People in Montana have been noticing some big rigs on their highways, really big rigs.
Special trucks the size of a football field are carrying equipment cargo in “superloads” to the Canadian Tar Sands for oil extraction.
How big? One load that is coming up from the port of Houston and began its passage through Montana on Wednesday is 20 feet wide, slightly more than 20 feet tall and 290 feet long. It has 90 tires on 24 axles and weighs 917,000 pounds – so heavy that two trucks are attached to the rear to help push it along.
One truck’s cargo, weighing over a million pounds, contains a steam condenser unit headed for the tar sands in Saskatchewan. Heading in the opposite direction, giant trucks will be bringing natural gas equipment in from Canada to Wyoming. Not all of the heavy equipment is for detrimental energy projects such as the Canadian tar sands, but some trucks will be carrying giant generator blades to a wind farm in Alberta. Each load costs about $15,000 a day to ship.
Trucks transporting superloads are becoming an industry standard. Superloads are under strict restrictions, such as daytime travel only. These superload trucks often traverse two lane highways because their cargo is too large to fit under interstate overpasses.
All trucks have to pay gross vehicle weight fees and overweight permit fees, and the state tries to weigh each one somewhere on its passage through the state, to make sure it is meeting the gross-weight and per-axle weight limits.
One oil sands company has already notified the state of Montana they plan to bring up to 300 superloads through Montana in 2010 or 2011.
Image: DAVID GRUBBS/Gazette Staff