Their way or no highway

30 June 2017


Transporting heavy loads or driving a crane on US highways is challenging due to state-specific regulations. Sotiris Kanaris speaks to transporter, boom dolly and crane manufacturers about how equipment design and transportation practices are affected.

Special transport companies in the US often have to move heavy goods using trailers from state to state. Transformers, generators, turbines, boilers and different components for the oil industry are among the heavy items transported on US highways.

During the transportation planning process, these companies have to take into account various parameters. They carefully examine the route, as sometimes they have to cross roads and bridges, which due to the lack of infrastructure investment may not be in the best condition.

Stefan Kohler, regional director of sales, transport technology at Goldhofer says that sometimes there are issues with bridge capacities on the roads. “Some jobs require special bridge calculations from bridge engineers and this can create a lot of problems for the individual heavy haul companies,” Kohler explains.

Another big challenge for transporting heavy goods across the US is regulation. Each state in the US has its own axle weight rules and regulations on gross vehicle weights over 80,000lbs. Most states require an overweight permit once the 80,000lbs limit is exceeded.

Kohler says when special transport companies move items across states, they have to pick the state with the strictest regulations in order to set up the trailer to those requirements.

In order to assist their customers to comply with the regulations, trailer manufacturers have been changing the design of their products.

“30 years ago, nobody really cared about road regulations, therefore we sold at that time standard products to North America. But as soon as they started to reduce, for example, axle load capacity on standard trailers, we have been forced to create new ideas and design new trailers according to their requirements. That was the point where our fi rst dual lane trailer was born in the year 2005,” says Kohler.

Dual lane trailers are used for oversized loads, developed to spread the transported load to meet highway and bridge-load limits in North America.

Since 2005, Goldhofer has sold more than 700 dual-lane axle lines in North America. At this year’s ConExpo, it launched the new THP/DC dual trailer, with width adjustable from 14ft to 20ft.

The manufacturer has even designed trailers for specific states or regions. Its WesTrac dual lane trailer has 7ft-wide axles, which is a requirement in California.

Among other Goldhofer products available in the US market is the 500t Faktor 5 High Girder Bridge Transporter. Faktor 5 has a 5:1 deadweight to payload ratio and adjustable loading lengths and widths.

Last year, Edwards Moving & Rigging used it for a project in northern Virginia, to deliver steam turbine components for a new power plant construction.

The project consisted of 36 total components to be offloaded from rail and transported along a 28-mile complex urban and rural route to the jobsite. The Faktor 5 transported one steam turbine generator, two gas turbines, and two gas turbine generators.

Edwards Moving & Rigging describes part of the long planning process: “Detailed engineered drawings were required for submittal to the Department of Transportation (DOT) for analysis over 21 bridge structures. All over the road permitted loads were returned DOT-approved in August of 2015. One city permit was required for travel along the route and was approved by the affected municipality.”

The Faktor 5 transports were restricted to night movement only and required two nights to complete the transport per DOT requirement. Two traffic circles had to be negotiated by the Faktor 5 during the transport. Multijurisdictional meetings were held on three different occasions for the discussion and organization of traffic control.

TII also offers a range of trailers to the US market. At ConExpo they showcased the Scheuerle Highway Trailer MES (Modular Extra Strong), which can be used to transport long loads and concentrated standard loads. Also on display was the HighwayGiant dual lane trailer; this machine can be folded and transported on standard trucks. It can be hydraulically adjusted under load to widths of 16/18/20ft.

At the end of 2015, Sterett Crane & Rigging transported a 140USt vessel from Tennessee to Michigan using a combination of 6+8 axles Scheuerle Highway Giant with 150USt capacity bolsters.

The integrated folding mechanism allowed Sterett to load the vehicle modules on standard trailers at the company site in Owensboro, Kentucky, transport them to Clarksville, Tennessee to pick up the load without any special permission and bring them back to Owensboro accordingly. Sterett said these inexpensive approval-free empty runs resulted in huge cost savings.

TII offers a Power Booster version of the HighwayGiant. Roland Fischer, area manager sales at TII Sales, explains how the Power Booster works: “Before starting on a critical incline, the driver activates the driving unit.

As soon as a tractor lacks the power to proceed up the incline the drive engages automatically, thus providing for additional propulsive force. Once the incline has been climbed, the additional drive automatically disengages and the speed can be increased again according to the road conditions. After switching off the drive, the drive unit can reach a speed of 80 km/h in the transport combination.”

Fischer says the company’s products help users comply with the regulations by having adjustable width, axle distances and modular vehicles like the Highway Trailer MES, which can be assembled as required.

He adds that TII has seen a constant rise in sales figures in the US. “We see a rise in demand for well-engineered solutions, cleverly designed and multifunctional to decrease total cost of ownership,” Fischer says. Marco Andres, communications manager at Faymonville, also sees a boost in demand from US customers for new technologies.

