The Kenworth T800s took three weeks to make the 3,000 mile journey from Houston to Northern California.
When your last name is Bigge, it’s hard to imagine that you’ll do anything small. And in 1916, when Henry W. Bigge established Bigge Drayage Company, he set the stage for a company that’s lived up to the name.
“For over 93 years, Bigge has played a critical role in the development of our country’s infrastructure,” said Gedge Knopf, Bigge major projects regional sales manager. “From handling the original Golden Gate Bridge girders and transporting Liberty Ship sections during World War II to handling major components up to and exceeding 1,500 tons in nuclear and refining facilities throughout the country, Bigge takes great pride in creatively and safely performing scopes of work that others consider impossible.”
Such was the case when the San Leandro, Calif., company recently used two Kenworth T800s to pull and push a 220,000-lb. (99,790 kg), 103-ft. (31.4 m) long refinery vessel from Houston to Northern California. The super high and wide load required extensive logistics and a serpentine route over farm roads and through towns along a 3,000-mi. journey covering seven weeks. Proper gearing and like specifications allow the Kenworth trucks to operate in tandem.
“The Kenworths T800s were spec’d with 550-horsepower engines with retarders, 18-speed transmissions, 2-speed Eaton rears [rated at 48,000 pounds], 20,000-pound front axles with double frames,” said Chuck Beam, Bigge project superintendent.
The Kenworth T800 pusher was utilized nearly the entire trip.
“It’s a challenge, and, almost poetry in motion when having the two trucks work in concert,” said Beam. “The lead Kenworth T800 is in charge when the load is moving [the drivers use company radios for communication]. He has the responsibility of letting the snap [pusher] truck know what to do and when to change gears. Quite often, on real tight turns, the snap truck does most of the work and brings the rear around to the proper position. It’s also the go-to vehicle when we go down hills. It holds the load back first and the lead truck then assists.”
Kenworth has been the Bigge’s truck of choice for heavy hauls for decades.
“Since I began working at Bigge in 1975, every new truck we have brought into the fleet has been a Kenworth,” said Beam, who noted that the company has 25 Kenworths.
“We put a lot of demands on our trucks and Kenworth and our dealer, NorCal Kenworth — Bay Area, has always come through. The Kenworth T800s are robust, durable and can take the strain that comes their way when hauling extreme loads. Customers depend on us to handle the big loads, and we depend on Kenworths to get us where we need to be.”
According to Beam, planning the recent move took three months, and involved closely working with Departments of Transportation in four states, cities, counties, and every utility in those areas to get permits in place.
“It was a long trip, one of the longest of this type that I’ve been involved with at Bigge. On our best day, we covered 220 miles, but a typical day was more like 120 miles,” he said. “Since our overall length was 185 feet, and we were 20 feet wide at the rear dollies, it proved difficult to navigate roads. We had constant height issues, even in remote counties — we needed 19 feet, 6 inches to clear obstacles. It seemed every town had stop lights and sets of wires that were lower and had to be carefully slid over the load.
”We had other challenges as well. The Mogollon Rim in Arizona, and Tehachapi Grade in California both offered grades of 6 and 7 percent. The Rim also has a 20-miles downhill and required our drivers to be synchronized in the use of the retarders and gearing. If you’re doing it right, you’re never using the brakes. The retarders should get you down the mountain.”
Once the Kenworth T800s and refinery vessel crested the valley and the drivers saw the lights of the Bay Area, it was as if the Kenworths turned from hares to tortoises.
“The most difficult challenge was saved for last,” said Beam. “There was a mess of wires, lights and turns that only allowed us to move 10 to 15 miles a night. We had a whole army of people lifting obstructions, but it was slow going. When we finally arrived at our destination, we let out our collective breaths. It was a long haul, but a job well done. I’m proud of our guys.”
Bigge Equipment Company handles worldwide sales of new and used cranes and heavy-lift equipment representing the top crane manufacturers. Bigge Crane and Rigging Company is one of the nation’s largest crane rental fleets servicing the general construction, wind and refinery industries. Bigge Power Constructors undertakes some of the biggest heavy lifts and oversized moves in the nuclear power, petrochemical and civil construction industries.