Toll Global Forwarding uses a convoy of prime movers to transport a pair of oversized heat exchangers weighing more than 220 tonnes.

Transporting pieces of over-dimensional infrastructure across Australia’s largest mountain range requires strategic planning, specialised equipment and the agility to respond to challenging conditions.

The Challenge

Our customer was engaged to build two heat exchangers for the sulphuric acid manufacturing plant at the Olympic Dam mine in South Australia. The exchangers – one weighing 170 tonnes, the other 80 tonnes – were manufactured in Coffs Harbour, New South Wales and were destined for the mine site, north east of Roxby Downs.

Successfully transporting the heat exchangers 2,250 kilometres halfway across the country would require extensive planning; from selecting specialised heavy haulage equipment to mapping the most effective route and arranging the required over-dimensional freight transport permits.

Changing weather conditions and inaccessible terrain would need to be provisioned for, and arrangements made for the oversized freight to pass through populated areas with minimal disruptions to local residents.

In addition to developing a comprehensive transport management plan outlining requirements for each stage of the project, we also needed to provide transport and handling services and oversee the move from start to finish.

The Solution

Toll's solution involved a collaborative planning process to develop an end-to-end logistics solution that would take 14 days to complete.

The planned route would take the loaded convoy through Coffs Harbour and across the Great Dividing Range via the Gwydir Highway; a steep climb up the eastern escarpment of the mountain range. Our project team knew that the weather conditions would be hard to predict and could fluctuate at a moment’s notice – misty rain often makes visibility poor, and areas of the granite mountains that reach over 1000 metres regularly receive snow.

The sheer weight of the cargo meant that a single vehicle would be unable to tow it, so it was decided to separate the two exchangers and transport each one using more powerful truck-trailer combinations. Three prime movers were attached to a 112-wheel platform trailer widened to 4.5 metres to carry the larger exchanger, with a fourth safety or ‘brake’ vehicle in the rear. The smaller exchanger was secured to a 6-axle gooseneck trailer – also widened to 4.5 metres – and harnessed to two prime movers.

Rail bridge engineers were engaged to ensure the convoy would be able to pass beneath the rail bridge in Coffs Harbour – they joined our project team at the bridge to monitor the loads as they passed beneath the bridge, a process that took a total of three hours to conduct safely. Working with Telstra and Optus, we also arranged for more than 700 overhead wires along the planned route to be lifted temporarily so the convoy could pass beneath.

The project team worked with New South Wales’ Roads and Maritime Services to arrange the required authorisations to take the oversized loads along the planned route. A traffic management plan was prepared and reviewed by local police and councils – the New South Wales police were brought in to assist with required road closures and altered traffic conditions along the planned route.

Travelling at an average speed of 10 kilometres per hour over the mountains, the vehicles carefully made their way through challenging weather conditions. At one extreme, the temperatures dipped to -1ºC, freezing hydraulic lines and causing ice to build up on the trucks’ windows. And at the other, conditions warmed to 28ºC and the ice was replaced by rain, dust storms and winds of up to 50 knots

The convoy cleared the mountains and began the last leg of the journey through the South Australian desert, arriving at the site after nine days on the road.

The Results

Using our diverse fleet of specialised heavy haulage equipment and teams of professionals with invaluable experience in over-dimensional freight logistics, we successfully transported both heat exchangers from Coffs Harbour to the sulphuric acid manufacturing plant at the Olympic Dam mine.

Permits and approvals were obtained from no fewer than 37 regulatory bodies including councils, law enforcement, public works, and state and federal offices in an impressive timeframe of just six weeks.

The convoy – measuring more than 116 metres in length, end to end – made the 2250 kilometre journey without incident; that’s the equivalent of driving from Amsterdam in the Netherlands to Ankara in Turkey, a journey that would take you through 11 countries.

Teams from across Toll came together to arrange the loading, transport and unloading of the equipment for our customer, offering the convenience of a single point of contact and ensuring compliance and safety standards were upheld from pick up to point of delivery.


“The successful completion of this project proves that the near-impossible can be achieved with careful planning and tightly controlled project management.

“We effectively mobilised 23 vehicles and 37 people – Toll staff, police, personnel from regulatory bodies, rail bridge engineers, power and telecommunications authorities – to carry a shipment that weighed more than 520 tonnes through challenging terrain across multiple states. That is no small task.

“Most importantly, we delivered on time and without incident, exceeding expectations and delighting our customer.” 

Graham Owen
   Project Manager, Global Forwarding