Specialty Towing – USPS NGDV Transport from WI to VA
- April 15, 2023
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It was Thursday December 15, 2022 and we were just finishing up the day and getting ready to go home. At around 6:30 pm our phone rang. I answered and USPS from Fairfax Virginia was on the line. The gentleman on the phone started by saying I have a project that we want to see if you can help us with and proceeded to explain the project.
He told me USPS’s NGDV (Next Generation Delivery Vehicle) one of a kind prototype was in Oshkosh, WI and needed to be transported to Fairfax, VA. He went on to explain that the vehicle didn’t run or drive but did roll. The dimensions of the vehicle was 9.5 feet tall, 7.5 feet wide and 19.5 feet long. No problem, I thought, this will fit on our truck. Then he told me that the vehicle had to be enclosed to protect it from the elements. Oh boy! In addition to the vehicle, the electric engine which was separate from the vehicle had to be transported as well but couldn’t be transported in the NGDV. Then he dropped to bombshell. I had to be there by Sunday December 18th at the latest.
At first, I thought, maybe I could find a trailer that I could put the NGDV and EV motor in and quickly realized that wasn’t an option. Semi-Trailers are only 8 feet tall on the inside as well as most enclosed trailers. I told him I would need the evening to see what I could come up with for a plan. I told him I would give him a call the next morning.
I called a very good friend of mine Scott and told him about the project, and we discussed how we could accomplish the task until nearly 11pm that Thursday night. He had all the materials that would be needed to build a structure on our roll back except for a tarp big enough to cover the structure. I made another phone call to another good friend of mine, and he confirmed that he had a tarp that would work. It was getting very late, and I was getting exhausted and decided I would sleep on it for the night and decide in the morning if we wanted to take on the project.
The next morning came, and I crawled out of bed at about 6am. I decided after waking up a little bit that we were going to tackle the project. I emailed my contact at USPS with a proposal of how we were going to pull off this huge project in very little time. I concluded the email by stating that I needed approval to proceed within 1 hour if we were going to do the project.
About 15 minutes after I sent the email, I received a response. It was a short and sweet message that simply stated, “I am running it up the flagpole”. About 15 minutes later I received a phone call, “The project is approved, please proceed” he said.
The time is now 7am on Friday December 16th. We essentially have 60 hours until the delivery deadline and around 15 hours of that time is going to be driving. Leaving 45 hours to build the structure and load and unload the NGDV on and off the truck. Very doable in my mind but we have to get to work!
I called Scott and said the project was approved and we both immediately got to work. He started gathering all his material and I took our truck to my other friend’s shop that also had the tarp that we were going to use. My son Austin went shopping for supplies that we were going to need such as tarp straps etc.
Austin, Scott, and I began fabricating the structure and installing it on the truck. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? The structure was going to have to hold up to 900 miles at 70+ mph without collapsing so a lot of design work went into making the structure which Scott pretty much planned out in his head.
It is now 4am Saturday morning, no breaks, no sleep but we finally have the structure fabricated and I have an appointment at 7am to pick up the NGDV.
We start putting the tarp on and as it is about halfway on, we realized there is a huge tear right in the middle of the tarp. Fortunately for us, my son had the forward thinking to grab a 20ft x 30ft tarp while he was out picking up supplies as a backup just in case something were to happen along the way. We unfolded the tarp and decided that we would use the front and rear of the tarp that had the rip in it because it was hemmed to go across the top of a load and down the front and back. Now instead of simply putting the tarp on and strapping it down we were going to have to put three tarps on layering them from back to front, so the seams and overlaps didn’t catch the wind. 6:30 am came and I knew there was no way I was going to make the 7am appointment. I called my contact at the pickup location and explained to him the situation we ran into and that we were going to have to push back the pickup time to 9 am. The pickup location was about an hour from our location, so we basically had an hour and a half to finish installing the tarp. At 8 am I pulled the truck with the structure and tarp in place out of the shop and started heading for the pickup location.
All of us had been up all night long working on getting this ready. At no point in our planning did we think it would take 3 of us 24 hours to build and tarp the structure, but it sure did. Scott went home to get some sleep. It was decided as we were in the building process that he would come with me on the journey to deliver the NGDV. We also decided that Austin and I would go get the NGDV loaded up and Scott would go get some sleep so he could drive the first leg of the trip.
On the way to pick up the NGDV I concluded that we would need to take one of our other trucks to help in the loading of the NGDV on to the tarped truck. You see, when the bed is back on and angle and touching the ground, as I start winching the NGDV onto the bed the front wheels are going to be going up the incline of the bed, in turn raising the height of the NGDV and it would end up hitting the tarp structure. So, if we didn’t take another truck, we would have had to disassemble the back half of the structure to make clearance for the loading process. Rather than do that, we took another truck, loaded the NGDV onto that truck and then backed them into position back-to-back so we could roll the NGDV from one truck to another. This saved a lot of time.
We arrived at 9am to pick up the NGDV. There were about 8 people there to help with the loading process and/or monitor the process. After a short meeting Austin, Max (an employee of ours that came to help) and I began loading the NGDV. We loaded it onto the first truck and seamlessly transferred it onto the tarped roll back. We secured the NGDV with wheel traps as well as straps from the frame to the bed to prevent the vehicle from bouncing into the tarp structure as there was only a couple inches of space above the NGDV, this short distance was needed so we could maintain the 13-foot 6-inch legal height of the truck. It was now about 1pm and we had finally got the NGDV loaded and secured and loaded the EV motor assembly on the second roll back we took to take it back to the shop.
We decided given the time constraints we would tow a Ford F150 behind the truck hauling the NGDV and place the EV motor assembly in the back of it rather than pulling an enclosed trailer. This way, if we ran into any issues along the way we would have a means of transportation to help us overcome any obstacles.
We got back to our shop in Omro, double and triple checked everything. I realized that the DOT numbers on the truck were no longer visible because the tarp was covering them. We have a vinyl cutter and vinyl so I quickly made new numbers and placed them on the truck in a visible location so we wouldn’t have any issues with law enforcement.
It is now 5:45pm on Saturday December 17th. And we have approximately 25 hours to make the 15-hour drive to Fairfax, VA. Austin and I have been up for 36 hours straight, and Scott just arrived after his much-needed rest, and we were off. Scott drove the first leg of the trip and we made to Fremont, OH at about 1am on deadline day. Somewhere around Gary, IN I finally fell asleep. We got to a hotel and slept until about 7am and we were on the road again.
I drove the second leg of the trip from Fremont, OH to Fairfax, VA. and with fairly substantial detour because of a faulty scale on the Pennsylvania Turn Pike we arrived at our destination at 7pm on Sunday December 18, 2022 on time and as promised.
Four gentlemen met us there and all pitched in and helped us unload the NGDV into the Engineering shop of the USPS. After we unloaded, I asked what the reason was that the NGDV needed to be there in such a short time frame. They said they couldn’t tell us and told us to watch the news.
The following Tuesday December 19th the USPS announced that they intended to deploy over 66,000 NGDV Electric Vehicles by 2028 and there at the announcement was the NGDV and EV motor that we transported from Wisconsin to Virginia.
This was probably one of the most intense and rewarding projects we have completed to date. A big thank you to Scott, my long-time friend, for all his help making this project a success. If it can be done, and Miller Auto Towing and Recovery, LLC says they can do it, rest assured it will be done.