The quest for renewable energy in northwest Missouri was causing headaches on Tuesday for one truck driver, his chase crew and the Missouri Department of Transportation in southwest Missouri.
Truck driver Don Erickson, with the South Carolina firm of Owen-Kennedy Inc., spent more than 18 hours stuck on the ramp from County Route 100 to Interstate 44, blocking the ramp and baking in the summer sun.
Erickson’s load, or more accurately, his super-load, was the problem. Erickson was hauling a wind turbine generator from a port on the Texas Gulf Coast to a wind farm under construction near Rockport, in the northwest corner of Missouri.
The turbine was too tall to carry under I-44 at the U.S. 71 interchange at Fidelity, so MoDOT had directed Erickson to the County Route 100 interchange to turn around and get to U.S. 71 without going under the interstate.
The problem – Erickson found out his truck was too long to make the left turn onto the County Road 100 bridge over I-44, leaving him stuck.
“We’ve been stuck here since 4 p.m. yesterday,” Erickson said shortly before noon on Tuesday in an interview on the side of the road. “I’ve got to get permission from MoDOT before I can move. They have to approve my entire route because of the size of the load and they told me to get off here and turn. We paid $961 to get stuck on this bridge.”
How big is Erickson’s truck?
A normal loaded tractor trailer can’t weigh more than 80,000. Erickson’s truck, with load, is 257,000 pounds. Normal tractor trailers are 13.6 feet high. His is 16 feet.
Regular tractor trailers are 75 feet long and the trailers have two axles and eight wheels for a total of 18 wheels. Erickson’s truck is 128 feet long; his trailer has nine axles and 36 wheels, while his tractor has an extra axle, making for a total of 50 wheels on this rig.
The load is so big, he’s spent the past week driving on a route specifically designated by Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas to avoid damaging their roads.
It’s big enough to earn the title “super-load” from MoDOT and be subject to strict restrictions and supervision, according to DeAnne Bonnot, spokeswoman for MoDOT’s commercial carrier division.
“Super-loads are loads that are not reducible,” Bonnot said. “If they can be reduced, we’re all over those carriers and we get them reduced, but if it isn’t reducible, they have to move it somehow.
“We’re always concerned about height, weight and width and we’re real careful about letting these big loads on our roads.”
MoDOT also sets special conditions and tells the drivers which bridges they can cross and which they must avoid.
On Erickson’s route up U.S. 71, he must “ramp over,” meaning use the on and off ramps and avoid crossing, seven bridges in Bates and Cass counties.
On one bridge in Vernon County, Erickson will have to block traffic on U.S. 71, center his truck on the bridge and move across it at “crawl speed,” or about five miles per hour.
“The engineers tell us on some bridges that they can take the load, but the driver has to go slow to let the bridge adjust,” Bonnot said. “We’re very careful with all our bridges to avoid damaging them.”
Bonnot said the state approved 2,177 super-loads in the fiscal year from July 1, 2006 to June 30. That compares to a total of more than 1.5 million permits for smaller, but still oversized, loads and is only a fraction of the millions of truck loads delivered through Missouri in the year.
Shortly before noon on Tuesday, Erickson got new papers from MoDOT allowing him to go to the County Route U exit to turn around and continue his journey.
The quest for renewable energy in northwest Missouri can continue, delayed only slightly by the quest to keep Missouri highways from being damaged by the super-sized equipment needed to get that energy.
By John Hacker
Of the Press Staff
18 July 2007