Heavy haul trucker passes through hometown

Shayne Mazur

With 14 axles on the road, Elvin Gilbert trucked through his native Greybull last Tuesday for the first time in a 30-year career enroute to deliver a convection heater from Tulsa, Okla. to the Laurel Refinery in Montana.

“It was just kind of special,” said Gilbert. “It’s the first time ever in 30 years. I came right through Greybull, right under the light.”

Working for Security Specialized Transportation (SST), located out Kiefer in the Tulsa area, Gilbert is one of a handful of individuals in the country who specializes in heavy hauling, a division of trucking that handles loads ranging from 150,000 to 300,000 pounds. 

Due to the weight and sometimes width of the equipment being transported, heavy hauling involves special permits, route surveys and front and rear pilot vehicles that may close sections of the route for safe passage.

Gilbert, who started freight hauling oversized loads in the 80s, said a demand for heavy hauling arose in the late 90s when companies needed heavy equipment transported to gas plants and refineries across the country.

From the first moment he was attached to the big trailer, Gilbert was hooked.

“I just loved it. I love the feel of 200,000 pounds rollin’ down a road. Back then it was just so cool to see that weight behind me, the trailer flexing and bouncin’, and I just knew how much weight was on it. That’s when I fell in love with heavy hauling.”

His career has seen him trucking equipment for the energy industry all over the country.

The convection heater Gilbert transported through Greybull weighed in at 110,000 pounds, putting the rig as a whole at around 200,000 pounds and giving it a height on almost 18 feet.

Tuesday marked the penultimate day of a week-long journey. Gilbert loaded the heater in Tulsa on March 16 (Thursday). He lost part of Friday waiting for a front pilot car after the initial car’s transmission went out, then spent several days on the road.

Gilbert’s route through Wyoming took him along the interstate from Cheyenne and through downtown Laramie. He came the back way to Casper and traveled through Wind River Canyon, which was a new experience at 18 feet tall.

“I had to drive in the center of the tunnels where it’s real high so my load wouldn’t hit the sidewalls,” he said.

After waving to family in Basin and Greybull, Gilbert arrived at the Laurel Refinery Tuesday evening where it took another day to offload the heater and make his way back home.

He averaged 35 mph over the course of his journey.

Despite retiring in 2013, Gilbert has returned to heavy hauling the past few years due to his familiarity and the lack of experienced heavy haul drivers available. Two years ago, he hauled modules during the construction of a gas plant at the inland Port of Catoosa in Oklahoma. Last December saw him transporting a cooler to Canada.

What was supposed to be a one-load deal with SST has turned into three months of subsequent work.

“I just enjoyed it so much I’m going to keep doing it,” he said. “I kind of like an adventure every now and then, you know?”