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Melton handily transports Huey helicopter from Bristow to Tulsa for space museum

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Melton Truck Lines transported this Huey helicopter from Bristow, Oklahoma, to Tulsa, Oklahoma, a distance of some 40 miles. (Courtesy: MELTON TRUCK LINES)

TULSA, Okla. — The phone rings at the Melton Truck Lines office in Tulsa.

“Good morning. Melton Truck Lines. You say some manufactured steel to ship? No problem.”

It rings again.

“Good morning. Melton Truck Lines. You say you have some metal building components you need to transport? No problem.”

It rings a third time.

“Good morning, Melton Truck Lines. You say you have some HVAC equipment to ship? No problem.”

It rings yet a fourth time.

“Good morning, Melton Truck Lines. You say need to transport a Huey helicopter from Bristow to Tulsa? No problem.”

“That’s not our everyday move,” Russ Elliott, Melton’s executive vice president and chief operating officer said as he talked with a reporter for The Trucker recently about a call from the Tulsa Air and Space Museum and Planetarium. “We could have moved it clear across the country, but it only had to come from Bristow, which is about 40 miles southwest of Tulsa. It wasn’t a long move, but an important one.”

The chopper Melton moved to Tulsa was actually a replacement.

Elliott said several years ago the museum acquired a Huey from somewhere in Arkansas and had it restored.

But the rotor blades got stuck in a bridge while being moved to downtown Tulsa for a Veteran’s Day parade, yanking the chopper off the trailer and destroying it.

Melton had worked with the museum in the past, including transporting a disassembled DC-3 on three trailers from Michigan to Tulsa.

The DC-3 is a fixed-wing propeller-driven airliner that revolutionized air transport in the 1930s and 1940s. It has a cruise speed of 207 mph, capacity of 21 to 32 passengers and a range of 1,500 miles.

Melton Truck Lines driver Michael Maines, an Air Force veteran, poses with his driver manager Carolyn Douthat beside the trailer carrying the Huey helicopter. (Courtesy: MELTON TRUCK LINES

So when the museum called Melton, which has established a very positive relationship with Tulsa and the surrounding area, asking for assistance with the Huey, “we didn’t bat an eye. We said, ‘sure, we’ll pick it up and then bring it on in here.’ And then I went down to our safety department and said, ‘alright, go figure out how to get a helicopter on one of our step-deck trailers and get us safely here.’”

Fortunately, the helicopter was not heavy.

“It didn’t weigh a lot, but it is as wide and maybe even just an inch or two wider than our trailer width,” Elliott said. “We used a 53-foot, step-deck trailer, which some people would refer to as a single drop. And even at that it was a little over 12 feet tall.”

To make sure there would be no problems along the route from Bristow to Tulsa, Melton hired a pole car to run the route several weeks before the actual move just to make sure the truck and trailer wouldn’t have any trouble on bridges or with low-hanging wires.

Then, the carrier repeated the exercise on December 5, the day of the move.

Melton’s safety department actually went to Bristow on the day of the move, supervised the loading of the chopper and assisted the driver.

“First, they removed the rotor blades because the rotor blades on a helicopter are very flexible,” Elliott said. “They left the mast and just strapped it down by the landing gear.”

The Melton safety group then strapped down the chopper by securing the landing gear to the trailer.

“It certainly wasn’t one of those deals where we just turned a driver loose and said, ‘hey, go pick this helicopter up, bring it all up here,’” Elliott said. “We have several folks in our safety department that I consider to be genius experts when it comes to figuring out how to strap things down.”

The driver in this case was Michael Maines, an eight-year Air Force veteran who’s been with Melton four years.

The significance of transporting a Huey was not lost on Melton’s leadership, which chose the carrier’s Military Pride tractor to pull the trailer.

Huey is the nickname for the Bell UH-1 Iroquois, a utility military helicopter developed by Bell Helicopter to meet the United States Army’s 1952 requirement for a medical evacuation and utility helicopter, that first flew in 1956.

