Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Knuckle Boom Crane Action

I've been fighting a bit of a fever the past few days and boredom has set in hard. I found these pics on my old - now back up laptop, so here ya go!

This is a series of pictures depicting the unloading of three hundred barrel steel tanks at a oilfield supply yard - so all I had to do was "set them off." This is considered a gravy run since we aren't on location for hours setting tanks plus walkways and stairs. The tractor is a Freightliner I was assigned to drive before my heart surgery - since replaced by the Mighty Binder. The crane is the same, though - I've had it on three tractors since it was new.

The first thing to do is drop the trailer in a position where I can park beside it with the tractor and pull the tanks off, setting them on the opposite side of the tractor.

So, here it sits before I extend and drop the outriggers and unfold the crane.

Now the outriggers are set and the boom is extended with the A-chain on the hook. The A-chain is a hardened steel loop with two equal length chains with a hook at the ends. The ladder is set so I can climb up and hook the chains to the lifting lug that is on top, but actually is on the side of the tank near the top.

I've picked the tank up a small amount and moved it down the trailer because the bottom of the tank is butted against the top of the next tank. If I started lifting it from where it originally sat, the top of the middle tank on the trailer would be damaged. The bottom edge of the first tank could hit the fitting at the top of the second tank, damaging the threads so that using a lift eye or installing pipe fixtures would be impossible without repairing. So, sliding the tank down the trailer is required to clear the second tank.

Now the tank is picked up, cleared the trailer, and is in the process of swinging over to the other side of the tractor. At the moment, it needs to be turned 180 degrees so I can stand it up. If the tank is dropped, it won't stand - it will fall to it's side. We have to choreograph our crane controls to get the tank to stand the tank up vertically. Remember, it's hooked to the side of the tank, near the top. Leverage is required.

This picture was taken from the same spot. I've successfully stood the tank where I wanted it, picked up the outriggers, moved the tractor forward, dropped the outriggers, and have the boom and A-chain ready to hook to tank number two. We use foam padding and cardboard between the tanks and the trailers to protect the painted finish on the tanks - thus the loose cardboard that blew off the tail of the trailer.

Now, I've jumped ahead - the tanks are offloaded and the extendable trailer tail needs to be shortened. Latch pins on each side need to be pulled so release the tail. You can see the extra holes in the rail that allow latching in several different lengths.

Success! I can drop the pins in, gather my dunnage and tie it down, put the crane, outriggers, pads and A-chain away, hook up to my trailer and haul hiney for home. As you can see, all this sliding steel tanks all over the trailer for years has somewhat damaged the finish! This trailer has since been sandblasted and repainted. The curved steel floors of these trailers have multiple holes cut into them over the years to clear fittings on custom builds, so eventually the trailer also has to be re-sheeted.

These particular trailers were also made and designed by my company. They have air ride suspensions, and are quite durable. These trailers allow us to haul twelve foot tanks at a height of just over fourteen feet. A standard drop deck would have them up to fifteen and a half feet or more. This is a major concern when traveling, because there are a lot of low overpasses out there. 14'2" to 14'4" is a lot easier to get around than 15'6"or 15'8". Some of our competitors use specialty low drop deck style trailers, too, but most of them are just a several long pipe rails that the tanks ride on, welded to trailer axles with no suspensions. I'm sure they have to do a lot of welding to keep them together, plus the harsh ride doesn't do their tanks any favors. But, most of them just use commercially available drop decks and put up with the aggravation of the extra height, plus they have to haul three hundred barrel tanks two at a time, as opposed to three with our trailers.

Another thing a sharp eyed trucker might notice is where the fifth wheel is located on the tractor. In order to optimize the "well" of our trailers, the fifth wheels have to be moved as far back on the tractor as possible. Our custom made drop decks have comparatively short upper decks - since we are all about lengthening the well as much as possible. We don't have to worry about transferring weight because our loads are almost always lighter than legal. With our cranes, we get plenty of weight on our steer axles, too - we don't need to transfer weight off our drivers to axle out a load like most "normal" truckers do.

In fact, our tare weights are quite heavy - the Mighty Binder with one of these triple axles weighs in over 40,000 lbs. We have some other single drops that are more of a true flatbed that I tare out at around 43k lbs. But, as the boss has told me - we are not in the business of hauling freight - we are in the business of delivering the tanks the company manufactures. Our equipment is set up with that goal in mind. We run high horsepower motors and are geared relatively low so we can get over the mountains quickly and safely, and move around slowly on location. Our loads by definition get poor fuel mileage - the aerodynamic drag kills that idea, no matter the weight.

That is the same tractor hooked to one of our "regular" dropdecks with three 210bbl fiberglass tanks. They are sixteen feet diameter, six feet tall, and the whole load is around six thousand pounds. But, on a windy day, fifty five mph might be a goal rather than a destination. Some of these loads pull hard.

I hope y'all found this a bit interesting - it's all quite different than what a dry freight hauler sees every day.


RT said...

WOW! I thought of you today, I saw a huge tank on a wide load truck this morning. I wouldn't have the patience.

Derek said...

Haha awesome.... sorry bout your surgery though

Jeffro said...

But, jacob p, have you always been a scum sucking spammer?