Peterbilt Model 579, Bragg Crane Service
JB Buksa (left) and one of the Peterbilt Model 579s he relies on for lightweight performance at Bragg Crane Service, and Bobby Weyers (right) alongside one of the Model 365s he depends on with the Heavy Transport fleet.

Working the Plan

Bigger is generally better at Heavy Transport, the division of the Bragg family of companies headquartered in Long Beach, Calif.

That goes for the size of the load — Heavy Transport delivers condensers up to 600,000 lbs. on trailers that themselves weigh up to 200,000 lbs. — and the scope of the project. With nine such trailers, dozens of smaller specialized trailers and a fleet of 67 power units, nearly all heavy-spec’ed Peterbilts, the company is uniquely qualified to tackle projects that require multiple specialized hauls.

But at sister company Bragg Crane Service, it’s a different kind of organizational fluidity and efficiency that drives success. The fleet of about 300 power units, about 80 percent of which are Peterbilts and half of which are Model 579s, is spec’ed for weight savings to ensure delivery and setup of a crane in as few loads as possible.

Despite their differences, the companies — as well as Bragg Crane & Rigging — operate in complementary fashion, often sharing assets and capitalizing on synergy where it exists in their customers’ structural steel erection, large-scale moving and crane rental projects.

Run ‘forever’

Some of the Bragg Crane and Heavy Transport trucks are new; some date back to the 1990s. They are occasionally passed from one division to the next.

“We keep them forever because they run forever,” says Bobby Weyers, General Manager at Heavy Transport. “They have to perform.”

Given the size of the loads, its no wonder that Weyers ensures a thorough preventive maintenance plan is in place for his equipment. The numbers are eye-popping. While a 600,000-lb. condenser was unusual, more common is a job such as the 50 refinery coolers, each weighing 90,000 lbs., that came into the Port of Los Angeles for delivery to Nevada “as fast as we can get them there,” according to Weyers. It’s a Heavy Transport haul that subcontracts Bragg Crane Service to off-load the equipment.

“We’re at our best at project work like that,” says Weyers. “That’s where we excel because we have so much equipment. We use nine-axle trailers that can haul 165,000 lbs. each on a job like that.”

At the front of that rig is typically a Peterbilt traditional conventional, either a Model 389 or 365. The heaviest spec includes a 600-hp Cummins ISX set for 2050 lb./ft. of torque, 18-speed Fuller transmission with a two-speed “brownie” box, 52,000-lb. Neway suspension with a 4.33 rear end ratio, and a 22,000-lb. steer axle.

The biggest hauls — those that might necessitate a dual-lane, 20-foot-wide, 290-foot-long, 14-axle trailer — also require a couple of Peterbilt push trucks. These vehicles are mostly Model 389s with Rockinger hitches to link them together and counterweights to improve traction.

Reliability is key 

Fuel economy is not a tremendous concern for Weyers. But reliable performance is absolutely essential, given the amount of planning and preparation that can go into a haul.

“We have full time route supervisors who go out and do route surveys, study bridge clearances, find out where trees have to be trimmed, or where corner work is necessary to make a turn,” he says. “We just finished moving a 500,000-lb. cooler in Oklahoma. It was only a 600-mile route, but we had to work on that route for a month and a half, just making sure we could make the turns.”

Specialty permits often dictate the times Heavy Transport can run these big loads.

“We can’t have breakdowns in this line of work,” he says. “The Peterbilt dealer network has helped us out when we have trucks working out of state. There’s a lot of customer service from the dealership that helps us do what we do.”

Crane Service

On the other side of the yard works J.B. Buksa, the operations manager for Bragg Crane Service. Buksa’s 300-truck fleet includes a number of units that had previously served in the Heavy Transport fleet, but many are relatively new Peterbilt Model 579s in day cab configurations. The Crane Service company’s primary responsibility is to get a crane, in a wide variety of sizes and configurations, to a job site, such as a large construction project or a wind farm, where it can be off-loaded and put to work.

A typical project will require three or four loads, one for crane operations and others for booms and counterweights, as necessary. The drivers are typically the same people who will operate the crane, and their new tractors are spec’ed light, with aluminum wheels and single 110-gallon fuel tanks to achieve chassis weight under 16,000 pounds.

A crawler crane, with a lifting capacity of 3,500 tons, might require 15 loads or more to get all the necessary components to a job site, but Buksa says all the loads he runs gross out at less than 80,000 lbs.

Reliability is a must on this side of the business as well.

“The crawler crane might go to a refinery, for example, and they’ll give us a timeline, telling us which trailers they want at what time,” says Buksa. “It’s highly organized.

“We plan to work and work our plan,” he adds. “We’ll put as much on these trucks and trailers as we can.”

Driver preferences

While the Heavy Transport side of the business tends to concern itself more with powertrain matters than other Peterbilt features and benefits, Buksa says his drivers are different.

“Some guys will tell you a truck is a truck,” he says. “Not my guys. They’ll tell you, ‘I want a Peterbilt.’ They don’t shake. They don’t rattle. They love ‘em.”

Drivers get a dedicated ride on the Crane side, reports Buksa.

“Some drivers and operators are a little particular about things,” he says. “We had a driver back in the day, he drove one of the other makes of truck we had around here. He had a rattle in the dash and he couldn’t find it. He went to Home Depot and bought some of that foam, and he filled his whole dash with it.

“You see, our drivers are around noisy equipment all day so when they get in their Peterbilt, they appreciate that peace and quiet while they’re driving. The visibility is better in them too. They just prefer them.

“They’ll follow the work,” he adds. “So it’s our job to keep ‘em busy, keep ‘em in good equipment and keep ‘em happy.”

Understanding the needs of both companies is the job of their Peterbilt dealer partner, and that task can be complicated in California given the higher standards of emissions compliance.

“We leave a lot of our spec up to our dealer rep,” says Weyers. “We tell him what it needs to do and he puts it together for us. We might give them the wheelbase or frame layouts we’re looking for, and he just runs with the rest and gives us different options.”

For Buksa, ensuring that said equipment not only performs reliably but keeps his drivers content is the key.

“I’ve driven them all,” he says. “I can understand where they’re coming from when they say, ‘I want a Peterbilt.’”