived in Dublin as a parade was in process along the transport route. At the request of city officials, the convoy became the parade's grand finale.
In Aspermont, TX, the crew shut down and lowered the trailer onto the ground in a safe staging area as wind gusted to 70 mph after a tornado touched down less than a mile away. Careful inspection of the load and tie downs revealed the damage was limited to some frayed nerves. The next day's challenges mostly involved crowd control, with pilot cars and police directing spectators off the road.
In New Mexico, the convoy encountered unexpected emergency road construction. After the high pole car and bucket trucks ran an alternate route and verified it was safe, local police rerouted and escorted the load.
Arizona and, later, California required Department of Transportation officers to perform level 1 inspections to maintain safety of the equipment being used on a daily basis. Each inspection concluded without any marks against the driver or equipment.
After a weekend of rest at the California border, the crew entered the state with another night move. California also required escorts by three DOT officers in front and one in the rear.
Emmert's insistence on maintaining safety every inch of the way paid off. Having devoted 3,250 man-hours to the job, the Emmert crew arrived at the final destination accident-free.