Feb 16, 2011 - 8 years ago
By Supply Post
It was a week employees at Challenger Motor Freight will never forget. It was 15 minutes of fame, each day, for nine days.
“All eyes were on us,” said Dan Einwechter, chairman and CEO of Challenger.
“It was almost a cult following,” added Frank DeVries, energy transportation manager for the Cambridge-based company. Cambridge is 60 miles west of Toronto. “We saw many of the same people every night, taking pictures and watching the move. And then there was the media. Even the Discovery Channel documented the move. It was something.”
“The move” was the heavy haul of six of among the world’s largest beer vats. Combined, they have enough room to hold 8.4 million bottles of beer. With each vat weighing in at nearly 100,000 pounds they made their way from the Hamilton Port to Molson Coors brewing facility in Toronto. The 108-kilometer (67-mile) journey took nine days, with the convoy only traveling between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. The sheer size of the move – the tanks en route measured nearly 28 feet tall, 24 feet wide and 120 feet long – meant tall, wide and long. “There is a belief by us and by the permit folks that this was the largest single move in metro Ontario,” said Einwechter. “I can’t imagine hauling anything bigger.”
To handle the move, Challenger used 2011-model wide-hood Kenworth T800s with 72-inch AeroCab(R) VIT sleepers with diamond interiors. They’re spec’d with tandem and tri-drives, each equipped with 600-hp Cummins ISX15 engines, driven through 18-speed transmissions (the tri-drive also has a 4-speed auxiliary transmission). The T800s feature 20,000-pound Dana front axles, 52,000-pound rear axles on the tandem units, 60,000-pound rear axles on the tridems, and 1,780 square-inch cooling modules. Challenger partnered with Mammoet and Don Anderson Haulage to provide hydraulic trailers, the largest at 70 feet in length with 102 wheels. Each T800’s gross combination weight during the move was 250,000 pounds.
“The Kenworth T800s were the lead dogs in the convoy,” said Einwechter. “We put them on the job since we feel they’re the best heavy-haul trucks in our fleet. Kenworth has a long history in building heavy-spec trucks. That’s why Kenworth won hands down. The T800s are absolutely our stoutest trucks and our drivers love ‘em.”
According to DeVries, the Kenworth T800s are typically used in the company’s heavy-haul operations – primarily moving large windmill sections. “But we’ll haul anything oversize,” he said. “During the same time as the beer vat move, we had another T800 tri-drive moving a steam boiler. It grossed out at over 260,000 pounds and measured 185 feet long and 14 feet wide. The time it took to run 3,800 kilometers (about 2,400 miles) running westbound from Toronto to Vancouver was the same amount of time it took us to move the beer vats from Hamilton to Toronto. We had the tortoise and the hare deliveries that week.”
Combating bitter cold temperatures, the beer vat move itself began in August. “That’s when we started talking with Molson and figuring out the logistics,” said Einwechter. “During the preparation for the move, we filled four extra large binders with information and contacts.”
According to Einwechter, pre-planning involved carefully assessing maps to plan the best route, driving that route in cars for additional information, and then driving the route in trucks to ensure clearance around corners and other tight areas. “It was an exhaustive process,” recalled Einwechter.
Game time came in early January when the convoy left the port. As the trucks left, each trailer had a tillerman seated behind the trailer to control the trailer steering and trailer height and pitch. “These were sophisticated trailers from Mammoet and Anderson Haulage, and they worked beautifully,” said DeVries. “Each had full hydraulic suspensions to raise, lower and tilt the trailers to keep the load level while allowing for clearance over the crowns in the roads. But, I tell you it was cold duty. While our drivers in our Kenworths stayed toasty warm, our guys controlling the trailers were bundled up to combat the bitter cold. It was not easy.”
Nor was it easy making headway. A work crew of more than 80 people was on-site each night. More than 2,000 wires had to be taken down and fiber optics (which can’t be cut), had to be pulled. Then the wire and fiber optics had to go under a special ramp so the convoy could drive over them.
Driving at a walking pace for much of the route, Einwechter said the thousands of hours of preparation really paid off. “Driving wise there were no huge or unforeseen challenges,” he said. “It was cold and snowy, and one day of moving was scratched as a precaution with the weather.”
As the convoy closed in on the brewery, the amount of wires increased and the 7-kilometer (4.2-mile) leg took 9 hours to complete. All told, the 108-kilometer run took 81 hours to move. For those doing the math, that’s 1.3 kilometers per hour.
“There was a great sense of relief and an immense amount of pride when we made our final stop at the Molson brewery,” said Einwechter. “We’re glad the project was safely over. Our Kenworth T800s and the trailers performed flawlessly, as did our people. It was just a matter of being patient while the route was cleared of wires and obstacles. We heard throughout the move by bystanders how they couldn’t believe how well all the participants worked together. We were professional, and yet had fun with a high level of camaraderie.
“Our slogan is we ‘go the distance,’ concluded Einwechter. “So, we’re very proud we did the move in a very unique and special way, albeit very slowly.”