How to Load an Excavator: Excavator Shipping 101

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In the construction business, moving and hauling your heavy equipment and machinery can be a regular task – especially an excavator shipping. You never know where you are going to get your new project when you are done with your current one. And of course, while relocating, you are not on your own. There are a bulk of huge machinery and equipment along with you that needs to be transported as well. The question here is how to do it? Should you worry about it? Well, if you do it very carefully, and by following every step during the excavator shipping, it should just happen without any trouble. But surely, moving such heavy machinery can be a difficult task.

Excavator Accidents and Hazards

Before jumping onto the step-by-step process of safely loading and hauling an excavator, let’s have a look at what can go wrong if it doesn’t happen according to the plan. Excavator accidents and hazards are no joke. A minor mistake can easily result in a fatal accident. So, you have to be very careful while loading and hauling an excavator.

Most accidents involving excavators are reported while they are working on a slope or a ramp, or while they are on the move. A moving excavator can be very dangerous for the pedestrians as such a large and heavy object in all its momentum, can be very difficult to control. Especially while it is reversing, the operator cannot have a clear rearview, and it can easily strike a pedestrian.

While working on a slope, there is a high chance that an excavator can trip and fall from some height. These accidents can be very dangerous as they can do a lot of harm and might as well be fatal to the operator as well as other workers standing near to it. Also, while operating an excavator, there is a chance that the operator will pull a lever a bit too hard causing the bucket to move quickly and with a greater force than necessary. Such an accident is discussed below, where a worker died as a result of slewing.

According to a report from The Construction Index UK, a construction company’s employee, while operating an excavator, accidentally killed another worker by pinning him against a wall with the excavator’s bucket. The excavation was being done for the construction of a vehicle washing area. There have been several other reports as well, highlighting the fatality of accidents due to mishandled loading or excavator shipping.

Things to Consider While Loading an Excavator

Excavator shipping can be one a hell of a difficult task, involving a high chance of mishaps. Not following the recommended guidelines while doing that or ignoring any safety measure can prove deadly. So, it is not an option. You have to follow every step as it is instructed. Here is a guideline for you that might help avoid any mishap while dealing with such heavy machines.

Choose the Appropriate Trailer and Truck for Excavator Shipping

Choosing the appropriate size of the trailer that can tolerate the weight of an excavator and pull it across, can be very crucial. You have to be sure that the trailer and truck that you are selecting for the task are capable enough to do it properly. Many excavator involving accidents reported are due to small and comparatively weak trailers that are incapable of carrying such huge weights. Trailers can be detached from their trucks, setting themselves wild on a road or a highway and putting several lives at risk.

Also, there can be situations on a highway, when an excavator is being hauled across, and the restraints on it were not tight and strong enough to hold it in its momentum. And it falls off its trailer bed putting the nearby vehicles at a huge risk. To avoid such situations, the trailer and truck being chosen should be capable enough.

But before checking the capability of the truck or trailer, you should know exactly how heavy and massive your excavator is. And for that, you should measure its dimensions, know the number of all its attachments, and double-check if any of its parts are loosely fitted. Also, you need to know what else is to be hauled along with it. After knowing your maximum requirements, go for something that meets those requirements easily.

There are some standard towing and weight carrying capacities like GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) that are assigned to trailers and trucks by their manufacturers. GVWR includes the trailer’s weight and the maximum weight it can pull. The weight of the excavator plus the trailer’s weight must not exceed the assigned GVWR. Towing weights heavier than that not only is unsafe but can also result in a fine.

Lastly, there is also a need for a commercial driver’s license if the weight that you are carrying exceeds a state assigned limit. The requirement of a commercial driver’s license is also applicable if you are not carrying any weight and driving an empty truck and trailer. It is because the requirement of a CDL applies to the hauling capacity of your towing vehicle.

