When the Moves Get Monstrous: Protecting Roads and Drivers from Heavy Hauls
Every day, freight-hauling vehicles traverse America’s roadways delivering the goods and materials we all rely on. But have you ever stopped to wonder what happens when the moves get heavy? These heavy moves, or oversize loads, could include transporting anything from a large construction crane to pre-built homes, military vehicles, and industrial equipment.
Whether the mega load is super heavy, super long, or super wide, it often falls to an engineering team to help keep the public safe and ensure that transportation infrastructure is not damaged in the moving process. For example, many bridges cannot support extremely heavy loads safely. Therefore, mega moves need exact and diligent structural analysis to ensure the safety of both the public and the bridges involved.
In Maryland, all vehicles exceeding certain weight limits must apply for special heavy move hauling permits before traveling on the state’s public highways. As you can imagine, these moves take a great deal of teamwork and coordination. EBA Engineering, Inc. (EBA) holds a one-of-a-kind contract with the Maryland State Highway Administration to supply the staff who escort these heavy loads throughout Maryland.
Since special engineering solutions are often necessary to accommodate heavy loads traveling over bridges, EBA’s structural engineers analyze each potential bridge crossing to confirm that they can handle the loads. Detours, special “articulated” truck systems, or even specially built temporary bridges are sometimes necessary to accommodate particularly heavy loads.
EBA also analyzes and rates bridges for special “multi-lane” permit vehicles that are increasingly used for mega moves of over 400,000 pounds. These vehicles use non-standard gauges that offer greater load distribution by varying the gauge or wheel spacing on different axles. However, since most bridge design and rating software is written for vehicles with standard wheel gauges, EBA engineers have come up with innovative methods and procedures to analyze and rate bridges under multi-lane permit vehicles.
EBA processes thousands of oversize/overweight vehicle hauling permit applications each year and is involved with 2 to 20 heavy moves each week. Nearly all of the moves happen during the night, and some can be 20+ hours long. The loads have ranged anywhere from 250,000 pounds to 1.8 million pounds (900 tons).
So the next time you see an oversize load while driving in Maryland, chances are EBA is working alongside the team, escorting the vehicles, protecting other drivers, and ensuring safe bridge crossings.
Alireza Tashakori, PE, is a senior project manager and structural engineer for EBA Engineering, Inc., specializing in building restoration, bridge rehabilitation, and utility structures. He can be reached at 410.545.8499 or firstname.lastname@example.org.