by Jon M. Casey
With the nation’s ongoing desire to improve its roadways and bridges, comes the need for engineers and designers to meet that commitment. Modern interstate highways and bridges are being upgraded and rebuilt as funding becomes available. At the same time, suppliers and contractors who are a part of this industry are looking for ways to meet the increasing demand being placed upon them to deliver the materials that make up this infrastructure. With that kind of foresight in mind, Northeast Prestressed Products (NPP) of Cressona, PA unveiled their fleet of nine new Nelson eight axle steerable beam transport trailer systems that will move tomorrow’s bridge beams to the job site, over roadways and bridges that may still be in need of repair or replacement themselves.
According to Tom Koons, president of NPP, the recent acquisition of the new Nelson eight axle, steerable beam transport trailer systems, was the result of the company’s desire to transport bridge beams that are heavier than in the past, and to do it in a safe and conscientious way. Koons said that new bridges are being designed with longer spans and greater load bearing capabilities, which makes the support beams larger as well. With this increased weight comes the need to disperse it effectively and legally, over a greater number of axles in the transporting process. With a weight limitation of 23,000-pounds per axle in some states, the need for these larger custom made trailers became part of a capital improvement program instituted by NPP.
“We made several improvements to our facility over the past year,” said Koons at their open house and plant tour September 23, 2016. “In addition to the nine new trailers, we installed a new concrete batch plant, replaced two concrete box forms and added two battery mold forms for producing precast concrete abutments. We also acquired a 70 ton Mi-Jack straddle carrier for loading and moving our products.”
“We wanted to be able to meet the various challenges that would face us as we move our bridge beams over the existing roadways, many of which are in need of repair as well,” he said. “We knew that bridge designers would be requiring larger and heavier beams in the future and our existing fleet of trailers would not be able to disperse that load over enough axles to travel the roadways safely. So, we went with these Nelson trailers.”
“Now we can move our bridge beams with greater precision and safety, throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region,” he added. “We can be legal up to 400,000-pounds! Thus far, the largest beam we have moved to a job site was one that went to Pike County here in Pennsylvania. It was 172-feet long and weighed 118 tons.”
Koons said that while they were in the process of making their plant improvements, they also opted to include an elevated, concrete scale pad that would make DOT inspections easier and safer. “Every shipment is weighed and approved by DOT inspectors before it leaves the yard,” he said. “They used to have to do that on the gravel instead of concrete. During the winter and during rainy weather, that made for some challenging work. With this new concrete pad, the loads can be placed on a clean, flat surface and the inspectors can do their inspections safely.”
A closer look at the new steerable beam trailers reveals a number of innovative features that make transporting a bridge beam more efficient. The hydraulic steering capability allows for a minimum of 30 degrees of turning. The hydraulic steering is wireless and can be controlled from the cab of the tractor hauling the beam or by the rear escort driver. The rear assembly includes a hydraulic lift tower that can be actuated to lift the beam when the delivery takes place on uneven ground. By lifting the beam, it helps reduce the chance of bottoming out as it traverses a ditch or swale.
There is a manual back up valve on the trailer that comes into play if there is an electrical problem or the transmitter has a dead battery. During normal highway travel, the steering can be locked or allowed to “float” when desired.
Currently, one of the ongoing job sites being supplied by NPP is the new Goethals Bridge Replacement Project on Interstate 278. This $1.5 billion project will link Elizabeth, NJ with Staten Island, NY across the Arthur Kill channel, and is one of three toll bridges that cross between the two. To date, NPP has delivered more than 5,000 bridge deck sections as part of the project.
For more information on Northeast Prestressed Products, visit their website at www.npp-lcc.com .