Construction Equipment Hauling
In the construction industry, there are several types of equipment haulers may need to move. In no particular order, we mention:
- Cranes: Their framework is similar to a tower equipped with cables and pulleys. It is used to lift and lower objects. On construction sites, you’ll find cranes either on the ground or fixed on a truck. During construction equipment hauling, they are sometimes dismantled due to their size or to decrease the height.
- Bulldozers: Powerful machines which use a dozer blade to push earth and materials. Thanks to their size, they can be operated with great mobility even in challenging terrains. The bulldozer’s wide tracks cause its weight to be distributed over a large area, keeping it from sinking into muddy or sandy terrains.
- Forklifts: Also known as forklift trucks, they’re used to lift and transport materials and objects using their steel forks. They were created in the 1920s, and come in various types and load capabilities, the most typical of which is the counterbalance.
- Dump Trucks: Used to move gravel, dirt, sand, and other loose materials, dump trucks have an open boxed bed, operated with hydraulics. The back part of the bed is fixed to the truck while the box’s front part can be lifted to allow its contents to easily fall out.
- Excavators: Hydraulic excavators differ from other construction equipment, due to its movement being done by transferring hydraulic fluid. They are normally used in residential areas, where most construction projects require digging a foundation.
Construction equipment hauling cannot be done with the same trucks used in auto transport. They require specialized trailers, such as those mentioned below.
Low Height Decks
Construction equipment hauling is usually done with detachable trailers, because they have the lowest height. This makes loading easier, which is especially important for tall and / or heavy equipment.
Most construction equipment can be moved with a low deck. It keeps the machine’s gravity center close to the ground and below most states’ height restrictions. Detachable double drop lowboys can carry most equipment, thanks to their low height loaded deck and their low angle of loading. They are ideal for transporting machines which requires a low angle of approach, or over-width equipment.
On the other hand, the downside of such a deck is its small amount of usable space. For example, a trailer of 53 ft. with a 3 axle area for the wheels can have a total amount of loading space as small as 27 ft. The loading area of most trailers is 24-26 ft. More modern trailers have slightly larger lower decks, up to 32 ft. Because of this, they normally limit construction equipment hauling companies to carrying 1 item at a time.
Mechanical vs. Hydraulic
Detachable lowboys can be mechanical or hydraulic.
Mechanical trailers come in 2 designs: For some versions, you need to mount a winch to the tractor, while for others you can just have the tractor rammed into them.
Their design’s simplicity is their main advantage. The tractors don’t need to have hydraulics to operate a mechanical gooseneck, but the process is more difficult.
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If the trailer sinks into the soil, a winch-less mechanical gooseneck does not help you pick it up easily. On the other hand, with the hydraulic version, you can adjust the neck down or up until the deck is removed from the soil.
When attaching them, hydraulic trailers lower the deck using hydraulic cylinders. The gravity center is kept low and they are loaded easily, making them favorites amongst contractors.
Using a beavertail, their versatility is increased further. Loading the trailer with multiple construction equipment or in tight areas becomes possible.
The disadvantage of detachable hydraulic trailers is their weight. They require a tractor with a power pack or wet kit. This results in a self-contained trailer, but a heavier load for the tractor.
Sliding Axle Trailers
The axle of such a trailer slides forward, so the bed’s back can be lowered to the ground. Because of this, loading the trailer requires no ramps.
However, it is the loading angle that stands out as the most notable advantage of the sliding axle trailer. This becomes most important when transporting various construction equipment built close to the ground.
It allows for the loading of pavers with no extra ramps, and even increases the safety of the loading process. The loading angle is very gentle, making it ideal for paving equipment, scissor lifts, and other low ground equipment.
Because the entire deck is on the tires, the deck space is maximized. From the wheel area to the gooseneck’s back, the entire area is used. Because of this, a trailer of 53 ft. with a gooseneck of 10 ft., can have as much as 43 ft. of space on its deck.
A trailer with a traveling axle allows for the handling of multiple equipment pieces. Lowbed detachables are useful in many situations, but the ground loading, traveling axle, single drop trailer can be used for 80% of construction equipment hauling regardless of height.
However, these trailers have disadvantages as well, such as their gravity center and their weight. Building them is complicated: The suspension and undercarriage are made separately, then mounted on the trailer’s mainframe. It is a bit heavy due to the moving parts, and it’s not particularly useful for permitted loads.
Because the deck is entirely placed above the wheels, it’s also higher than normal lowboy trailers. Depending on the size of the trailer’s tires, the deck height can be as much as 37-40 inches.
The Economical Advantage of Beavertails
The biggest advantage of beavertail trailers is their price. They are designed for the economical person who won’t use them too often. Their manual ramps are versatile, simple and use no hydraulics.
