Hastings residents witnessed quite the spectacle Sunday afternoon as a massive piece of equipment moved through town. The machine consisted of three trucks, two pulling and one pushing and a modular …
Hastings residents witnessed quite the spectacle Sunday afternoon as a massive piece of equipment moved through town. The machine consisted of three trucks, two pulling and one pushing and a modular trailer that consisted of five articulating pieces with 36 axles. The machine was hauling a large, empty vessel from Cambridge to Pine Bend that will be loaded onto a barge to travel to its final destination.
The trip started 2 p.m. Saturday in Cambridge, and the convoy made the trek to Hastings by Sunday afternoon. A total of 17 workers participated in the move as part of Beyel Brothers Heavy Haul, based out of Florida. The trip was planned to take place over three days, but delays Friday forced the 70-mile move to happen in two days.
“The fastest we moved with it was going down the interstate, when we got up to 25 miles an hour,” said Jeremy Runyon, project consultant. “Typically, we run about 15 miles an hour with it.”
For reference, while it was in Hastings, it was at the Fourth Street intersection at 3:50 p.m. and in front of Walgreens at 4:05 p.m., half a mile in 15 minutes.
To call this beast a truck seems almost insulting. It is around 350-feet long, 22 feet wide and weighs just under 1.1 million pounds or 550 tons. It has three truck drivers, two operators on the hauling mechanism and at least two directors on the ground guiding the drivers of the hauling mechanism.
The coordination of moving pieces was quite impressive. They had at least six support vehicles that took down road signs as needed and then put them back up, helped direct traffic, coordinated the turns and anything else needed.
“There is one operator in each truck, then there are two operators on the trailer that steer the trailer, then between four and six guys on the ground. Those guys are watching the trailer all the way around and communicating with the operators on the trailer. We can steer the trailer in four locations, four parts of that trailer steer, then we can lean the trailer over to about 10 or 12 degrees. If we get into a corner and the whole trailer’s leaning, we can actually level the trailer and lean it over so that the load sits level. Even though the running gear might be at a six-degree incline, we can keep the trailer itself level,” explained Runyon.
He describes the whole process as organized chaos. One impressive piece is that in the little bit of mileage they covered that was observed, they did not run over any of the curbs or medians, even though the long midsection did pass over the medians, hence why they dropped the signs ahead of time.
Traffic was severely impacted along the main roads in Hastings for the hour it was in town. The impact shifted as it made its way from Highway 95 and Highway 61 around 3:20 p.m. until it crossed the Highway 61 bridge around 3:40 p.m., then making the turn on to Highway 55 starting around 4:05 p.m.
The process for this move started in June or July of 2022 and the final plan was in place by November, Runyon explained.
“The state is very particular. We have to do months of actual engineering. We do bridge surveys on every bridge that we cross. The first part of the trip there was actually a few spots we crossed, a few small bridges that we had to have an auxiliary truck with us carrying steel plates. We had to stop and put those steel plates down on the ground or on the bridge for the trailer and go over the bridge. We call them jumper bridges, that way the steel plates is carrying the weight, and we're not putting all that weight on the bridge.”
Putting 1.1 million pounds on the larger bridges like the Hastings bridge is done differently. The bridge can handle the weight on its own, but traffic had to be shut down in both directions while the truck was on the bridge deck. Extra traffic with that much weight on the bridge causes the bridge deck to flex and bounce differently than under normal loads. This is what caused the 35W bridge collapse years ago. Too much weight on the bridge and the constant changing of the weight from the traffic entering and leaving the bridge deck caused the bridge to begin to bounce. That rhythmic bouncing became more powerful which caused the catastrophic failure.
How does something 1.1 million pounds drive on regular asphalt without damaging it?
“As the actual road itself, we don't have any more weight per tire than normal semis. We actually have to calculate it down so far as to how many square inches of tire are on the ground, and how many pounds per square inch that we transferred to the ground,” said Runyon. “That's why these trailers have so many axles and so many tires, and every group is spread out, a minimum of 14 feet one inch, which is Minnesota law as far as your bridge spacing. When we're going down the road, every axle is only carrying the same amount of weight that a regular semi does. We disperse that weight so far out over those 350 feet in length and 22 feet in width.”
The trip to Pine Bend took the crew about an hour and 45 minutes from the turn at Highway 55. Folks travelling out of Hastings toward Highway 52 were advised to take County Road 46 to avoid the backup from the convoy on 55. The good news is, the crew is very aware of the backup when they are occupying the whole road.
“If we can get to a wide spot with our 10 auxiliary vehicles or when we do a crossover for example, when we go the wrong way, like we did to go onto Pine Bend Trail, we actually go into the eastbound oncoming traffic side of the highway. What we did Sunday is, we pulled over into that east side when we stopped and we'd let all that westbound traffic clear, then then we proceeded into making our corner,” added Runyon.
For this trip, Runyon said only one or two people were upset that the crew was blocking the road, which was nice from the normal 10-20 people.
“Everybody was awesome. People got out of our way they stayed put. We only had one lady try to drive into the side of the trailer. That’s fairly rare, but it does happen. Luckily, we got her stopped and kept her safe. That's the goal, we want to keep everyone safe,” said Runyon.
People all up and down Vermillion Street were stopping to take pictures and videos of the giant vehicle moving through town. The crew even noticed all the kids watching wide eyed, which makes the crew smile just as much as the kids.
Runyon wanted to make one thing abundantly clear. “Projects like this could not be done without the cooperation of the Minnesota State Patrol, and the Minnesota permit office, and all the civilians out there that are patient with us and let us get our job done and do it safely. So, thank you to everyone that helped us make this a safe move.”
The empty vessel hanging in the center of the mechanism was described as confidential by the workers we spoke to as where the final destination will be. Even with not knowing all the finer details of the journey, many residents enjoyed the show put on by the beast moving through town.