Relocating historic structures, office buildings, train locomotives, giant transformers and other heavy equipment: it's all in a day's work for American Heavy Moving & Rigging. The company, in fact, will haul just about anything that can't be lifted with a crane or transported via regular trailers.
A typical load for this highly diversified company is 200,000 lb. or more, according to general manager, Jim Hetherington, who operates the company with Earl Sutton, president. Based in Chino, CA, American Heavy Moving & Rigging has been in the business of heavy hauling since 1981.
Logistics, Hetherington notes, is always the biggest challenge when dealing with oversized/overweight loads. “We have to pre-plan a haul thoroughly in order to find a designated route that will accommodate the width, length and height of these loads,” he reports. “We also have to be sure our fleet equipment is capable of negotiating all the turns to get the load to its destination.”
When doing a haul, Hetherington reports: “We never want to get caught in a situation where we can't get the load off the highway to a safe place because a truck breaks down, so we always have a spare vehicle follow the load to its destination. Also, for the safety of the motoring public, the great majority of our moves are made between 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m.”
The emphasis at American Heavy Moving has shifted from primarily moving houses to transporting giant transformers and other heavy equipment, which now accounts for about 65% of its business.
To move the transformers the company uses a fleet of Kenworth AWD heavy trucks and two 24-axle transporters capable of carrying up to 500,000 lb. The truck fleet includes two C500 models. One is an extremely big prime mover that Hetherington says was built in 1996 for heavy loads; it weighs close to 60,000 lb. empty, is 10-ft. wide and has a V-12 Caterpillar engine rated 1,000-hp. There are also a number of Kenworth 2002 and 2003 model 6x6 semi-prime movers and heavy-push trucks, as well as an 8-wheel-drive T800 originally built to haul military tanks.
Hetherington explains that front-wheel-drive is needed for traction since these trucks pull so much weight. He notes the 6x6 vehicles are also spec'd with double-reduction rear axles from ArvinMeritor rated 50,000-lb. capacity. The big C500 has planetary rear ends like those used by cranes, he notes, and also has two multi-speed gearboxes that enable the truck to gear down to extremely slow speeds.
“An advantage of the Kenworths is that they have big radiators,” says Hetherington. “At 4-5 mph you don't get a lot of wind blowing through the engine, so you need an oversized radiator to cool it.”
Because American Heavy Moving is so hard on equipment, an extremely strict maintenance program is called for. “We don't track maintenance by miles like a linehaul carrier does; we operate on a daily schedule and at about six weeks the trucks are brought in for service,” Hetherington says. “Rear ends, transfer cases, transmissions, and other major components are checked. Filters are changed, new fluids added, brakes adjusted, and driveshafts inspected for slack in the U-Joints or worn bearings.”
Hetherington notes the heavy haul industry is a small, specialized one, and says that most of the company's jobs are attained through referrals, as well as from its listing in the Blue Book of Building and Construction. And there's no lack of diversity in the types of jobs that come their way.
Coming up the first of the year, Hetherington notes his company will be moving a live oak tree that stands in the path of an industrial park being developed in Santa Clarita, CA. The tree has been in the news a lot this past year. Local environmentalists used the escapades of a tree-sitter who lived in the tree for 71 days before being evicted to save the tree from demolition.