Experienced project managers, despite hours of careful planning for their project, allow for contingencies and include schedule flexibility to make a project successful. Such was the case when Perkins was hired as a subcontractor by Mammoet Canada Western Ltd to move an over-dimensional 209,000 lb reactor vessel from a major Houston, TX fabrication facility to the Canadian Natural Resources Ltd (CNRL) Horizon Oil Sands Project near Fort MacKay, AB. With vessel dimensions at 79’ - 0" long, 16’ - 5” wide and 16’ - 10” high, the piece was too dimensionally extreme for rail transportation and had to move over the road.

But with any good plan, changes are expected.  In this case, there was a delay in the vessel’s fabrication resulting in the postponement of vessel transportation. Although the customer had planned for Perkins to make a direct shipment of the fabrication to the jobsite prior to the onset of spring road restrictions in Montana and Alberta, which typically range from March 1 through May 31, that schedule had to change. Instead, to minimize the affects of spring road restrictions, Perkins timed its mobilization and loading process at the fabricator’s facility in mid-April so that by the time the load reached the Wyoming-Montana border on April 27th, Montana’s road ban would have been lifted allowing Perkins to proceed to the US/Canada border. After crossing into Alberta, our customer transloaded the piece onto a configuration approved by provincial authorities for transport to the Fort MacKay jobsite during Alberta’s graduated spring road restrictions.

To handle the approximately 2,350 mile circuitous highway transport of this vessel for the client in just 13 days, Perkins provided a well-engineered solution based on the use of one of our dual-lane highway transporters with a high girder bridge suspension system. A key aspect of Perkins’ suspension system is its use of a pair of manufactured, integrated 32-wheel dollies providing a highly maneuverable and safe means of transportation that operate at respectable road speeds and yielded a mere operational height of 17’ - 4”. The low overall height virtually eliminated the need for utility assistance and shortened an already circuitous permitted route by allowing the load to pass under low overpasses and other hard overhead obstructions. It should be noted that as part of the advanced preparation for this project, Perkins representatives had already visited the fabrication facility after verbal award of the project to inspect egress options, space for transport equipment lay down, and to discuss assembly of its transporter using the shop’s overhead cranes.

It turned out our crew moved 650,000 lbs on a previously rock-hard jobsite made soft by 4” of rain that fell the night before. When one tractor couldn’t get enough traction to move the load from the depressions made by the 112 trailer tires, a second tractor and a front-end loader full of rock was added to move the first 5 feet. All the equipment was designed for that type of work and it was actually fun to watch, but definitely a testament to 'expect the unexpected'.

Under perfect conditions just about any tractor can pull a heavy load. Movement on flat paved surfaces or up small grades, through broad turns or on well-compacted job sites, the extra cost and weight of heavy-duty tractor specifications seems unnecessary. Unfortunately, perfect conditions never exist in the world of specialized transportation.  For that reason, Perkins plans for off-highway conditions, steep grades ranging from a city block to five miles long, and for tough turns. Experience has shown there’s conditions on every heavy haul where drive shafts
can snap, fan blades can slice radiators, rear ends can explode and axles can fail. Shippers have been conditioned to the fact that these breakdowns can happen and there’s nothing that can be done to prevent the lost time and inconvenience. Neil Perkins disagrees.

Simply adding horsepower, a 4th axle, and oversized steer axle tires does not make a tractor “heavy duty”. The tractor chassis and every component transferring horsepower from the engine to where the tires meet the ground must be properly matched to do the intended work under the toughest conditions. Unacceptable weak links are created when equipment buyers achieve design goals of lighter tare weight and lower initial cost by using double instead of triple tractor frames, by not using 70,000 lb. planetary drives, tires, and rims that aren’t designed to take the load, and by omitting many other design details that are necessary to prevent equipment failures. Properly spec'd heavy-duty tractors are heavier and do cost more than double a typical lowboy tractor, but Perkins will accept both of these challenges so our customers get fewer calls from us about equipment repair delays.