Innovators: Trailing ahead

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Anderson Trucking Service’s Heavy Haul Division, with the help of trailer manufacturer Trail King Industries, designed a 19-axle trailer that can carry loads up to 205,000 pounds.

There may one day be a shipment that’s too big or too heavy to move from one place to another, but don’t tell that to the people in charge at ATS Heavy Haul.

ATS Heavy Haul is a division of ATS Specialized, a wholly owned and operated subsidiary of Anderson Trucking Service Inc. With offices in the United States, Europe and the Caribbean, ATS is No. 55 on the CCJ Top 250 ranking of the nation’s largest for-hire trucking companies by revenue, equipment and drivers.

The St. Cloud, Minn.-based carrier, founded in 1955, started out hauling building granite and granite monuments, and has decades of experience moving oversized, overdimensional freight. Today, the company owns and operates more than 2,100 tractors and nearly 5,300 trailers, and employs more than 600 company drivers and about 1,600 owner-operators. Besides heavy haul, ATS also offers specialized, flatbed, van, logistics, specialized furniture, intermodal and international transportation services worldwide.

Five years ago, ATS Heavy Haul had two 13-axle trailers; now, with more than 175, ATS has the nation’s largest such fleet. During the same timeframe, the division’s 4-axle tractor fleet has expanded to more than 110. “Part of our business strategy has been to grow when the needs of our customers grow,” says Brent Anderson, operations director of the Heavy Haul Division. “It has been an exciting time for ATS Heavy Haul to grow this quickly.”

ATS Heavy Haul also has 7-axle and 10-axle configurations. The division’s equipment is diverse and customizable to meet customer requirements, Anderson says, with tractors that average 18 months of age and trailers 24 months. “ATS’ fleet is one of the youngest on the road, important when safety and dependability are key,” he says.

But even with the division’s substantial assets, one customer’s request simply couldn’t be handled. “We’ve evolved as one of the largest wind transportation companies,” says Mark Keul, Heavy Haul supervisor who works with Anderson. “One of our customers needed us to be able to haul a 200,000-pound piece to a wind tower.”

So the Heavy Haul Division – with the help of trailer manufacturer Trail King Industries – designed a monster-sized trailer to handle the mammoth load. In August, the 19-axle behemoth – which can carry loads up to 205,000 pounds – began hauling the customer’s wind-tunnel equipment.

Anderson says the 19-axle design also adds substantial flexibility for additional transportation solutions the company now can offer. The trailer has a 32-foot flat deck – expandable to 38 feet – for conventional heavy-haul cargo. The flat deck can be changed out for a 50-foot beam deck to haul equipment that needs specialized requirements. “Some of the bigger transformers and equipment built by ATS customers go on multiple, multiple axles,” Keul says. “We want to move whatever our customers need.”

In addition to the 19-axle trailer, ATS Heavy Haul also has fabricated a trailer to transport cargo more than 130 feet in length, Keul says. The company recently hauled a 130-foot stainless steel tank that was 10 feet in diameter and weighed more than 120,000 pounds.

“The market is strong,” says Rollie Anderson, ATS president and chief executive officer, who says he is pleased with the Heavy Haul Division’s growth. “That – coupled with the recent demands in the wind, energy and power industries – has allowed ATS to grow with our customers and add this type of equipment. We look forward to the challenges and opportunities this equipment will bring to the marketplace.”

Making arrangements
Of course, maneuvering a piece of equipment this size down the road is no Sunday drive.

Considerable arrangements have to be made weeks in advance, Brent Anderson says. Overweight shipments require careful planning and attention to details such as permits, routing, safety and equipment to ensure safe, on-time delivery. “Our in-house permit department speeds the up-front process,” Keul says.

ATS Heavy Haul offers national coverage – including Alaska – with service to Canada and Mexico, and can handle most international demands in tandem with its sister division, ATS International Services.

The company, with its computer-linked national network, can quickly locate the best-fit equipment nearest the customer and send it to their doorstep. And once the truck and trailer are on the road, ATS uses technology like satellite tracking to monitor its progress.

Of course, all of the technology and equipment in the world won’t perform up to par without having the best, most experienced drivers behind the wheel. “Safety is always one of our top concerns,” says Fred Koval, safety manager. “ATS Heavy Haul drivers average more than 18 years of experience. They go through intense training, including quarterly updates that are required of all ATS drivers.”

Many ATS drivers are decorated with top honors, including million-mile awards. Some drivers already are into their second million and halfway to their third – with zero accidents, Koval says. ATS handpicks drivers to fit the specifications of the project: A 30-year company veteran is the primary driver of the truck pulling the massive 19-axle trailer.

“ATS customers have unusually high expectations, and we like that,” Anderson says. “It inspires us to the achievement of their goals. It motivates us to overcome challenges, big and small, and it drives us to success. That is what our customers tell us.”

Innovators profiles carriers and fleets that have found innovative ways to overcome trucking’s challenges.

If you know a carrier that has displayed innovation, contact Avery Vise at [email protected] or (800) 633-5953.