The Huey first saw service in combat operations during the Vietnam War with around 7,000 helicopters deployed.

“We have five trucks that we call our military trucks,” Elliott said. “They’re wrapped with an eagle and veterans drive those trucks. It meant a lot to Michael to be driving that day.”

Just as it meant a lot to the Tulsa Air and Space Museum and Planetarium to have another Huey to display.

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The Nation

9 semis involved in accident on I-80 in Nebraska

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Of the 30 crashes reported to the Nebraska State Patrol Wednesday morning, the biggest took place near Aurora, Nebraska where 11 vehicles, nine of the big rigs, were involved in a large-scale accident on Interstate 80 (Courtesy: NEBRASKA STATE PATROL)

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — At least three people were injured in a large-scale accident on Interstate 80 Wednesday morning that involved nine semi-trucks and two passenger vehicles, The Grand Island Independent reported Thursday.

The vehicles were involved in multiple crashes on I-80 between Giltner and Aurora.

The paper’s report said five vehicles took part in a chain-reaction crash and that because of the pileup, I-80 was closed to eastbound traffic for about three hours while emergency crews worked at the scene and cleared the road.

Weather conditions were a factor in the crashes.

The paper said that at about 9:10 a.m., Hamilton County received a 911 call that two semi-tractor/trailers had crashed and jackknifed, blocking eastbound traffic near mile marker 328. As troopers and officers were en route to the scene, additional vehicles became involved in a chain-reaction crash. The first crash scene involved four semis and one passenger vehicle, a Jeep Cherokee.

After the initial incident, a pair of semis that were traveling together came upon the scene and were unable to stop. One struck the other, pushing it into the Jeep Cherokee.

Both occupants of the Cherokee were transported to the hospital in Aurora, but the passenger, Jason Palmer, 29, of Indiana, was flown to Kearney with life-threatening injuries. The driver was evaluated and has been released from the hospital.

One of the semi drivers, Jeffrey Clark, 56, of Colorado, was also transported to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

The paper reported that as traffic was stopped for the first crash scene, another semi jackknifed while attempting to avoid the stopped traffic. Moments later, another crash occurred a short distance to the west involving two more semis and a minivan. No injuries were reported in those crashes.

In total, there were nine semis and two passenger vehicles involved in the incidents near mile marker 328.

The State Patrol said within 24 hours after the storm began, troopers handled 166 motorist assists, responded to 30 crashes and assisted other agencies with 17 incidents. Motorist assists can include slide-offs, flat tires, etc.

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White House ends California talks on mileage standards

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Democratic Sen. Tom Carper said the Trump administration's negotiations with the State of California over fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards have been "superficial and not robust at best, or duplicitous and designed to fail at worst." (Courtesy: U.S. Senate)

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration broke off vehicle mileage standards talks with California on Thursday, moving the two closer to a possible court battle that threatens to unsettle the auto industry.

The White House said in a statement that the administration, which wants to freeze mileage standards, would now move unilaterally to “finalize a rule later this year with the goal of promoting safer, cleaner, and more affordable vehicles.”

California officials and the Trump administration each accused the other of failing to present any good compromise proposal in the mileage dispute, which comes as President Donald Trump feuds with the Democrat-led state over his proposed border wall and his threats to take back federal money.

The administration announced last year it wanted to freeze what would have been tougher, Obama-era mileage standards for cars and light trucks. It would be one of a series of rollbacks targeting Obama administration efforts against pollution and climate change.

Under the administration proposal, the standards would be frozen after slightly tougher 2020 levels go into effect, eliminating 10 miles per gallon of improvement to a fleet average of 36 miles per gallon in 2025.

As part of the proposed mileage freeze, the administration threatened to revoke California’s legal authority to set its own, tougher mileage standards, a waiver granted that state decades ago to help it deal with its punishing smog. About a dozen states follow California’s mileage standards.

