Hey Little Truckers, I hope everyone is well and has seen some cool trucks out and about. Recently, I had the chance to learn all about heavy haulage, and how over dimensional (high, wide, and heavy) loads are moved.

On a cool morning in April, Dad and I drove down to Reefton on the South Island’s West Coast, to meet up with Daniel McKenzie from Satherley Transport, who took me on a rather exciting trip.

Parked on Broadway (Reefton’s main street), was a stunning Kenworth T909 with a massive load on, a Hitachi EX1200 excavator weighing around 65 tonne.

We had a walk around the Kenworth. It has a 615hp Cummins Signature engine and was towing a two-rows-of-eight load divider and a four-rows-of-eight trailer. Let me explain a little more. Firstly, a loaddivider is a small trailer between the prime-mover (truck), and main trailer. Its job is to take some of the weight off the primer-mover and prevent overloading. Also, when we’re talking about heavy transporters like this one, we say ‘rows’ rather than axles. The reason is, there are no axles that run right across like a normal highway trailer, instead the wheels are in four groups of two across the width of the trailer – that’s why we say ‘eight’ (4×2=8). There are two groups at the outside, and two either side of centre. They are built like this so there are more wheels and tyres to carry the load. In total, we had 58 tyres on the road!

This colossal load was destined for the Stockton coal mine, north of Westport and I was lucky enough to be invited to come for the trip.

The excavator was so large that the cab, arm, and bucket had to be removed from it and was taken to Stockton the previous day on another truck.

Satherley Transport are a New Zealand-wide heavy haulage company. Their big blue Kenworths can be seen all over the country with some pretty cool loads on.

I climbed into the cab with Daniel and we headed off. Two pilot utes travelled in front of us, warning road users that a large vehicle was approaching, and they also let Daniel know of other hazards.

Many oversize load moves take place in the early hours of the morning to avoid traffic, however, this load was able to be done in the daytime, which was a special treat for all passersby to see.

The most direct way from Reefton to Stockton is via Inangahua Junction and the Lower Buller Gorge, however the load was too big to travel on that route.

Instead it was south over the Reefton Saddle (a big hill!) and down the Grey Valley. Daniel skilfully manoeuvred the load over the very narrow Mawheraiti Bridge, and we drove through the Grey Valley to Nelson Creek.

Here we turned left and travelled inland through Deep Creek, re-joining State Highway 7 at Stillwater just North of Greymouth.

From here it was across the Grey River and through Taylorville where we turned right onto State Highway 6 toward the coal town of Runanga.

Daniel has hauled many different loads in his time working for Satherley Transport, including different types of construction, forestry, and mining equipment.

He showed me a folder that had permits in it. They showed where the truck is able to travel and how much weight can be carried on certain roads. The permits also detail where the bridges are enroute and what instructions need to be followed when crossing a particular bridge with an oversized load.

I asked Daniel how heavy the truck, load divider, and trailer plus the excavator would weigh added together, he said “around 100 tonnes.”

North of Runanga State Highway 6 follows the coastline for much of the way towards Westport. At a place known as ‘the Ten-Mile’, Daniel executed a three-point-turn and crossed a bridge. I looked out the mirror and had an amazing view of the excavator from behind as it came across the bridge.

The sky darkened and a light drizzle started north of Punakaiki where the famous Pancake Rocks are, however this didn’t cause us any issues and the Kenworth with its big Cummins engine made easy work of the job.

As we got closer to Westport there was a lot more traffic around. We crossed the Buller River and turned into Mill Street. Unfortunately, after a fascinating day I had to say goodbye to Daniel.

Dad picked me up and we drove 25 minutes north to Granity where the Stockton mine turn-off is. We parked the car and patiently waited for Daniel at what is known as ‘The Grand Canyon’, a really steep section of the road into the mine. To help Daniel and the Kenworth get the load up the grade, Jared Avery from local Westport company Avery Brothers hooked his Hino tipper on the front.

The flashing of pilot vehicle lights came into sight, and we saw Jared, then Daniel. Working together they steadily climbed the incredibly steep mine access road.

We watched the excavator disappear through the gates into its new home at the mine where it will be put back together before going to work.

Just another day for a heavy haulage truck driver, but a lasting memory for a truck and heavy machinery enthusiast.