Thursday, December 04, 2008

Typical Day

Jed sent me an email some time ago wanting pics of any new lights on my hot rod - sorry I didn't get to it sooner. Actually, the only lights installed since I last posted any close pics were the ones that go on the air cleaner housings - the vertical strip you can see in this photo. I am not really a big fan of slathering tons of chrome and lights on a truck for visual reasons and the labor involved in keeping all the lights lit and the shiny bits shiny. Guys who are really into keeping their custom trucks pretty even work on it while they are fueling - spritzing tires with slick preservatives, wiping off dust with a California Duster, and maybe even using the water hose to rinse things off a bit. They are far more dedicated than I in that regard. Plus, I prefer the cleaner look of hidden LED marker lights, painted tanks and other normally chrome or stainless goodies, and train horns under the cab rather than the normal horns on top of the cab. I'll put up some pics of custom trucks I like vs the ones I think went too far sometime, just not today.

What I'm gonna talk about is some of the specialty items we use that the average trucker does not. First is the oversize load sign. It is stapled to a sheet of plywood, and bolted to the bumper with stainless nuts, washers and all thread. Notice how the tag holder is set up to clear the sign - the tag is always visible with or without the sign mounted. Also on the bumper are flag holders - tubing cut to length with thumb screws to hold the wooden sticks in place, welded to the back of the bumper. Most states require flags to be at the front and rear corners of the vehicle - and these flags meet that requirement. Some states require flags to be at the front and rear projecting points of the load as well, so we also have "loose" flags we mount with circular magnets to our steel tanks, and we'll slip a flag under a strap on a fiberglass tank.

Behind the cab between the stacks are two rotating yellow beacons. Most states don't require their usage, but we run 'em a lot anyways, particularly if we are wide enough to require escorts. You'll also see an extra mirror sticking out from the driver's side stock mirror - we have extended mirrors so we can see around our loads. I carry an extra mirror head - I've destroyed one before by hitting a road construction sign placed very close to the road - it was a tight squeeze for sure. Most of our trailers have separately switched yellow blinking lights in the rear - some states require that as well. I carry battery powered magnetic "blinky" lights, too.

Between the cab and the crane you'll see the yellow legs of the aluminum and fiberglass ladder I carry. It's a sixteen footer, and it is necessary to reach the lift lugs you can see on the sides of the tanks at the top of the load. The wooden sign is also stored in that area, plus I carry an extra that can be tied to chains holding a tank, or landings at the rear of the load. Normally I have a fabric sign without any tie ropes and magnets on the rear of a steel tank load - I carry a sign with ropes and tarp straps for fiberglass or perhaps some unusual situation. I also carry a couple of new signs in the wrapper as spares - just in case.

Another thing that is different on our trucks are our half fenders - the white fenders over the drive tires. One of our fiberglass guys makes them for us - he used a stainless steel fender to make his mould. Actually, there are quite a few bits on our trucks that are fabricated by our welders and fiberglass guys - the bar that my beacons are mounted to was engineered and manufactured in house.

Looking at the trailer, you will see that it is not something you'll run into just every day. It is a specialized single drop flatbed - but with some major differences. The main difference is the bed is dished out to allow the tanks to ride much lower - and they are set up for twelve foot diameter tanks, which is the most common size diameter tank we sell and deliver. These tanks are 12'x15' - actually a bit taller - the sides are 15' and the top is cone shaped. These tanks hold three hundred barrels. 12'x20's are four hundred barrels. This trailer will hold three of the 300bbl tanks by using an extension on the rear of the trailer. The extension slides out and is held in place by two spring loaded pins, and it can be moved out far enough to carry two 12'x25' tanks if necessary. The setup pictured here is usually as far as we extend these trailers, but they can go further.

