One, two, three and steady as we go!
Well steady was the key that’s for sure. When we approached the exit ramp, which for us was actually an entry ramp because we’d be going up it in the opposite direction to the normal flow of traffic to join the freeway, we had to cross over onto the right hand side of the road. That wasn’t a difficult task for us given that Franklin Street was completely closed off to traffic and we could take up as much of the four lanes as we wanted too.
We brought the rig to a stop at the bottom of the ramp, more so to give everyone a break rather than any desperate need to actually stop the trucks. Most of the boys took the chance to have a quick hit of caffeine from one of the several Thermos’ that were in the vehicles, on the road things often become a little communal, especially things like coffee. A few of the boys also took the chance to spark up a quick weed. Smoking isn’t illegal in this world yet but company policy for some years has been no smoking in the vehicles, so when those of us who still smoked, which was only three, Trey, Phil and Jimmy, got the chance they’d usually spark up a durry and get their hit of nicotine with their coffee. In case you’re wondering during such breaks the police and roads corp guys very rarely joined us for a chat, not sure what is it about us but it’s something that doesn’t often happen.
Some of us stopped for longer that others but that’s really just the nature of the beast. While most of the team had been in the game for a while it was really only Corey, myself, Trey, Millie and Pete who had spent major time behind the wheel of something so big. All the boys were capable of driving trucks and regularly did loads with a single trailer but it was only us that had done the big loads and for that reason when we did stop it was usually us five that started moving the quickest. We might still have a coffee in our hand, or in Trey’s case a smoke, but it wouldn’t take us long before we started walking the load, checking, looking, noticing and making sure there was no issues before we took off again. By the end of the trip all the boys would be doing it at the same time but at the start, especially on the first night where everyone is tired and stressed from the run out of suburbia some of the boys forget that loads move on a truck.
As Trey and myself wandered down one side of the truck Millie and Corey walked down the other, several times one of us crouched under the load to check something or call out to the other side to check things. Sometime no matter how careful we are chains come loose, tyres blow, all manner of things that could indicate our load is moving when it shouldn’t be or possibly even a sign of something worse and it pays to check things.
On our side we found one slightly loose chain which required the dog ratchet to be tighten a few notches, one warning flag which had flapped itself clear of the tie down it was attached with and one dicky beacon light which was dropping out intermittently. Although the beacon was working we pulled it off and replaced it with a spare from the truck because even something like that which was working most of the time could cop us a fine for not adhering to the every safety issue listed in out paperwork. On the other side of the trailer once slightly loose chain was all they found.
Coffee and smokes over we got back to work and began preparing the trailer for it’s trip up the ramp. We raised the trailer sixty millimetres on all axles, a measurement based of previous loads we’d successfully brought up the same ramp. There was a reasonably good chance we’d be adjusting the trailer during the two hundred metre journey but with the majority already done that would leave us less room for mistakes. Once the trailer was set we piled back in the trucks and the walkers put themselves in position and waited for the rig to start moving once again.
The wheels started rolling slowly I gently feathered the throttle, apart from the fact that trucks just don’t take off like racing cars I was also in crawler gears ensuring there was no jerking or false starts. Almost instantly as my truck began to pull the big load up the ramp I felt Corey’s rig pushing from behind.
While the walkers job was primarily to keep the load above the Armco they also needed to guide the trailer axles around the bend without steering the trailer into the barriers. Truth was we didn’t want any part of the trailer or tyres even touching those barriers because what might start out as a gentle kiss could quickly turn into damage to both trailer and barrier.
We’d only got about ten metres up the the ramp when the Armco forced us to make our first adjustment. Having raised it as far as we did before moving the first adjustment was only a few millimetres which meant we didn’t have to stop or slow down from the rapid speed of six kilometres per hour that we were travelling at. The second and third adjustments were similar to the first and as the big rig moved forwards very slowly the big trailer came around the bend and up the ramp.
As with our previous intersections and radio chatter was at a minimum and only used if an issue was about to arise. Experience and knowledge helped us get that load up onto the freeway but there is no doubt the fact that we’d dragged big loads up that exit ramp a few times in the past helped us get to the top without any major issue. It took us nearly twenty minutes to get up the ramp and onto the wrong side of the freeway and the only minor mishap we had was the rope from one of the strings of warning flags caught a mounting pole of the Armco and snapped. However because we were stopping at the top of the ramp to lower the load back down again letting it drag for eighty odd metres wasn’t a huge issue but such little damage was a good achievement.
Previous Heavy Haulage story here