However, manual ramps are sometimes problematic for their users. When driving the ramp on soft ground, it gets pushed into the dirt. To get the ramp back up is difficult, since it’s built heavy to withstand loads of up to 80.000 lbs. Normally, it is difficult for one person to move it. Ladder ramps with steel crossbars are even heavier, needing at least 2 people to move them.
The approach angle of beavertails is steeper, since the ramp goes above the tires. Also, the deck is normally higher than the deck of a detachable lowboy.
However, in some conditions, this height can become an advantage. Through tough terrain, thanks to the beavertail, the frame will be as much as 20 inches above the ground.
Use Folding Goosenecks for Low Angles
Such goosenecks can be found in both mechanical and hydraulic configurations. For the mechanical version, the truck must have a large winch.
Most contractors choose hydraulic goosenecks for construction equipment hauling, since they allow you to place down the neck. This provides you with a lean slope towards the trailer’s bed. With the use of hydraulics, you can also easily pick the neck and bed up from the ground.
A folding gooseneck’s main disadvantage is its complexity. This can add to operating and owning costs. They are a bit heavier compared to detachables, and they cost more due to the neck being more complicated.
Construction Equipment Hauling Safety
Ensuring the load and the driver are safe when hauling heavy equipment, like conveyors, crushers, and excavators, starts before the transport itself. It begins with picking a trailer that meets the specific operation loading requirements. Ideally, the trailer should eliminate the risk of injuries or accidents caused by structural failure during construction equipment hauling.
The main criteria for choosing a trailer is its capacity; however, state regulations and laws, like bridge laws must also be considered. Normally, the load concentration is the main factor to be considered.
When using a lowbed of 26 ft, with a carrying capacity of 50 ton, you must take into consideration how much of the deck will be occupied by the equipment. Some manufacturers may rate the deck’s whole length at 50 tons, while others may rate the same weight across a 16 ft. area. If the trailer’s loading capacity is estimated wrong, the transport’s safety may be in question.
Additionally, the safety rating of the trailer can be used to better assess its capacity. It indicates the amount of stress that can be safely handled by the trailer.
Stress is caused by driving off road or on an uneven road, by going over railroad tracks, hitting bumps and chuckholes. Road dynamics magnify a trailer’s payload weight by a ratio of 1.8-1. This means the stress a trailer holding a 50 ton cargo experiences when it hits a railroad track or bump in the road is 1.8 times larger, being equivalent to carrying 90 tons in normal conditions.
However, please keep in mind this 1.8 multiplier is not exact, but merely an average. During construction equipment hauling, the trailer can experience stress several times above its intended carrying capacity. It needs to have cushions built into it, so structural damage doesn’t accumulate. If not managed properly, spikes in stress, placed on the trailer over prolonged periods of time, may lead to its failure, sometimes during transit.
An universal safety rating does not yet exist, so each manufacturer gives his own, going from no margin to 2.5-1, considered as sufficient cushion. It is advisable not to use a safety rating to assess the weight you can carry over the capacity rating, while maintaining the vehicle, driver and load safe. Therefore, if a 50 ton lowbed is given a safety rating of 2.5-1, it does not justify loading it with a cargo of 125 tons.
Trailer capacity must be taken seriously. When one is overloaded, just like a rubber band, the steel changes. Eventually, it breaks, leading to injuries, accidents and damage to the cargo.
Inspections Prior to the Trip
When the right trailer has been picked for construction equipment hauling, a thorough inspection must be made before the trip. To begin, check the trailer from all angles to make sure no cracks or damage is present on its frame. Visible damage, like chafed hoses, can turn into leaks, causing an unexpected system failure.
Afterwards, inspect the straps, binders, chains, and other tie down items for broken pieces and parts. Also, check if they are appropriately rated. You can find these ratings on the hauled equipment.
Then, make sure the trailer is not sagging or leaning to one side. Make sure the tires are inflated and check the brakes. Under or over inflated tires affect the trailer’s load rating. Make sure they’re inflated at the right psi, so they don’t add stress to its structure. You can find the load rating, psi, ply and size by reading the VIN tag provided by the manufacturer.
Finally, each trailer has a speed rating you should consider. The faster a rig moves, the more stress and weight is added on the trailer. Most manufacturers give a 55-65 mph rating, so check if the trailer can perform at the fleet’s normal speed during construction equipment hauling.
Written By:Joe Webster
Joe Webster began his journey in the auto transport field by attending the University of Southern California (USC), where he graduated with a Bachelor of Business Marketing.
After college, he started his career in the auto transport industry from the bottom up and has done virtually every job there is to do at A-1 Auto Transport, including but not limited to: Truck Driver, Dispatch, Sales, PR, Bookkeeping, Transport Planner, Transport Manager, International Transport Manager, Brokering, Customer Service, and Marketing. Working with his mentor Tony Taylor, Joe Webster has learned the ins and outs of this industry which is largely misunderstood.
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