Setting Up Your Trailer for Work for Excavator Shipping

After you are done with all the assurance checks, you can begin with setting up your vehicle for work. Following are a few steps and safety measures that must be followed while setting up your trailer and loading your excavator:

  • When an excavator or a heavy object is put on the top of a trailer bed, the trailer lowers down a little. So, it is better to raise the jack of the trailer to its maximum capacity to avoid any contact with the ground.
  • Put the safety pin in the hitch coupler lock to avoid any risks.
  • Put the chains in such a way that the chances of detachment become minimum. It is always safe to pass the chains through the hitch and crisscross them underneath it to avoid any uncertainty.
  • Do not tighten the chains too much as it can make them easily breakable on a turn or a situation where a little more pressure is applied to them. Not too tight and not too loose – maintain the right balance.
  • Attach the harness of your trailer to your truck and double-check that all the lights of your tow truck like indicators, brake lights, and headlights are working properly.
  • Test the trailer’s electrically operated detachment system. In an emergency, even if the hitch coupler detaches the trailer, the chains will keep it intact, bringing it to a controlled stop.

Now that you have checked and applied all these safety measures, you can begin loading your excavator and prepare for a move. You must park your vehicle in a safe and open area where everyone can see it for their safety. Make sure that there is no visual obstruction for other drivers and pedestrians and keep a check that the trailer is attached to your truck at all times. The detachment of the trailer during the loading process can cause the trailer to drift away from its position, risking others.

Here are a few steps that you must follow while safely loading and securing an excavator on your trailer:

  • While loading the excavator, you must lower down the ramps as much as required and align the excavator with the trailer in such a way that the dozer blade, arm, and boom faces the trailer.
  • Drive the excavator forward and position it in such a way that its center just passes the middle of the axle of the trailer.
  • Maneuver and lower the boom and blade such that it just touches the bed of the trailer, and it faces rearward.
  • Now switch off the excavator and get out of it. Have a look at the trailer and truck and make sure that they are sitting at the right level.
  • To secure the excavator properly, make use of at least four chains to hold it intact. The purpose behind using four chains is that it joins to all the designated points and secures every corner on the trailer bed.
  • Thre are some specified points on the trailer bed dedicated to securing the dozer blade. Adjust the dozer blade across those points.
  • Secure the bucket and excavator’s other loose parts to the trailer using a chain.
  • Lift the ramps and secure them.

Now, after carefully following all these steps, you are good to go. There are still some final tips and checks, and it is safe to consider them. Firstly, check the electric brakes and ensure that they are working fine after the addition of the excavator’s weight. For a test run, you can drive your truck at a speed of 5 mph and then apply the electric brake manually to check if they are effective enough. If you feel that your vehicle is slowing down steadily, it means that the brakes are working just fine. Applying the brake with greater intensity can cause your vehicle to jerk, you can adjust it accordingly.

Since this whole process involves a lot of risks, it is always good to practice an extra precautionary measure. Of course, you don’t want your equipment to get detached in the middle of a road and go straight into someone else’s vehicle. So, after everything is done, it is always good to take a walk around the truck, trailer, and excavator to check that everything’s fine and done according to the procedure. Check the lights, the coupler, the hitch, and the chains that they are intact.

Check the tires that they are inflated enough, the lug nuts, panels, and doors, etc. Once you are 100% certain that you are not missing anything, get yourself moving. There are also some additional tips that you can consider while loading and hauling an excavator. For example, instead of ramps, use a trailer with a tilting deck. Saves time and makes the loading and unloading process easy. For a smoother and quieter loading experience, buy trailers with rubber-mounted axles instead of springs.

Keep your equipment and vehicle clean all the time. Keep removing the dirt and mud and watch out for any debris left as, during the travel, it can fly off in wild directions and hit other cars. If the exhaust tip of the excavator is facing towards the road, close it using tape to prevent any dirt entering its engine. Lastly, follow all the discussed steps religiously, travel safely, and keep others safe as well. Happy loading and hauling!