The scenic route by heavy haul

January 4, 2012  | by: Big Al Weekley

[Excerpted from Weekley’s column, “Music Talk: The other side of Big Al’s life,” in Nebraska’s Bertrand Herald weekly]

There are many ingenious ways to bend or beat Department of Transportation laws in this wonderful land of ours. One way to do that is to use other laws to circumvent the one giving you trouble. I did that once helping a trucker friend stuck at a scale house in Missouri in 1994.

That unforgettable night at my then home in beautiful Colorado, I got a call from my boss. My colleague and buddy Ron had been pulled in and detained east of Kansas City.

Both of us worked for the same company. We hauled excavators, dozers, motor graders and other heavy equipment with a Big 4 axle Bulldog sporting a Mack E7 460-hp and dragging a 55-ton lowboy with detachable gooseneck for easy loading and unloading. On that particular job, Ron had been sent to Dyersburg, Tenn., to pick up a new Caterpillar motor grader.

The motor grader he was hauling was over the permit limit he had with him, and they shut him down. The state transportation department told him that he couldn’t leave there without taking the motor grader apart and hauling half of the parts on another truck.

Our boss instructed me to leave that night with a smaller truck and head for Missouri to help Ron get out of his bind. I drove all night to get to the little motel where my friend was holed up. About 2 the next afternoon, we went to the scale house of what we called Extreme Pain.

The scale house inspectors told us that bringing in a crane, taking the motor grader apart and lifting parts onto my trailer would cost about $5,000.

Ron and I returned to the motel to think about our dilemma and respond to our boss’s frequent phone calls. By morning, I had a plan.

We confirmed with the DOT office by phone that no laws prevented driving a motor grader, or any other rubber-tired machine on the side state or county roads. Then I told Ron we were going to unload that grader.

He looked at me in disbelief, not unlike the confused look of a deer caught in the headlights.

We headed back to the scale house, detached the goose-neck and set the lowboy on the ground. In about five minutes, one of the DOT officers came out and asked us what we were doing.

“We’re getting ready to solve this problem,” I replied. Ron and I back the motor grader off the lowboy and loaded my smaller truck onto his lowboy. When I told they, by then, all five DOT officers standing around us that I was going to road the grader home, they laughed. I told Ron I’d meet him outside Kansas City, on the Kansas side.

Cruising at a whoppin’ speed of 30 mph, I drove the grader down through the corner of the corn field, through the gate and hit the gravel road. As I came into Kansas City, Mo., rush hour traffic was at its peak. I spotted a small, nearly empty used car lot, pulled the big CAT motor grader into the lot and jumped out.

“I’ll give $20 to anyone who can get me through Kansas City with this thing the quickest and easiest way,” I said to passersby who were amazed. A volunteer stepped up to the task, and I followed him through what seemed like downtown to the long bridge that crosses the Missouri River into Kansas.

Ron was waiting for me on the other side’s first exit when I drove across, just like I knew what I was doing. He’d already detached the lowboy and unloaded my truck so I drove up onto the lowboy and chained everything down. Our boss couldn’t believe what we’d done when we called him.

The DOT was left standing in amazement and couldn’t do a thing about what they witnessed. The boss got his new motor grader. I got a bonus and a small pay raise.

And Ron? He got out of a lot of trouble.

Big Al Weekley and his wife, Bonnie Weekley, publish the Bertrand Herald newspaper. A longtime music performer, Big Al is also host of the “Dispatch Me Home” online trucking radio show at dispatchmehomeradio.com.

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