Superload stars share secrets to moving monster
MOVING close to 300 tonnes by road is something that troubles even the biggest prime movers, a problem that left owners of a regional Victorian wind farm in a bind when it came to putting a power transformer on site.
The unit, made by Wilson Transformers for the Dundonnell Wind Farm in western Victoria and tipping the scales at a hefty 135 tonnes, had to be moved 342km from its build point to the work site.
The solution? Multiple trucks, a mammoth convoy and a protracted precision operation that was months in the planning and days in the execution.
The exercise, quickly dubbed "the Superload” by Melbourne's media, involved perfect timing across four driving stints over successive nights, with a monster rig measuring 9m longer than an A380 super-jumbo aircraft.
It could have been a logistical nightmare but instead became a major triumph, pulled off without a hitch by Melbourne-based transport company Overdimensional Lift and Shift.
Starting at Wilson Transformers' Glen Waverley base, 22km east of Melbourne, at 10pm on Wednesday, August 7, the convoy reached Footscray, in Melbourne's northwest, at 5am Thursday.
At 10pm Thursday it left for Waurn Ponds, arriving at 2.30am Friday.
On Friday night it travelled from Waurn Ponds to Camperdown, again leaving at 10pm and arriving at 4am Saturday.
The final haul, from Camperdown to Dundonnell, started at 4.45am Sunday and crossed the finish line two-and-a-half hours later.
Average road speed for the haul was about 17km/h, although the convoy was able to accelerate to a dizzying 40km/h maximum speed on some sections of the dual-lane carriageways it traversed.
The gross weight of almost 400 tonnes was made up of two specialist trailers and, for most of the haul, four ODLS prime movers.
The first leg, through metropolitan Melbourne, required two prime movers - one at the front and one at the rear in a push-pull configuration - before doubling the power output to deal with the final three stages.
Doubling the power meant doubling the number of trucks at either end once the trailer combo had passed through the Victorian capital.
"Due to geometry constraints we were in a standard push-pull configuration to get through Melbourne,” ODLS spokesman Michael Griffith said.
"Once we got through to the Princes Highway (M1), we configured it into a double-pull and double-push to assist with traction because of the inclement weather forecast for Melbourne over that weekend.”
That meant hitching up two Kenworth 501s on the front, each running 600 horsepower CAT C16 engines and an auxiliary four-speed "joey box” plus Sisu hub reduction differentials.
At the back, two Mack Titans running power trains similar to those of the Kenworths handled the pushing and helped with steering and braking duties.
The transformer unit, mounted on two French-made 10x8 Nicolas platform trailers in a beam-set configuration, sat between the four prime movers.
Each trailer ran 10 axle lines with eight wheels per axle, the 80 tyres on each unit not only spread the load evenly over the surface but gave it maximum stability.
Each trailer also had its own remote steering control but for this project Michael said the trucks' own steering was sufficient for the entire journey.
With a 299-tonne gross trailer weight and each prime mover coming in at 24.5 tonnes, the total combined weight came close to 400 tonnes.
That massive weight, combined with the rig's 82m-long, 5m-wide footprint, meant ODLS had to submit a detailed transport management plan for the haul, including timing schedules for each leg, to state road authority VicRoads.
That meant four months of pre-planning, with two site visits and a number of meetings involving the necessary authorities - police, local councils and VicRoads departments - to discuss and find solutions for any possible problems, obstacles and necessary traffic diversions.
Those possibilities included major infrastructure roadworks, tram lines, parking bays and even weather conditions, with Victoria's often inclement winter weather needing to be factored in.
During the four-night tow VicRoads, Melbourne Tramways, V-Line and other state service and local council work crews helped the combination through corners, obstacles and other pinch points by taking down signs and traffic lights, removing roadside fencing and power poles where necessary and putting steel supports over existing drainage, replacing it once the behemoth had passed.
At least five emergency services vehicles, each running as escorts, were part of the convoy and stationed at strategic intersections to help the massive rig pass through.
In all, the convoy included the four prime movers, a steerer for the rear trailer, four company escort vehicles, three VicRoads vehicles and extra personnel ran to a mechanic and a trailer operator.
Michael said the company had planned on a four-night trip from the outset and, in the final analysis, either met or bettered its own daily targets.
"I'm pleased to report that everything within our control was negotiated successfully,” he said.
"The weather, on the other hand, threw everything at us yet we prevailed in all aspects of the travel route.”
Pre-job equipment preparation was paramount, simply because there could be no breakdowns that would leave a very - VERY - large multiple truck and trailer combination stranded on a main road for several hours blocking traffic.
"Due to our high standards of maintenance and vehicles checks we encountered no mechanical issues along the route but, if any issue had arisen, we had maintenance support vehicles on hand to assist,” Michael said.
"These vehicles also acted as our pilot escorts for the trip.”
ODLS is a specialist company that came into being six years ago, branching out from its parent company, OD Transport Group, under managing director Anthony May, whose father ran OD Transport Group.
Anthony was an integral part of his father's business for more than 20 years and at ODLS he is regarded as a very hands-on boss who is regularly seen on the job, especially during the transit and unloading stages.
Headquartered in Dandenong South, ODLS has a diverse fleet of about 30prime movers. A number of modern ultra-heavy-haul prime movers, each capable of handling up to 250 tonnes, are included in the fleet.
It also has a variety of platform trailers, including the beam (girder) set used for the Dundonnell delivery, plus cranes mounted up to 85t/m and more than 200pieces of trailing equipment and other support vehicles.
The majority of ODLS's work comes from the power industry, for which it transports, unloads and installs transformers.
It is also involved in heavy and light rail transport, moving locomotives, carriages and trams by road and setting them down to rail.
Michael said ODLS had quickly earned a reputation as the business prepared totake on the most challenging of heavy transport and unloading projects, with talented and experienced staff at all levels supporting and exceeding expectations.
With "the Superload” done and dusted, ODLS is now working on a project likely to be called "the Megaload”, a monster 790-tonne haul planned for May or June next year.
Details are thin on the ground as yet but we can be assured of one thing - it should be nothing short of spectacular.