When hauling 200-ton steel girders, two Kenworths are better than one

It took 1,050 horses and 36 speeds to move a heavy haul from Vancouver to Issaquah WA. The load was 133 feet long, more than 17 feet wide, and weighed 200 tons.

How does a vehicle acquire 1,050 horsepower? “We had two Kenworth T800s become one,” says Doug Buss, president of V Van Dyke Inc, a 53-year-old Seattle WA-based firm specializing in oversize hauling. “For this move of a massive steel girder, we needed to average 30 mph, and one truck couldn't handle the load, especially up hills. So, we tethered our identically spec'd Kenworths together and they drove and pulled as one.”

The destination was the Sunset Interchange off Interstate 90 in Issaquah — 180 miles from where the beams were built. Since the combined length of tractor and load was 253 feet, each of the two identical girders had to be hauled separately.

The first step in the haul was calculating exact girder weight and length measurements, allowing for changes imposed on bridge weight limits after Washington's Nisqually earthquake in February 2001. After collecting data and consulting with the Washington State Department Of Transportation on the time allowed for the move, it became clear that two Kenworth T800 tractors from the company's fleet of 19 T800s and W900s had to be connected by cable suspension.

These two trucks had to be attached to a series of trailers with a total of 24 axles and 86 tires in order to support the beam and conform to state transportation regulations. Multiple test runs and maps of the road were also made to ensure the trucks could get to their destination.

With the load being hauled between midnight and 5 am, hills and road imperfections weren't the only obstacles. The two drivers had to negotiate tunnels and numerous curves. The driver of the first tractor maneuvered the curves in the road, while the driver of the second tractor always had his eye on the load and hand on his CB radio.

“Knowing the guys got through the narrowest tunnel with only 18 inches to spare on each side was both stressful and exciting at the same time,” said Buss.

Media representatives, community members, and workers at the construction site awaited the drivers as they delivered the first girder the morning of June 7. A crane then placed the beam over Issaquah Creek — its new home at the Sunset Interchange.

This move marked the first girder delivery by V Van Dyke for the $39-million I-90 plan. The company continues to move smaller beams to and from the same locations, a project that will last for many more months.

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