In 2015, the manufacturer launched HighwayMAX, an extendable on-road heavy haul trailer with nine hydraulically steered pendular axles and 258,000lbs payload.

Another Faymonville product available in the US market is the dual lane trailer DualMAX, which can be widened under load from 13ft 11in to 20ft using the ‘lift&shift’ system.

“Faymonville invented this unique and US patented principle ‘lift&shift.’ It allows to optimize the load distribution and to adapt to different states’ road regulation when passing borders.

The steering rods don’t need to be disassembled for the widening process, everything stays in place,” says Andres.

Faymonville has also launched in the North American market the super low MegaMAX double drop trailer, with a ride height in the well of only 11in. It is available with three axles on air suspension and has a compressed length of 53ft and a width of 100in without outriggers. It has around 100,000lbs technical capacity.

Dollies and launch trailers

All terrain cranes are roadable in most countries around the world, but in the US they can require special arrangement for travel as there are limitations on the weight carried per axle.

Tony Niese president of Nelson Manufacturing says many states treat cranes differently than trailers, having rules and regulations for each one.

“A general rule of thumb to be able to move in every state is to limit your axle weight to 20,000lbs per axle. However there are many different factors that go into this such as tyre size, axle spacing, overall length and even width,” he says.

In order to comply with the regulations many all terrain crane owners use boom dollies or boom launch trailers. Boom dollies are typically used for cranes up to 400 or 500USt; boom launch trailers are needed for larger cranes.

By swinging the boom and attaching a boom dolly, the load is spread over a greater distance, allowing for an increased gross weight to be permitted to move on the road.

A boom dolly is typically used on large truck cranes and all terrain cranes up to 500USt depending when the crane is travelling. “In the US there are very few areas where a 500USt crane can be operated legally with a dolly,” says Niese, adding that one of these areas is Texas. For cranes with capacity exceeding 400USt, Niese says that a boom launch trailer is typically used.

The boom launch trailer removes the boom from the crane for transport and will then insert the boom back into the crane at the job site. By having the boom launch trailer the crane company does not need to have another crane on the job to assemble the machine.

Niese says the company’s boom launch trailers have undergone numerous upgrades over the years, and now come with side shift. It has developed a boom launch trailer with 150,000lbs capacity and released the ‘boots on the ground’ feature, which allows for all the functions of the launch trailer to be controlled via a remote control.

“We make our boom launch trailers as versatile as possible. It is possible for the same one to be utilized with the Grove GMK6400, Liebherr LTM1350 and Terex AC350 booms,” adds Niese.

Nelson works with all of the crane manufacturers to develop boom dolly and boom launch trailer connection points. Niese says the process has gotten simpler over the years: “In the past, if a customer wanted a boom dolly, Nelson would supply lugs that were welded to the crane boom by the customer and then the dolly could be connected. Now the crane manufactures install these lugs on the boom removing this time consuming and expensive step from the process.

This makes things much simpler for the crane companies.

“When Nelson first started developing a boom launch trailer the crane companies were not that receptive. However once the benefits of these trailers were realized by our customers they began to push the manufacturers into acceptance of the boom launcher. Now all of the crane manufacturers are looking for ways to make their larger AT’s more boom launch friendly. They are adding launch trailer attaching points and simplifying the boom connection.”

At ConExpo, Tadano had on display the ATF 400-G6 in the colours of Southwest Industrial Rigging, connected to a four axle boom dolly made by a third-party manufacturer.

Tadano’s engineer Alan Schmidt has a working relationship with customers and dolly manufacturers. His department looks at state requirements and configures the crane to match the requirements and this determines what size the dolly needs to be.

“In some limited instances, the area the crane operates in has specific spacing requirements or configuration requirements which determines the dolly,” says Tadano.

The boom dolly lugs Tadano provides on the crane have the same spacing for every model, making it easier for dolly manufacturers to design a boom nest that can be used for every model they design a dolly for.

Tadano says there are instances that the customer requests specialised spacing for dolly brackets so that they can carry counterweights in between the supports.

“We determine how the crane is configured to meet the regulations of where it travels. To do this we add or remove items to achieve the correct weights per axle,” says the manufacturer.

The fall in demand for cranes in the US, did not leave the market for boom dollies and trailers unaffected.

Niese says: “The price of oil has had a big impact on the market. The boom launch trailer market for the larger all terrain cranes remains strong.”

When it comes to boom dollies Niese says it has been steadily improving since the election and he is confident that the market will continue to perform well.

Edwards Moving and Rigging has used a Goldhofer Faktor 5 to move steam turbine components 28 miles.
Sterett Crane & Rigging transported a 140USt vessel from Tennessee to Michigan using a combination of 6+8 axles Scheuerle Highway Giant with 150USt capacity bolsters.
At ConExpo, Tadano had on display the ATF 400-G6 in the colours of Southwest Industrial Rigging, connected to a four axle boom dolly made by a third-party manufacturer.