“Superload” Lumbers through Pennsylvania, as big as two whales


It’s called supercharging, and for good reason: the highway monster is longer than five fire engines and weighs as much as two blue whales.

This week and next, the gigantic tractor-trailer, carrying a tank from a disused nuclear training site, will cross Pennsylvania on a 400-mile route that would test the skills of even the most seasoned trucker.

The metallic leviathan, which occupies two traffic lanes, measures 213 feet from end to end and weighs 294 tons, simply putting oversized loads to shame.

As it rolls across the state on what is expected to be a nine-day trip, the rig with multiple platters and escort vehicles must traverse 16 counties, navigate off-ramps, country roads, two-lane highways, unusual traffic patterns and a potential snowstorm. .

The truck can only travel at the posted speed limit or 30 miles per hour, whichever is lower, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

Unsurprisingly, drivers should expect delays if they get caught behind the overload, although travel is expected to be mostly at night to reduce bottlenecks, the department said.

Lew Grill, a truck driving expert and instructor in Montana with 54 years of experience on the road, said he has deep respect for any truck driver capable of hauling a 294-ton load.

He said the weight limit for the average tractor-trailer is 40 tonnes, a featherweight in comparison.

“It’s phenomenal,” Mr. Grill said. “If this guy is successful professionally, he should get praise. We should bow to him. There aren’t many drivers like that.

Mr Grill said the driver will have to respond to unforeseen challenges, such as cars stopped on the side of the road.

Escort drivers are “just extra eyes and ears for the captain of the ship,” he said. Ultimately, the truck driver is responsible for ensuring the supercharge reaches its destination safely, he said.

Although the tank is empty, it is radioactive due to its proximity to the D1G prototype reactor, which had been used at the Kenneth A. Kesselring site in West Milton, NY, near Saratoga Springs, to train Navy sailors operation of propulsion systems. in the navy’s nuclear-powered fleet.

The prototype reactor was decommissioned in 1996 and reactor fuel was removed in 1997, according to the Naval Nuclear Laboratory. The tank, which was part of a system used to support the prototype reactor, contains no residual fuel, according to Saralynne DelRaso, a spokeswoman for the lab.

She said a person who was near the outside of the tank for an hour would be exposed to less radiation than a passenger might receive on a flight from New York to Seattle.

Ms. DelRaso said the company transporting the tank planned to have the truck accompanied by three escort vehicles and three state police vehicles.

Because the trailer is wide, drivers cannot pass on two-lane roads until the rig stops and escorts allow traffic to pass, she said.

The expedition required numerous permits, all of which included advance notice of the operation as well as approval of the proposed route and schedule, Ms. DelRaso said.

The truck left the Kesselring site on Jan. 5 and drove through northeastern Pennsylvania on Wednesday evening, she said.

He was expected to reach Wampum, Pennsylvania, about 41 miles north of Pittsburgh, on January 21. The tank will then be dismantled, part being recycled and the rest thrown away.

A winter storm expected to hit the northeast over the weekend could complicate the trip. The National Weather Service has warned of dangerous road conditions, with first estimates four inches of snow or more in parts of Pennsylvania.

Perkins Specialized Transportation Contracting, a heavy haul and superload logistics company in Becker, Minn., which was transporting the tank, declined to comment on the company on Thursday.

But the work isn’t the most important the company has done.

In the summer of 2018, it carried seven engines weighing 318 tons each over a 61-mile route from a port in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, according to the company’s website. The expedition took over a year and a half to plan and three and a half weeks to complete and required route studies, feasibility studies and external support teams.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation was urging people to follow the overload on social media with the hashtag #PAsuperload22.

“It will be a team effort, with soldiers from at least six different stations participating at various intervals,” said state police spokesman Lt. Adam Reed. “Safety and security will be our top priorities, and we ask for patience as we ensure it arrives safely at its destination.”


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