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Wide load: massive moves require careful coordination.

The March move of a 32-ton Medium Launch Mate Unit from Cape Canaveral, Fla., to Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., became the largest item ever trucked from coast to coast. Some 50 police escorts facilitated sage passage.

Record-setting or not, super-loads like this one that are essential to national defense can only be expedited with the help of a handful of traffic management specialists in the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command's Operation Center, Fort Eustis, Va.

Their mission: to ensure on-time delivery by speeding the permit process.

Highway maintenance engineers declared the MLMU move a record, said Bill Cantillon, general manager of Yowell International. The specialized multimodal carrier trucked the unit through eight states in 12 days and delivered on time.

The Air Force MLMU supports the launch of Delta IV rockets, Cantillon said.

"It's truly important that we carriers and SDDC work together so that authorities at all levels--national, state and municipalities--are aware of the national defense implications of these loads," he said.

Brian Ridgway is among those who generate letters of essentiality, which validate that the cargo is essential to national defense. Ridgway also assists by coordinating with shippers, commercial motor carriers, permit agents and state permitting offices to help ensure a smooth operation.

Another notable move was a 24-foot wide generator that was used to help rebuild Iraqi power grids, Ridgway said.

The weight of the generator was distributed across 13 axles. The massive rig required four drivers-two steering the tractors and two riding atop and steering specially built trailers.

Along some parts of the route, four lanes of interstate highway were closed down as the rig moved. It traveled at 35 mph, often moving at night and around major cities to avoid disrupting traffic, he said.

The trailer carrying the generator rode just two feet off the ground, spanning the median along parts of the route as one tractor pulled and one tractor pushed the apparatus.

"Because of the low clearance, medians had to be free of trees and other obstructions," Ridgway said. "In some cases, the state removed road signs and then reinstalled them after the cargo passed by."

Moving any overweight or overdimensional cargo over the highways requires permits from each state through which the superloads will travel. Permits ensure that carriers comply with safety laws and designate the route that drivers must take.

However, the permitting process can be lengthy, particularly when a number of states are involved.

"We send the letter of essentiality to the state DOT's so the states can expedite the permits," said transportation management coordinator Steve Beck. "Sometimes that's the only way that this essential cargo can meet its required delivery date."

States can also allow travel on weekends and holidays or waive certain restrictions to keep the cargo moving, Beck said.

Since 2001, the command has managed more than 2,000 essential super-loads in the continental United States, Ridgway said, most of which consist of Department of Defense cargo--tanks, aircraft, armored vehicles and the like.

The Navy, for example, moves about 15 ship and submarine screws annually between ports and refurbishment facilities, said Terry Bledsoe, materiel and transportation officer for the Naval Supply Systems Command at the Fleet and Industrial Supply Center, Norfolk, Va.

The 35-ton propellers are up to 23 feet wide. Lying flat on a trailer, they would hang more than 7 feet over each side. However, to reduce load clearances, carriers use specially built hydraulic jigs.

"Mounting the screw onto the jig and tilting it at a 45-degree angle reduces the width and adds height," said Marshall Scott, of Landstar Ligon, in August as he supervised the loading of a screw from U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt onto his rig.

The driver said that he has hauled hundreds of the screws using his trailer-jig outfit. His is one of six trailers in commercial industry used solely to transport U.S. Navy carrier and submarine screws.

Agencies outside DOD also seek SDDC's assistance in moving essential oversize cargo, such as the Department of Energy, the National Transportation Safety Board and NASA.

"Whatever we move, we balance the delivery needs of these shippers with the safety of the motoring public," Ridgway said. "Since the start of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001, there hasn't been a single missed port-call due to permitting issues."

Patti Bielling, Public Affairs Officer SDDC Operations Center
COPYRIGHT 2005 U.S. Military Traffic Management Command
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Author:Bielling, Patti
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2005
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