How they moved 600t superload more than 200km
"IT IS," says Lampson Australia Transport supervisor Mick Hulls, "all in the planning," and to underscore the statement drops a huge A4 folder on the table.
The folder carries every tiny detail needed for a four-day super haul from Victoria's port city of Geelong to central Victoria's Mortlake power station. It is about as thick as the Old Testament and, for the uninitiated, probably as difficult to decipher.
Called simply the Operations Manual, it carries every necessary permit, corner diagrams, route details, photographs, contact names and numbers of everyone involved, timing parameters and, most importantly, a detailed route sheet noting every turn, climb, corner, roundabout and railway crossing, the distances between them and total section distances.
It is the super-haul Bible and on this particular trek, with a small squadron of trucks pushing and pulling a 275-tonne power generator more than 200 kilometres, extremely vital.
In overall terms the generator is compact, a "mere" 12.6 metres long, 4.1 metres wide and 4.16 metres high. It's carriage system on the other hand, trucks and trailers supplied by heavy haulage specialists Lampson Australia, is massive - five prime movers and two trailers.
The 227km haul distance is split over three sections spanning four days.
The first section, a 42km pull dragging the generator from the Port of Geelong and through the city's urban edges west to Winchelsea, takes six hours and while it is the shortest, it is probably the hardest.
Day two, a rural run through Colac, Beeac and Alvie to Pirron Yallock, covers 95km between 11pm and 5am and readies the crew for days three and four, compressed into a massive 10-hour, 92km effort taking in Cobden, Camperdown and Noorat before arriving at Mortlake.
On the road during the haul there is, literally, a cast of thousands, according to Lampson Australia's managing director, John Lee.
"The support team, included VicRoads escort vehicles, (people to manage) power, rail, phone and bridge (work), road plate suppliers, rolling sign vans, traffic controllers and company support and supervision vehicles," John said.
Each of Lampson's five heavy-duty Mack Titan prime movers for the job has a 200-tonne GVM rating and each carries some 10 tonnes of counterweights positioned above the drive wheels. All configured with hitches to run push/pull bars. Heavy-duty differentials, gear reduction hubs and "Joey" gearboxes guarantee absolute grunt.
Power comes from Mack's 16.4-litre MP10 engine, the biggest six-cylinder engine ever built by the American truck maker. The under-bonnet power station develops 455 kilowatts (610 horsepower). Torque, all 2810 Newton metres (2072 foot-pounds) of it, is full-on at 1200rpm.
The trailers, Italian-made Cometto units, are a Lampson favourite. Modular platforms that can be widened or joined together to form a monster trailer, they are moved by the prime movers using solid push/pull bars.
For the Geelong-Mortlake haul over public roads, two 16-axle steerable trailers fitted with bolsters and beams to support the payload are configured jinker- style, with the rear unit complete with two steering cabs mounted at the back.
Depending on necessity, between one and four prime movers towed the load, the rearmost truck simply pushing the trailers but not steering them.
Combined, the trailers and beams alone for this particular haul weighed-in at approximately 200 tonnes. Adding the 275-tonne generator and 24-tonne prime movers brought the complete rig, with all five trucks attached, to a massive 595 tonnes.
The overall length and weight of the combination changed along the route to best manage tight cornering around streets, obstacles and other "roadside furniture".
At its longest, with all five prime movers attached for "significant" inclines and wet road conditions requiring maximum traction, the configuration stretched over 130 metres.
It goes without saying that Lampson Australia fields its A-game driving and support team for such hauls. For this job a 10-strong crew comprising drivers, steerers and spotters made the trip south from Lampson's Toronto base, near Newcastle, NSW, to Geelong.
John Lee describes the team as "the best of the best", a set crew whose senior driver has over 40 years' experience in the industry with the rest not too far behind, all sharing similar experience with this type of transport configuration and travel route.
The full team prepared for the job by driving the route beforehand and also by absorbing the Operations Manual.
Communications are vital to any super-heavy haul and for this job, all 10 crew members were connected by company frequency two-way radios and contactable by other contractors via UHF radio.
"You're working with inches on something 120-130 metres long," Mick Hulls says. "Something could be happening at 5km/h but it will feel like 50km/h. Everyone has to be quick and descriptive with their calls."
Mick says that, while these huge hauls are stressful, the drivers are probably the least stressed people in the entourage.
"Their experience doesn't let them create that kind of stress. They've been doing it for a long, long time so they have cool heads; there's no yelling, no panic."
This particular haul was, in planning terms, relatively spur of the moment with a two-month lead-in time - about half the usual time.
"Effectively, as soon as the power generator was on the boat to come to Australia they asked us to do the job and we started planning for it to be moved from Geelong to Mortlake," John Lee said.
"It was (a) tightly compressed (program) and started just two months before the unit needed to be on site. There was no room for delay within this time period and was only made possible by the co-operation of all the governing bodies, infrastructure owners and other road users."
And when the convoy arrived at the power station? For the Lampson Australia crew it was not a case of "all over, Red Rover".
The load was blocked-out at the site, transferred to a single 16-axle trailer and taken into the power station for final installation.
While the haul itself finished on time around 9am on Wednesday, October 9, it was a week before the Lampson crew arrived back at Toronto, getting in on October 16 to prepare, no doubt, for the next big haul.