Lawmakers and automakers have urged the two sides to settle, warning that a split could divide the auto market, bring years of court battles and raise costs for automakers.

“This administration’s negotiations with the State of California over fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards have been superficial and not robust at best, or duplicitous and designed to fail at worst,” Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, the top Democrat in the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement late Wednesday, as the formal negotiations breakdown loomed.

“Litigation is not the best option here. It wastes time, money, creates uncertainty for American automakers, and harms the environment,” Carper said.

California officials say the administration never offered any compromise and that it broke off any contacts around December.

“We concluded at that point that they were never serious about negotiating, and their public comments about California since then seem to underscore that point,” said Stanley Young, spokesman for the state’s air board.

It’s the latest shot by the White House in its escalating feud with California. The Trump administration earlier in the week said it planned to cancel nearly $1 billion for California’s high-speed rail project and would seek the return of $2.5 billion more. Gov. Gavin Newsom said it was political retribution for the state’s role in leading a 16-state lawsuit against Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to get funds for his proposed wall at the southern border.

Since it takes several years to design vehicles, automakers have been planning to meet higher mileage requirements under Obama-era standards, as well as those in other countries.

For now, “essentially the industry is ignoring what Trump wants to do,” auto-industry analyst Sam Abuelsamid of Navigant Research said. “We know at least until this thing gets settled in the courts, we have to deal with California and the other states and have product that can sell there as well as products that can sell overseas.”

 

 

 

 

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Ohio governor’s administration proposes gas tax increase

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Ohio's Department of Transportation director, Jack Marchbanks, introduced the governor's $7.43 billion transportation budget proposal to the House Finance Committee. (Courtesy: OHIO DOT)

CINCINNATI — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s administration on Thursday recommended increasing the state gas tax by 18 cents a gallon beginning July 1 and annually adjusting that tax for inflation to provide sufficient funding for maintenance of roads and bridges.

Ohio’s Department of Transportation director, Jack Marchbanks, introduced the governor’s $7.43 billion transportation budget proposal to the House Finance Committee. The gas tax included in the two-year budget would be adjusted annually with the consumer price index to ensure sufficient funding going forward, Marchbanks said.

He said revenue raised the first year, by increasing the current 28-cent tax to 46 cents, equates to roughly $1.2 billion and will be split between the department and local governments.

Marchbanks told legislators that without more revenue in the face of the “impending transportation crisis,” there will be no funds for any highway improvement projects in the state and roads will deteriorate. Statistics show that deteriorating road conditions lead to more crashes, which lead to more fatalities, he said.

“Governor DeWine understands that maintaining the integrity of our roads and bridges is not only important to our economy; it is important to the health and welfare of our citizens,” Marchbanks said.

If the Legislature approves the recommendations, the proposal would provide the department in fiscal year 2020 with $750 million additional dollars in revenue to pave roads, fix guardrails, fill potholes, clear snow and ice, maintain bridges, and improve safety, Marchbanks told the committee. He said it also will provide local governments with a significant increase in the funding, including $1.6 million for every county in the state.

Marchbanks has previously said that contracts for road maintenance that totaled $2.4 billion in 2014 may drop to $1.5 billion in 2020, and a $1 billion gap remains in the department budget.

A transportation crisis is looming despite “all of ODOT’s multi-million dollar cost-saving efforts to make our agency leaner and more efficient,” he told committee members Thursday.

The department realizes that asking Ohioans to pay higher fees for roadway use is “no small task,” but hopes that most will understand the importance of responsible and sufficient transportation funding, the director said.

The Columbus Dispatch reported that Tom Balzer, president of the Ohio Trucking Association, and Grace Gallucci, president of the Ohio Association of Regional Councils, commented on a potential tax increase in testimony to legislators this week.

Balzer said that the state and local governments have immediate transportation needs, and the gas tax raises immediate revenue.

Gallucci pointed out that while questions remain about whether the gas tax is the fairest way to assess users of Ohio roads, it is a way to get needed money right away.

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