October 19 - When your last name is Bigge, it's hard to imagine that you'll do anything small.
Such was the case when the California-based company recently used two Kenworth T800s to pull and push a 220 ton, 103-foot long refinery vessel from Houston to Northern California.
The super high and wide load required extensive logistics and a serpentine route over farm roads and through towns along a 3,000-mile journey covering seven weeks. Proper gearing and like specifications allow the Kenworth trucks to operate in tandem.
The Kenworth T800 pusher was utilized nearly the entire trip. "It's a challenge, and, almost poetry in motion when having the two trucks work in concert," said Chuck Beam, Bigge project superintendent.
"The lead Kenworth T800 is in charge when the load is moving (the drivers use company radios for communication). He has the responsibility of letting the snap (pusher) truck know what to do and when to change gears. Quite often, on real tight turns, the snap truck does most of the work and brings the rear around to the proper position. It's also the go-to vehicle when we go down hills. It holds the load back first and the lead truck then assists."
Kenworth has been the Bigge's truck of choice for heavy hauls for decades. "Since I began working at Bigge in 1975, every new truck we have brought into the fleet has been a Kenworth," said Beam, who noted that the company has 25 Kenworths.
"We put a lot of demands on our trucks and Kenworth and our dealer, NorCal Kenworth - Bay Area, has always come through. The Kenworth T800s are robust, durable and can take the strain that comes their way when hauling extreme loads. Customers depend on us to handle the big loads, and we depend on Kenworths to get us where we need to be."
According to Beam, planning the recent move took three months, and involved closely working with Departments of Transportation in four states, cities, counties, and every utility in those areas to get permits in place. "It was a long trip, one of the longest of this type that I've been involved with at Bigge. On our best day, we covered 220 miles, but a typical day was more like 120 miles," he said. "Since our overall length was 185 feet, and we were 20 feet wide at the rear dollies, it proved difficult to navigate roads. We had constant height issues, even in remote counties - we needed 19 feet, 6 inches to clear obstacles. It seemed every town had stop lights and sets of wires that were lower and had to be carefully slid over the load.
"We had other challenges as well. The Mogollon Rim in Arizona, and Tehachapi Grade in California both offered grades of 6 and 7 percent. The Rim also has a 20-mile downhill and required our drivers to be synchronized in the use of the retarders and gearing. If you're doing it right, you're never using the brakes. The retarders should get you down the mountain.
"The most difficult challenge was saved for last," said Beam. "There was a mess of wires, lights and turns that only allowed us to move 10 to 15 miles a night. We had a whole army of people lifting obstructions, but it was slow going. When we finally arrived at our destination, we let out our collective breaths. It was a long haul, but a job well done."