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OVERSEAS OPERATIONS

HeavyTorque Issue Five: Overseas Operations

BEAM ME BACK

V. VAN DYKE, (BUSS BILT) A SEATTLE-BASED LONG LOAD SPECIALIST SHOW US THEIR TAKE ON HOW A REAR BOGIE SHOULD BE BUILT. ENVISAGE A MOTORBIKE SIDECAR: STICK A STEERING-WHEEL ON IT AND PUT A ROOF OVER THE TOP. SIT IT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE REAR AXLES; SIT 100t ABOVE YOUR HEAD - AND AWAY YOU GO. IT’S INSANE. RICHARD TEW REPORTS.

Heavy haulage companies moving long beams in the UK normally use a multi-extendable semi trailer or a multi-axle bogie to support the rear of the load. Both methods require a steersman to manoeuvre the rear of the load around bends and other obstacles. This is a thankless task in inclement weather, with the steersman walking behind the load or seated precariously at the rear of the bogie – all the time exposed to the elements. Neither of these methods would be acceptable to the employees of V. Van Dyke Inc, a long load specialist from Seattle in the United States.

Their way of working has the steersman sitting in the enclosed cab of a specially constructed 3 or 4-axle steercar – under the rear of the load. The front of the beam normally sits on a 2 or 3-axle jeep dolly attached to the fifth wheel of an 8x4 tractor: the rear sits on a 3-axle dolly hitched to a 3 or 4-axle steercar. The steercar driver steers the front-axle using a steering wheel.

V. Van Dyke are fortunate to have a talented designer and steercar builder amongst their ranks: Carl Buss, who has been with the company for 31 years, and works in conjunction with an engineer to help with the design layout and structure. The units are built in-house for the exclusive use of V. Van Dyke. Others have tried to copy the design, but without the success of Carl and the staff.

Although earlier units had 3 axles, two 4-axle steercars joined the fleet in 2010; following their successful operation, 2 more are currently in the build process. The steercar driver sits in a cramped cockpit ahead of the rear bogie and between the chassis rails: the only controls on the earlier units were a steering wheel and a windscreen wiper. With no power unit, steering is of the ‘armstrong’ variety. However this situation has improved on recent builds, as we shall see. The CB radio is the only communication between the truck driver and the steercar driver, who is totally reliant on the former’s instructions and what he can see. As you can imagine, this requires a good rapport between the two drivers.

The whole concept has been very successful. As one steercar driver put it: “I’ve been doing this job for five years, and we ain’t hit anything yet".

HeavyTorque Issue Five: Overseas Operations

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