By Charlie Morasch
During every haul David Wild makes, he looks down at his speedometer and sees it registering half a mile an hour.
Instead of becoming impatient with the truck’s lumbering pace, David smiles.
The owner of Wild Heavy Haul in LaGrange, GA, David says he prefers specializing in 320,000-pound payloads that rarely move more than a few miles at a time.
“I disagree with having to run 80 miles per hour, day in and day out – that’s what we got tired of,” says David.
A native of New Hampshire, the OOIDA member hauled produce from Maine until he realized he wasn’t earning enough pay to justify his work.
“We run less than a mile per hour, one mile per week,” David says. “Work less, work smart.”
Wild Heavy Haul specializes in moving large pieces of equipment, usually used for infrastructure projects.
In mid-March, David’s company moved a 170,000-pound piece of duct work for a Duke Energy power plant in Durham, NC.
The 40-foot wide, 36-foot tall duct was placed between a power plant and smokestack, Wild says, but a carefully detailed process ensured the equipment’s safe delivery.
David says the truck inched the duct down a secured road and the crew was assisted by utility workers and others who made sure power lines weren’t hit.
Wild Heavy Haul’s hauling processes have become refined over time, David says, and the company has a global presence as well, including recent trips to Ghana and Tanzania to move power plant equipment.
“This to me is a hobby,” David tells Land Line. “I like doing the ones they keep telling us we can’t do – it’s a challenge.”
Slowing it down
David was 18 years old in 1976 when he bought a 1965 B-model Mack tractor for $3,500 and hit the road.
David admits that a combination of being young and driving in an era of fewer regulations during the 1970s led him to take risks he wouldn’t consider taking today.
“I know about hauling freight and not getting caught,” David says. “I used to get pulled over and the cops would just shake their head (saying), ‘you’re only 18.’ ”
He mostly hauled produce and found himself struggling to haul enough to pay his bills. It didn’t take long for David to start looking for different work.
Only two years later, David began hauling what eventually would become his niche – heavy payloads.
Eight years ago, David decided his company would focus solely on heavy haul.
“I said, ‘we want to haul big stuff,’ ” David says. “And here we are today; that’s what we do.”
David’s company has grown exponentially in recent years.
Since 1999, David says the company has grown from a one-man operation to five employees with two Kenworths, three Internationals and one Autocar.
“Everybody here has hauled just about everything there is to haul,” David says. “Most of us started in the produce business – you’ve gotta get away from the cheap freight.”
Some of David’s current jobs pay as much as $7,000 per mile. With that pay, however, comes additional pressures, David says.
Many of David’s jobs include backing fiberglass smokestack liners into large concrete smokestacks at power plants. Many of the smokestack liners are 38 feet wide and 49 feet tall as they sit on a trailer. The smokestack openings are only 38 feet, seven inches wide by 50 feet tall. Backing the liner into the smokestack is complicated by the driver’s inability to see behind the cab.
A team of Wild Heavy Haul workers helps the driver guide the liner into the smokestack.
“We have three and a half inches on each side to back that up into,” David says. “To see around it you’d have to have mirrors that are 38 feet wide. We’re always complaining to manufacturers that we can’t get a truck to go slow enough.”
In 2003, a crew from Wild Heavy Haul went to Iraq to haul turbine-driven power plants made by General Electric that David describes as “the world’s biggest portable power plants.”
A crew of about 20 Iraqi drivers helped provide electricity for thousands of Iraqis as the country attempted to maintain infrastructure during the Iraq War.
The crew built a power plant capable of generating 22.8 megawatts, which David estimates would produce enough electricity to power more than 40,000 homes in Iraq.
It came with a price, however.
Soon after their arrival, David and his employees knew it wouldn’t be like home.
“We didn’t even have a camp – we lived in a freaking tent,” he says.
David says he was proud to supervise Iraqis who worked to rebuild their war-torn country.
“The people I worked with were as good as any American crew and just as good working,” David says.
David says the overseas rebuilding effort didn’t carry every safety precaution taken in the United States, and some contractors became casualties.
Wild says two Iraqi drivers he supervised were killed after a load of large generator equipment collapsed.
“They hit a bridge and the load came down on top of them and killed them.”
David says he believed the war effort was undermined by actions of contract workers who he saw point weapons and disrespect Iraqi civilians.
“I said then that ‘if you pulled what you pulled here in the Bronx, you’d be dead in an hour,’ ” David says.
Expeditionary Global Logistics, a company that specializes in arranging private air transportation, counts Wild Heavy Haul as one of three such companies it partners with to haul large items.
The company partnered with David’s company to move equipment to Iraq and has partnered with the company for other projects where infrastructure is needed. The companies arranged to transport Wild Heavy Haul equipment to countries in Africa as well as inside the U.S. during the recent effort to rebuild New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.
One company official told Land Line that David’s crew is experienced and confident.
“I know of the two or three companies we’ve worked with, they certainly are the best,” said Don Berry, vice president of strategic development and planning for XGL. “They’ve always been there when we needed it.”
XGL has arranged for David’s company’s heavy-haul equipment to be moved by ship and by air.
David says his trucks have flown in the largest plane in the world, the Ukraine-based Antonov An-225, of which only one actual plane exists.
The truck backs into the plane’s loading ramp and flies as cargo to the plane’s destination, where the truck emerges from the plane and is driven to a job site.
Running his company doesn’t leave much free time, but David says he enjoys spending downtime with wife, Dana, and stepson, Andrew.
All too often David says he notices owner-operators complain about low pay and bad hours without taking action.
“Truckers don’t do anything about the situation they’re in,” says David. “The opportunity is there if you just get off your butt and do it.”
Owner-operators who feel underpaid and overworked should look to find a niche they can perform, David says, as his decision to switch from produce to heavy hauls.
Drivers should be resourceful when looking at their budgets, including purchases of everything from fuel to tractors, David says.
When David started hauling heavy loads, he’d heard of drivers spending $250,000 on rigs.
“We started with a $20,000 truck and we were moving loads that weighed 250,000 pounds,” David says.
“A trucker’s best friend is his calculator.”