*return from ad break*
Voice over man: Can the boys get this massive load 300 tonnes heavier than the bridge is rated for make it across in one piece?”
Okay sorry about that I couldn’t resist carrying on that silly “Truckie TV Show” idea, you might think I was actually joking with the way they describe things but sadly I wasn’t. I’m sure they have such ‘reality’ shows all over the world, the type that need to build constant tension by extending the truth and running with ideas that even a laymen would know is bullshit. In this country the trucking shows are mandatory watching for us because they are one of the best comedies on TV.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah on the bridge.
As I told you the bridge was wide enough, had a load rating that exceeded what our load weighed and was expected to hold up as we drove over it, but we still took it carefully. The walkers kept their eyes on the extremities of the load, I kept my truck in the middle of the bridge and Corey watched from the behind waiting for the go ahead to cross the bridge and rejoin the load.
Obviously we’d be no good in those reality shows because we got across the bridge in one smooth movement, there was no stopping and no jerking, just slowly crawling along at under ten kilometres an hour. About as dramatic as it got was when a bird flew from nowhere and landed on the sub station for a free ride and pushed us ever so closer to that bridge load limit. Haha, I’m only kidding, we got over that bridge without any dramas at all.
As soon as Angus called across the radio that the rear of the trailer had cleared the bridge I pulled the big truck up. That was also Corey’s cue to bring his tractor across the bridge and reconnect. I told you we separated Corey’s tractor for that added buffer when it came to weight didn’t I?”
As Corey approached two guys, Angus and Jimmy, readied themselves with the solid steel bar that connected the trailer to Corey’s truck, then guided him up to it and reconnected him to the main load allowing us to continue on out way.
The hill I mentioned was on the northern side of the river wasn’t steep, I couldn’t have tackled it by myself but with Corey’s help pushing the load it was not a problem, the problems would arise less than a kilometre later.
We left the roads crew to manage the traffic and put any of the traffic signs and signals that needed to be removed from the bridge for our safe passing back into place and headed off into the town of Riverbend where things only got more difficult. The road was wide enough, Riverbend was a relatively big regional town and as such had a north and south running dual carriage way main road, the was no overhanging trees or power lines and the traffic was diverted, so what was the problem?
Well the problem was that Riverbend had a massive roundabout in the centre of town. I understand not all countries in the world yet realise the benefits of roundabouts to traffic flow, those people should watch the Mythbusters episodes where they put a traffic light controlled intersection up against a roundabout. However no matter how good roundabouts are with a load as big as ours they are not friendly.
Thankfully when they designed Riverbend they didn’t take the approach to intersections some towns seemed to which was “If in doubt put in a roundabout” because Riverbend only had one roundabout and it was a fucking biggun!
Our biggest problem with roundabouts is that we can’t often follow the road surface. If the roundabout is small the curves are too tight to keep the trailer on the bitumen, but the same can happen with an overly large roundabout. Roundabouts are another thing we avoid if we can but it’s not always possible, the one thing we had to be thankful for with the Riverbend roundabout was that we were going straight through it and not turning left or right. However going straight wasn’t as easy as it sounded either.
The roundabout was what we in this country call ‘semi-mountable’, meaning that there was a shoulder of nearly three metres running around the outside of the roundabout. The shoulder was reinforced concrete and sat about fifty millimetres higher than the road surface. They were designed that way specifically for larger trucks, mostly trucks with multiple trailers, of which Riverbend saw a lot of, to use part of the roundabout to manoeuvre through the intersection easier. It was a win- win situation for the road designers, it allowed them to have a roundabout of a set size that the majority of traffic could traverse without issue while still allowing bigger, longer vehicles to traverse without damaging the actual roundabout. As far as the rules went for such a roundabout they were the same as any other roundabout, all vehicles except those over twelve metres long was required to stay on the bitumen road surface, anything bigger could use the shoulder.
Like every other vehicle that used the roundabout we’d have to slow our load down to make our way through the intersection. The only difference with us was that we’d be down to less than ten kilometres per hour again because unlike the cattle trucks, log trucks, even the pantechs that usually get up and down this road, the fifty millimetre rise of the shoulder was more than we were willing to subject our load too.
In pretty much any other truck raising one side fifty millimetres as the wheels went up onto the shoulder was not a drama, it might twist the trailer a little bit, tilt the load or even move the load if it was down at a high enough speed but with our load such movement could be dangerous. As I might have mentioned because our load is solid, because the sub station frame is not made to be shunted around and because the box is essentially a big sheets of thick fibreglass tilting it too much could damage it, and one cracked wall could write off the entire sub station. Also because we have seven axles underneath us the suspension works a lot different to that of a trailer with only three axles on the back end.
What that meant for us is that we had to rely on the trailer’s hydraulics, hydraulics that could lift each axle separately and to different heights and move extremely slowly so that the load remained as close to level all the way around as possible.
Previous Heavy Haulage story here.