A truck hauling a huge, 191-foot windmill blade down the interstate is a site to behold. It’s not something you see everyday, but if you do, it’s very likely that the hauler is Blitz Transportation Services.
Transporting windmill blades is a carved-out niche for the Shelton, Wash.-based company, which uses Kenworth T800s mated to custom-designed trailers that slide out like a trombone from 53 feet to up to 165 feet in length.
With alternative energy now high on the radar screen in the United States, windmill farms are on the rise. "Long term, we’re in a growth business," said Kimosabe Bublitz, owner of Blitz Transportation Services, which is currently hauling blades built in Spain and Brazil from the port docks of Houston, Texas; Fairless Hills, Pa.; and Olympia, Wash.; to anywhere in between. "For example, Washington and Oregon are expanding windmill operations and have plans for 1,000 units in each state this year."
Bublitz runs Kenworth T800s equipped with 475-hp engines. The power is delivered to the ground through an 18-speed transmission coupled with 3.90 rear ends with double axle lockers to help provide excellent traction in off-road conditions.
"We designed our tractors and trailers specifically to haul windmill blades – it’s 90% of what we do," said Bublitz. "Negotiating corners and side winds are definitely our biggest concerns. When we designed our trailers, we made the axles steerable by remote control. The co-pilot in our chase car controls the back end of the trailer so we can navigate roads off the interstate and logging roads. About the only thing that we cannot negotiate are roundabouts. We try to avoid those at all costs.
"When we run out into the windmill fields, it might be 10 miles or more of steep, rugged terrain and going through soft ground, mud, snow, you name it – and we’ve never gotten stuck," said Bublitz. Off-loading also has its challenges. "Most turbine blades are from 124 feet to 160 feet long. Gluelam trusses and crane booms can be 120 feet to 200 feet in length, depending on the custom job, distance and states that allow passage. We have a wind meter and it’s safe to unload if winds don’t exceed 26 mph," he said. "If winds exceed 26 mph, you wait, and maybe wait a whole day."
Bublitz, who is often behind the wheel of a Kenworth, has a motto of taking on any job that no one else wants to handle.
"Having the right attitude, equipment, and drivers make all the difference," he said. "What we do is not easy. It takes a special driver and supportive families to be out on the road for two months at a time. Driving these extreme loads can be stressful, plus you have to run daylight hours and shut down at sunset, so every minute counts. But I sleep well, knowing I’ve got the best equipment and drivers out there."
While Blitz Transportation Services is a relatively new endeavor for Bublitz, he’s no rookie to trucking and big loads.
"My dad, Kenneth ‘Skiddo’ Bublitz, was in logging and heavy loads," Bublitz said. "The first truck he bought was a ’59 KW, and he put me behind the wheel of his first new rig, a 1971 Kenworth W900. In fact, Dad is now 76 years old and still loves hauling logs every day."
More information and photos on Blitz Transportation Services are at www.blitztransport.com. See the company August 9 at the Mason County Fairgrounds in Shelton, Wash., with a huge turbine blade on display at the 13th annual Antique Truck Show, sponsored by the Northwest Chapter of the American Truck Historical Society.