Bennett gives a vintage bus a cross-country ride on the flatbed express.
Mike Kennon never knows what to expect on a job. He has to be ready for anything. It goes with the territory of being an agent for Bennett Motor Express and coordinating some of the largest, heaviest and most complex loads on America’s highways.
With these loads, the customers themselves often don’t know what to expect. They don’t have to. That’s Mike and the team at Bennett’s job. So customers don’t have to know about step deck trucking, the fine points of chain securement, the permit requirements of California, North Carolina and every state in between. Kennon’s team handles everything. His guiding belief is simple, “If it can be legally permitted or done, we can do it.”
Nevertheless, Kennon and driver, Benny Pharis of Ace Doran, a division of Bennett Motor Express, needed a couple extra of cups of joe to problem-solve a recent job that at first glance looked like a piece of coffee cake. The job was to move a 1952 Continental Trailways bus that High Brew coffee had converted into an amazing mobile coffee shop where consumers could chill out and sample their products. Check it out and how it was used in this video. The vehicle had recently completed a 16,000-mile sampling tour in 22 weeks. and it was Bennett’s job to haul the bus from California to North Carolina for its next assignment.
Caught between a bus and a hard spot
Pharis arrived at the San Diego storage facility expecting to drive the bus onto his step deck trailer, secure it and hit the road. But what he found was an in-op, or inoperable vehicle, that wasn’t driving anywhere on its own. After some investigating, Pharis discovered someone had stolen the battery and cables. A repair wasn’t practical under the circumstances, so he would need the reinforcement of not one, but two tow trucks.
Two wreckers and a load of expertise
The bus was originally parked in a tight spot with the expectation that eventually it would be driven out. That clearly wasn’t going to happen. Pharis arranged to have a regular tow truck go in and tow the bus out of the facility and down to the road. Then the bus was winched onto the second wrecker, a Landoll trailer with a tilting bed. The bus was then moved to another location where Pharis could get his step deck trailer and the Landoll back to back so it could be winched onto his trailer. The operation took place in San Diego traffic, which required careful attention to safety. Pharis’s many years of experience hauling heavy construction equipment helped him know what to do.
Bennett brings the right tools for the job
When it comes to unusual hauls like this, having the equipment for the job is essential. In this case, Pharis used a step deck trailer that enables vehicles to be rolled on and off. Regarding securement, he chained the bus down from the axels and applied spring hangers crisscross to hold it in place. Pharis’s 2018 Peterbilt tractor handled the cross-country haul in style. “It attracts a lot of attention. It has a big sleeper, kitchen, stove, fridge. Basically it’s like an RV. It has a shower and a bathroom, too,” he says.
Taking care and keeping it safe on the road
As a Bennett agent, Kennon’s commitment to safety stretches from the office to the off-ramp. “I want to protect everyone out there,” he says. “We will only do things legally and I absolutely won’t compromise on safety. If it will put someone else in jeopardy, we won’t do it.”
Once Kennon and Pharis had the antique bus was safely loaded, the challenges continued. The bus had to be carefully monitored throughout the 2,000-mile trek. “My biggest worry was parts falling off,” Pharis says. “It’s an old Trailways bus—the compartment latches had to be tied up with huge bungee cords because the 60 mph winds would loosen them.”
Standard procedure necessitated a precheck of the cargo 50-100 miles out and Pharis inspected the bus at every stop as well. It turns out he wasn’t the only one interested in the load. “When I’d stop at a rest area, a lot of people wanted to know the year and model and what it was used for,” Pharis says. “I had to explain it, so I looked it up online.”
The 3 C’s to success: Coordination, Communication, Coffee
Sometimes being early is just as bad as being late. The cross-country delivery had to be timed perfectly for after the Thanksgiving holiday when business reopened and a wrecker-assisted offload could be arranged. During the drive, Pharis worked in concert with his navigator-wife, Lora Ann, and Kennon to get estimates and book a towing partner for the delivery. When Pharis arrived, the planning paid off. “Unloading was simple. It only took us an hour versus the half-day it took us to load,” he recalls.
Pharis stayed in contact with the customer throughout. “She’d call to see how we’re doing, and if everything was going well.” Pharis explains. “When we pulled up she came out to meet us. She was glad to see it.”
If she only knew everything that went into getting it there safely…
Bennett brings the right equipment and the best know-how in the business to vehicle and machinery transports all over the U.S. For more information on Bennett’s flatbed trucking services for general freight and heavy machinery, visit www.bennettig.com/transportation-services/step-deck-trucking/