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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingOctober 17 - October 23, 2018

Frozen Taters Fiasco

0 40f01By Jim "Buck" Sorrenti

Ralph E. Hanser is the president/CEO of Hanser's Wrecker Co. The company, established in 1965, is a family-owned corporation with multiple locations in Montana. Spencer Hanser is the recovery supervisor, operations manager and strike team leader.

On Feb. 4, Hanser's received a call from the Montana Highway Patrol to respond to a rolled over tractor-trailer.

"We received a call from Montana Highway Patrol about a tractor-trailer on its side, loaded with frozen food that was lying across a culvert and was blocking the driving lane of traffic at Interstate 94 Eastbound Mile Marker 27," Spencer said. "Due to severe weather (snow, ice, blizzard/extreme cold) we had to push the recovery off until it was safe for crews to be on scene."

Over three days, Hanser's dispatched a lot of equipment and responded with a large crew. This crew included Spencer as project supervisor, additional wrecker operators, DOT-certified flaggers, a trans-load crew (including a loader and operator), and 24-hour dispatch.

The main recovery wreckers were "Little Louie," a 2002 Peterbilt with a 2002 Challenger 6807 40-ton heavy wrecker operated by Zack Wilson, and "Twister," a 2002 Peterbilt with a 2002 Century 1040S 40-ton rotator operated by Spencer.

"On February 6, we mobilized to this accident scene," Spencer said. "A traffic control unit had gone ahead of us and set up traffic control two miles prior to the accident as required by DOT. We had to sign both sides of I-94 eastbound starting two miles before the work zone. This required 18 DOT signs, 50 cones, 50 candle sticks and 20 flashing lights."

The tractor was a 2015 Volvo VNL with a 2014 Great Dane reefer trailer loaded with boxes of frozen potatoes.

"We sent out a service truck and mechanic to take down some of the fence and remove a trailer door. We then sent out a transfer trailer and ERS unit loaded with a Case loader with chains on both axles," Spencer said. "When this unit arrived on scene, he started removing snow so we could access the cargo.

"The transfer crew and trailer arrived and the crew starts at the bottom to start removing the cargo and stacking it on a pallet. We could only make a half pallet because of the steep incline; the loader couldn't bring a full pallet from the wreck to the transfer trailer."

A crew at the transfer trailer re-stacked and shrink-wrapped the pallets. The cargo had to be trans-loaded into Hanser's trailer before being transported to their yard. This was a very labor-heavy and time-consuming process.

Once the cargo had all been trans-loaded, the 40-ton wrecker and 40-ton rotator started to winch the truck and trailer out of the culvert and up near the roadway. Spencer coordinated the rigging.

"Once it was in a position where we could upright it," he said, "the straps and rigging were placed around the trailer to both upright and restrain the unit when it came over. The rotator and the 40-ton wrecker worked in unison to upright the unit while the Case loader restrained the unit from hitting the ground too hard. Once the unit was on its wheels, we winched it up on the interstate."

The Volvo tractor was hooked up to the Challenger's heavy-duty under-reach and the Great Dane reefer trailer to the Century's heavy-duty under-reach. The units were brought to Hanser's yard in Billings.

All debris was picked up and put in the trailer. Traffic control was then picked up using two ERS units and three DOT-certified operators. The Case loader was reloaded onto the equipment trailer and all units cleared the scene.

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Do you have a recovery to share with TIW readers? Send some pics and info to our Field Editor Jim "Buck" Sorrenti at ; your story may even be selected for print in American Towman magazine!
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