By Don JapalucciFebruary 2, 2009
Transporting battle damaged Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles is no simple affair. Special ground transportation is required and is a costly proposition. Ralph Cote, a marine cargo specialist with the 842nd Transportation Battalion in Beaumont, Texas, found a solution that is saving thousands of dollars.
In early 2005, the battalion received, on a recurring basis, heavy tracked vehicles with damages making them unsuitable for rail movement. The badly damaged tracked vehicles being retrograded to the depot for repairs could only be accommodated by trucks.
"The number of damaged track vehicles, coupled with numerous ships en route to Beaumont, placed a heavy burden on port clearance (in early 2005)," Cote said. "Rounding up carriers to truck this outsized cargo was becoming limited due to sister ports needing the same requirements."
The majority of cargo clearing a CONUS port moves by rail. Exceptions are made when port clearance time is critical, there is no rail service or when there are cost savings via line haul.
"In the mean time, our docks and yards were filling up and it became evident that we needed to come up with a fast fix to the on going problem," Cote said.
Refusing to accept the concept of "this is how we've always done it", he provided a new solution to an old problem, and in turn has saved the government to date, nearly $180,000 in transportation costs.
The solution was a simple, yet ingenious device using off-the-shelf components to create a "crib" to enable the Abrams or Bradley to be lifted on a rail car.
The American Association of Rail Road (AARR) requires that all blocking, bracing and cribbing will be secured directly to the rail card independently of the vehicle with no metal-to-metal contact.
Normally, the cribbing needed to move these track vehicles cannot be affixed to a DODX rail car without modifying the car. Cote designed, and had manufactured, cradles made of timbers with tie down points affixed for securing directly to a DODX steel top car. This meets the AARR requirement without having to modify the DODX car.
"Blocking, bracing and cribbing are common practices in stevedore and rail industry," said Cote. "Test models were constructed and inspected by Union Pacific and through trial and error the final product was developed, approved and now in use."
Utilizing this cribbing, the 842nd Trans. Bn. Shipped five battle damaged tanks to Anniston Army Depot on three DODX cars for a total cost of $32,655. Had these tanks been shipped by truck the total cost would have been $110,000. Mr. Cote's innovation resulted in a savings of $77,345, or $15,469 per tank.
Another example utilizing this cribbing: one tank was shipped by rail to Aberdeen, Md., for a cost of $15,778. Had this one tank been shipped by commercial truck, the cost from Beaumont to Aberdeen would have been $44,000. The cribbing netted a savings of $28,221. (It should be noted, the more cars, the lower the cost per car).
Coordination has been conducted with IntelliTrans to have the DODX cars routed back to Beaumont for future use. Upon return of the DODX cars, if there is no requirement, the cribbing and extra lashing is removed from the DODX car and the car put back into service.
Cost to construct 20 cribs was $34,000. The exact life span of the cribbing before repair requirements or rebuilding is currently unknown. Cribbing currently being used has been utilized since May 2005. Recovery of the cribbing is coordinated with the receiving activity, and returned by either commercial truck or rerouting of the DODX car back to the 842nd Trans. Bn.
Cost savings are expected to reach far into the hundreds of thousands of dollars as battle damaged tracked vehicles redeploy from the war zone and head to reset facilities.
Thanks to Cote's ability to identify a problem, supply effective remedies, and reduce transportation cost, not only has this cribbing saved the 842nd Trans. Bn. thousands in transportation costs, but has been used by Defense depots and sister battalions as well.