It’s called Supercharging, and for good reason: The road behemoth is longer than five fire trucks and weighs as much as two blue whales.
This week and next, the gargantuan trailer, hauling a tank from a decommissioned nuclear training site, will traverse Pennsylvania on a 400-mile route that will test the skills of even the most experienced trucker.
Occupying two lanes of traffic, the metal leviathan measures 213 feet from end to end and weighs 294 tons, simply putting oversized loads to shame.
As it makes its way across the state on what is expected to be a nine-day journey, the rig with multiple flatbeds and escort vehicles must traverse 16 counties, navigating off-ramps, rural roads, two-lane highways, Unusual traffic and a possible snow storm. .
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 caught behind supercharging, though it is expected to travel mostly at night to reduce bottlenecks, the department said.
Lew Grill, a Montana truck driving expert and instructor with 54 years of experience on the road, said he had deep respect for any trucker who could haul a 294-ton load.
He said the weight limit for an average tractor-trailer is 40 tons, a featherweight by comparison.
“This is phenomenal,” Grill said. “If this guy pulls this off professionally, he should be commended. We must bow down to him. There aren’t many drivers like this.”
Mr. Grill said the driver will need to respond to unforeseen challenges, such as cars stopped on the side of the road.
Escort drivers are “just the extra eyes and ears of the ship’s captain,” he said. Ultimately, the truck driver is responsible for ensuring the supercharger reaches its destination safely, he said.
Although the tank is empty, it is radioactive due to its proximity to the prototype D1G reactor, which had been used at the Kenneth A. Kesselring site in West Milton, New York, near Saratoga Springs, to train Navy sailors in the operation of propulsion systems. in the Navy’s nuclear-powered fleet.
The prototype reactor was decommissioned in 1996 and the 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.
He said a person standing near the outside of the tank for an hour would receive less radiation exposure than a passenger on a cross-country flight from New York to Seattle.
Ms. DelRaso said that the company transporting the tank planned to have three escort vehicles and three State Police vehicles accompanying the truck.
Because the trailer is wide, drivers can’t pass on two-lane roads until the flatbed comes to a stop and escorts allow traffic to pass, he said.
The shipment required numerous permits, all of which included advance notice of the operation, as well as approval of the proposed route and time, Ms. DelRaso said.
The truck left the Kesselring site on Jan. 5 and crossed into northeastern Pennsylvania on Wednesday night, he said.
It was expected to arrive in Wampum, Pennsylvania, about 41 miles north of Pittsburgh, on January 21. The tank will then be disassembled, some will be recycled, and the rest will be disposed of.
A winter storm forecast to hit the Northeast over the weekend could complicate travel. The National Weather Service has warned of hazardous road conditions, with first estimates four inches of snow or more in parts of Pennsylvania.
Perkins Specialized Transportation Contracting, a super freight and heavy-haul logistics company in Becker, Minn., which was transporting the tank, declined to comment on the commitment Thursday.
But the job isn’t the biggest the company has completed.
In the summer of 2018, it shipped seven engines weighing 318 tons each on a 61-mile route from a port in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, according to the company’s website. The shipment 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 urged people to track the supercharge on social media using the hashtag #PAsuperload22.
“It’s going to be a team effort, with soldiers from at least six different stations participating at various intervals,” said Lt. Adam Reed, a state police spokesman. “Safety and security will be our top priorities, and we ask for your patience as we make sure you get to your destination safely.”