Heavy hauling: Horses in gear

Talk about a heavy haul. To move a reactor that weighs more than a fully loaded Boeing 747 to the oil sands region in Northern Alberta, Premay Equipment LP put together a herd of nine Kenworth C500 tractors harnessing a total of 4,800 horses under their hoods to get the job done

Talk about a heavy haul. To move a reactor that weighs more than a fully loaded Boeing 747 to the oil sands region in Northern Alberta, Premay Equipment LP put together a herd of nine Kenworth C500 tractors — harnessing a total of 4,800 horses under their hoods to get the job done.

The Fort McMurray, AB-based company, whose very descriptive tag line is “Transport Architects,” has been easing the big loads on down the road since 1964. The subsidiary of Mullen Transportation Inc. specializes in heavy hauls for western Canada's oil and gas industry. Its hauling and rigging division transports gigantic specialized equipment both over highways and off-road routes to reach production sites including Alberta's oil sands. The division also hauls equipment to natural gas production fields throughout western Canada.

The shipment that was heavier than a packed jumbo jet consisted of a 13-ft., 8-in. diameter by 110-ft. long reactor weighing an impressive 1.2-million lbs. Its destination was the petroleum-rich oil sands mining area in northern Alberta where it would serve as part of a planned expansion of Suncor Energy's oil sands operations.

“Our Kenworth C500s performed beautifully,” said Brent Harris, president of Premay. Harris joined the company as a truck driver in 1978 when it had just three company trucks and 14 leased truck operators

He explained that the enormous reactor was loaded onto a transport frame with each end of the frame supported by a hydraulic platform trailer. Harris said each trailer was configured at 21 ft. wide by 130 ft. long and had 56 axles — with four tires on each axle, that's 448 in all.

One tractor in front pulled and four in back pushed the 25-ft. high load at a maximum speed of 12 mph for most of the 50-mi. northbound trip. Alberta Highway 63 from Lynton Siding, which is 12 mi. southeast of Fort McMurray, provided most of the route to the job site at the Athabasca Oil Sands.

But it wasn't as easy as it sounds. To be sure, it wasn't all flat road. When the parade reached the aptly named Supertest Hill, Premay added another four tractors to the front of the effort.

“The nine C500s handled the three-quarters of a mile long climb, with about an 8% grade, without any major issues,” Harris said. “Thanks to the C500s, we were able to keep to our timetable, which is important because the northbound lanes of Highway 63 were closed for safety reasons.”

According to Harris, putting together such an impressive heavy-haul solution is all in a day's work for Premay. What's more, he pointed out that Premay makes these moves in the cold of winter when roads freeze hard, as attempting to move such giant loads in the spring or summer would damage the highways.

To keep all that weight under control and moving efficiently, Premay's tractors are spec'd with 525-hp. engines driven through Allison automatic transmissions. Four of the nine C500s have tridem drives equipped with 105,000-lb. rear planetary hub-reduction axles to provide added traction on icy and snowy roads, Harris noted.

Premay operates a total fleet of more than 50 trucks, mostly KWs including T800s, W900s and T660s as well as the massive C500s. “We do most of the routine maintenance on our trucks, and Edmonton Kenworth and GreatWest Kenworth use Kenworth's PremierCare Connect. That links us directly to their parts department,” Harris noted. “We use the program to manage our parts inventory and make sure we're getting the right replacement parts, which means no delays in getting our trucks back in service.”

Harris pointed out that besides tractors, Premay's heavy-haul fleet consists of “more than 100 lines of Scheurele Intercombis and 36 lines of Scheurele K100 Series hydraulic platform trailers. He said the modular construction of this equipment allows units to be configured to meet specific job requirements.

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