Four long-haul rigs, each loaded with a huge transformer bound for Japan, journeyed across the state of Texas March 26 through April 2 to meet a shipping deadline at the Port of Houston.
The Texas Department of Transportation approved super-heavy permits for Southwest Industrial Rigging to haul the loads at gross vehicle weights from 510,000, to 430,000 pounds. The transformers were headed to Japan to aid in disaster relief in the aftermath of the destructive earthquake and tsunami that hit the country in early March.
Approximately 20-feet wide and 197 feet long, the super-heavy loads left a Sweetwater, Texas facility on March 29, traveling south along Texas highways to the final port destination. They were then offloaded onto a heavy-lift vessel and shipped to Japan.
Maintenance employees in six TxDOT districts provided traffic control as the big rigs moved across Texas.
"It took a great deal of coordination in a short period of time to pull this off," said Carol Davis, director of the TxDOT Motor Carrier division. "TxDOT divisions and districts worked closely with an engineering consultant to accomplish in a few days what would normally take weeks."
Harry Baker, president of Southwest Industrial Rigging, said he was contacted about the haul while he was at ConExpo in Las Vegas. He said his crews began assembling the trailer systems on Friday March 25 and they deadheaded from Phoenix, AZ to Sweetwater, Texas on Sunday. The transformers were loaded onto the ship at the Port of Houston on April 2.
Southwest Industrial Heavy Transportation Coordinator Rob Perry said that several different trailer configurations were used to haul the transformers, as they were all different sizes. Because the transformers had been in use, it took some time for them to be drained and dismantled.
"They had to bring in systems to drain and dismantle them," says Perry. "It took a lot of coordination. I believe it was on a Thursday night we got the phone call to prepare for the job. We left Arizona on Sunday, arrived on Tuesday and we had them all completely delivered by Saturday. Within seven days, we had obtained permits, loaded and delivered them."
Perry said that each load travelled separately as they weren't allowed to travel as one large convoy. Each load had a pilot car and in some areas a police escort. The first load arrived on Thursday and the last one on Saturday.
Perry says it was a great job knowing their efforts would help the people of Japan. "It was a quick job," he says. "We had to mobilize a lot of people and equipment quickly."