Monday, July 19, 2010


The first part of last week found several of us headed to a site southwest of Rhame, ND with some 15'6" diameter tanks. Which makes us around seventeen feet tall. Not the easiest thing to fit under overpasses and such. The routes the states give us with our permits rarely let us drive the shortest distance in the first place, but when loads get this large, it gets even worse. However, we do get to see some more country than we normally do.

This is US83 dropping into Pierre SD - the capital city. Actually, our trucks do go through there quite a bit.

I'm sure Jinglebob is quite familiar with this view. We're getting ready to take a roller coaster ride.

The grade has to be at least six percent or more - rarely does one see a drop this far that is that straight. Most major elevation changes are accompanied by lots of curves and switchbacks.

I rolled 'er through in the "extra overdrive" hole, but she's still pulling down big time about here. And it will get worse so I'll be dropping a bunch of gears.

We're all parked at the intersection of SD34 and SD73 - at Howes, SD. There is a little gas station/post office/convenience store located there that also sells a highly valuable commodity- BEER! In the picture of the rear view of the loads you can see a rod bent over the top of the tank. It's held there under tension by a long wire tied to the rear of the trailer, as well as the front (you can see the shadow on my load). This is a "kicker stick." The idea is if we pass under a line of some kind that droops a tad low, we won't snag it passing under. The wire will "ride" the kicker stick over the top. If we run into a line that does give us trouble, our pilot vehicles carry extension poles to lift it up to help us under. Our pilots also have to run a "height pole" mounted to their vehicle set slightly higher than the load - so if they pass under something and hit it with their pole, we are alerted that there may be a problem.

We've been getting a lot of orders for these larger tanks lately, so much that our supply of trailers designed to haul them was in short supply. So, new trailers were ordered and this is an example. These puppies are low riders fer sure. You can see how little clearance there really is. When we pull these, we really have to watch for situations that may hang one of these up - certain railroad crossings are pretty "humpy" and they'll stop us in a heartbeat. One does not want to be hung up on a railroad crossing and not be aware of the schedule for through trains. But, that's never happened - we generally end up taking the same routes over and over and there are not too many places we have trouble. Crappy dirt parking lots at truck stops probably give us the biggest problems.

Another thing that is different about these new trailers we're getting is the belly radius. Technically, these are double drop flatbeds with a dished out well. We've got a couple of older extendable double drop trailers that are pretty heavy, and they're radiused for twelve foot diameter tanks. When we load the larger tanks, this is what happens:

Don't you just love my mad MSPaint skilz! The red arc represents the twelve foot radius of the trailer with a sixteen foot tank (blue circle) sitting on it. See how it doesn't nestle in to the trailer? It just rides on the edges. This really isn't that much of a problem - most of our competitors use trailers without the sheeting so the support for the tanks is all on the trailer rails - but we want our tanks to be supported more firmly and also allow them to drop lower for better clearance. It may only be a few inches, but when the height is in the seventeen foot range - every inch helps. It may mean not having to go a hundred miles out of our way to clear some structure. I was permitted for 16'10" - so the actual height was probably a tad lower. These trailers don't extend, and the support areas are fixed where different height tanks will ride. So, they are lighter than our older warriors.

Aaand, after unloading, I caught a shot of a private buffalo herd. There's a couple herds close to home, too, but it was still cool seeing them here as well. They are still shedding winter coats and look pretty ragged. Big, tough and ragged. Not a bad way to be.


LeeAnn said...

Over 25 years ago, I was a co-driver for my then-husband for N.A. Vanlines. I only learned the basics of driving, never the actual skills.
I was there mainly to (you guessed it) allow him to run double books. I was also his unpaid lumper.
I miss seeing all the country and the bizarre sights, but I most certainly don't miss his sorry ass.

Jeffro said...

Gawd - living out of a truck with an asshole strikes me as an intense experience. I get all antisocial after just running with some people - in their own trucks.

Jinglebob said...

That would be Pierre SD, not ND. Yup you was real close to my place and you didn't even stop in! ;)

Again, I am glad I don't have your job.

Jeffro said...

Of course it is in South Dakota. My proofreading goes downhill towards the end of the day for some reason.....

We had supper and bed waiting for us at Lemmon - so it was still a ways to go. There just aren't many places to stop and house seven or eight trucks and drivers,and assorted pilot vehicles out your way!