The other difference is the tires and axles. The tires are an odd smaller size (notice we carry a spare - the sizes of tires on our trailers usually require a tire shop to special order them - not such a great deal when we're trying to get somewhere). The axles are set so they have the tires/wheels out to the maximum width allowed, so the dished out bed can be as low as possible. This setup is about as heavy as we get, too - well within the load ranges of the six tires. A standard two axle dual wheel flatbed would have eight tires. These trailers all have air suspensions as well. With twelve diameter tanks, we are usually in the 14'2" to 4" height range - depending on fittings, lifting lugs and so on. Maximum legal height is 13'6" - so we aren't too much taller than a reefer trailer, for instance. This really helps going under low underpasses - there are a lot of them out there that a legal trailer can't fit under, but most have at least 15' clearance. We have some double drops that will get the tanks even lower - and those are the ones we use when we go east. The interstate system is older east of here, and clearances are significantly lower than to the west and north.

This load is destined for an oil company's "yard." I'm not carrying any landings or stairs - which we take to put together a "battery" on site - by the oil well. We have steel tubing set at an angle that slide into holders on the side of the trailer that carry the partially assembled stairs - they ride under the curve of the tanks. The landings are also partially assembled and mounted on the upper deck. For a three tank battery, an 18' walkway, a 15' extension, and a 18' stair would be required. We use our cranes to set the tanks in place, and help the crew put the stairs and walkways together, and hang them on the tanks. We do not plumb the tanks at all - just set 'em, and put up the walkways.

The destination today was Evans Colorado, but I didn't make it. The roads in Colorado were icing up, and the powers that be aren't real wild about letting oversized loads travel in those conditions. There were two of us running together today, and we met one of our guys coming home from "over the hill." He told us the DOT was shutting down oversized loads at Eads. Another of our guys is shut down in Limon - on our route as well. We weren't real wild about getting parked in Eads - there is only one motel and it fills up real fast in this kind of weather, so we quit at Tribune KS. We dropped our trailers at the little truck stop there and bobtailed back to the ranch. Our boss isn't all that thrilled to have all his truckers trapped spending cash at motels and eating up his per diem without some sort of labor in return, so he didn't mind us coming back one bit.

We'll just have to see what tomorrow brings - I may be waxing and polishing if the roads don't clear up. The last weather report wasn't encouraging, either.


CGHill said...

Never noticed the smaller wheels under that Oversize Load. (I guess I learn something every day.)

Anonymous said...

We know you have pink/purple holstein seat covers. C'mon. Spill it, Jeffro. :)

I do like the idea of using the train horns. I've occassionally looked at air horn systems for cars. But a lot of those are small, high-pitched, and cheesy. Given available space on most cars, I don't where you'd mount the length of trumpet you'd need for a good low-pitched horn, and I've wondered why somebody doesn't (that I can find) run a long trumpet in a compact spiral configuration. I suppose that'd be way more expensive, and maybe the market for such just isn't there for the overhead of making something like that.

Anonymous said...

Just looked around a bit. I think it'd be fun to install one of these in a car. Not sure what sort of compressor / tank combo I'd need to provide 60 CFM though.

Jeffro said...

Chaz: not everyone has smaller tires under tall loads, but they pay the price when it comes to routes avoiding underpasses.

Jed: Nathan Chimes are supposedly the creme de la creme of train horns. Just scouting around I saw this on a Craigslist ad. I think you've got a cool idea for a compact single horn, but like you, I'm not sure of the market or costs involved.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I came across Nathan when I was looking around. I think it's cute how they can call a 5-trumpet air horn assembly a "chime". 1 long, 2 shorts -- hey, is somebody at the door?

Anyhoo, some folks take this whole air thing way too seriously, though I admit that as a remedy for tailgaters, it's tempting.

Jeffro said...

Snork! That setup looks more like a new means of propulsion - just a tad on the side of overkill!

Jeffro said...

To the spammer advertising train horns: NS? Really? Seriously? Train horns are available on auction sites? Whoda thunk it? And you happen to have some too? Good thing you came along, I had nooooooooooooo clue that one could actually purchase such a thing.