Our Project Coordinator, Hanna Barsness, has been with us for almost 8 months now, and she’s had her fair share of tasks on the Operations team such as permitting, routing, and scheduling. Naturally, it was time to get a taste of her own medicine. Hanna ventured into the field recently with her permits, her route, and her schedule. This type of experience allows her to make leaps and bounds with future planning initiatives and drive her success at Perkins. Join us in learning the importance of planning with hands-on experience, an option for all our employees in any department.

I recently got the chance to experience the other side of project planning, which is field execution. Comparing my estimated plan with the actual work was something I looked forward to and will definitely take with me as I continue my career at Perkins.

Here’s the Plan:
Cargo: Retired train bridge
Equipment: Single Lane Loading Perkins QUANTUM™ trailer and Heavy Duty Tractor
Crew Size: Four (4) total; One (1) Supervisor, One (1) Equipment Operator, Two (2) Escorts
Route: LaCrescent, MN to Tomah, WI
Permits: 9 total; Four (4) county permits and five (5) state permits.
Patrol Required: Two (2) in each state for loaded travel
Estimated Mileage: 341 Total Miles = 127 Mobe + 50 Loaded + 164 Demobe
Estimated Schedule: 2 days

  • Day 1 (Wednesday):
    • 4 Hours – Mobilization
    • 1 Hour – Prep for Loading
    • 1 Hour – Load
  • Day 2 (Thursday):
    • 2 Hours – Loaded Travel
    • 1 Hour – Unload
    • 5 Hours - Demobilization

On paper this was a cut and dry scenario we’ve seen many times and I was optimistic despite the warnings from colleagues to “expect the unexpected”.

We start off Day One with below freezing temps and light snow. We are a Minnesota-based company, and although we are familiar with this weather, extra precautions are involved to ensure all equipment could withstand the conditions. This put us an hour behind right off the bat. As we left the Northfield Operations Center (NOC), our mobilization route, which was permitted according to the MN permitting system, would have benefited from being customized on state routes rather than county roads, since they are narrower and less maintained. Snow blew across the roads and turns were slick, but our seasoned drivers made this look easy. I know they’ve seen worse and have heard plenty of stories to back up their expertise and capabilities.

We made one stop along the way per instructions from Fleet Services at the NOC to check on a new break pad and arrived at our loading site with the hope of having enough time to prep and load for an early morning departure. While crew-members and I prepped the trailer for loading, the Supervisor and Equipment Operator inspected the site for anything that would impact tomorrow’s progress. In our situation, a bridge structure and grade of the gravel exit ramp needed attention before determining the best course of action for loading and departure. As the Supervisor returned with a Site Contact upon discussing necessary improvements, we stopped prepping the trailer to attend an impromptu safety meeting. It was there we learned that due to the extreme cold (despite the sun in the pictures), we would not be able to load that day because the hired crane, set to load the cargo onto our trailer, had gelled up. With that news, we finished prepping the trailer and headed to the hotel. We didn’t get as much done as initially planned, but I remained optimistic that the plan could still come together despite today’s setbacks.

We arrived Day Two on site at 7:30a hoping to get an early start on loading and securing the cargo prior to our State Troopers arriving. Unfortunately, the crane wasn’t able to get started until 9:00a, meaning our MN and WI State Troopers had to be rescheduled. Our Supervisor was able to contact them and setup a new plan of action that worked for seamless border handoff and state transition. Securement still took longer than I would have ever predicted because of the many safeguards we use to ensure all securement devices are positioned specifically according to the securement plan. All said and done, we left the loading site at 1:00p anticipating a smooth trip ahead. Again, I had not accounted for the time it would take for the equipment to get up to speed after the bridge slowdowns and steep sloped grades, but all in all it only added a half hour to my estimated travel time.

We reached the train yard at 3:30p and had planned to load and prep the trailer that night, and then demobe early the following day (Day Three). I thought we were doomed by another unforeseen site condition, which required us to maneuver the 156-foot tractor and trailer into a tighter than anticipated space before turning the whole thing 180 degrees. Our skilled crew had no issues as I watched the load get into place with extreme coordination between the Operator (driving the tractor) and the Tillerman (counter-steering the 12-line hydraulic platform trailer). I was amazed by their performance and was starting to notice a trend in the importance of experience. Unloading and prepping the trailer for demobilization went well and we headed to the hotel ready to return home the next day.

We met early on Day Three to greet unfavorable weather and road conditions. Our crews decided to move forward since we were traveling with an empty trailer and conditions were expected to improve. Well, they didn’t improve and we leapfrogged from rest area to rest area to reassess the circumstances. Roughly 55 miles from the NOC, we agreed to stop and park the trailer for the weekend, as it wasn’t worth the risks to keep going. The crew returned later to retrieve the trailer the following Monday.

My 2-day trip ended up taking a total of 6 days with site, loading, and weather delays that were out of our control. My first experience in the field has only confirmed my colleagues’ plea to always expect the unexpected. I respect the crap out of the crew who approached each twist with professionalism and took time to show me the ropes. I will continue to learn from both my experiences and the stories I hear from others to help maneuver the plan when the unexpected hits. Thanks for reading.

We place safety and planning at the top of our priority list at Perkins. We are process driven to ensure we are doing everything we can for our customers in order to handle their cargo with the utmost respect, while protecting our crews, our equipment, and the general public. It is important to note that these delays were caused by statewide severe weather warning and although they do occur, we always do our best to maintain the safety of all involved when making transportation and plan changes.