Heavy Hauler

Today I drove my first heavy hauler, the mammoth trucks that prowl through the various mine sites in Wood Buffalo. These are the biggest trucks in the world, capable of carrying 360 tons of dirt. The biggest are 23 feet from the road to the top of the truck bed, 50 feet when the bed is raised for dumping.

In truth, my first heavy hauler experience was of the virtual variety. Renee, Kiran and I had gone up the hill to Keyano's Suncor Energy Industrial Campus for their simulator open house. I was excited just to see these incredible machines. I would have been over the moon had I known they'd let me take one for a test drive.

The simulator feels real in every sense of the word, the steering wheel, peddles, instruments, levers and buttons emulate what you'd find in the real deal. The graphics shown on three massive screens are incredibly detailed and lifelike.

I sat down while one of the instructors did a whole bunch of things to get the truck started.

"OK, put this lever into forward and press on the gas peddle -- just like a car," he said.

I pulled away slowly and found myself completely disoriented by the width of this gargantuan machine. The distance between the driver's position on the left side and the right side of the truck, probably 20 feet, forced me to use the side mirrors to figure out how close I was getting to the berm on the side of the mine road.

As I turned a corner, a slow and careful arc, another heavy hauler appeared out of nowhere coming right for me -- I thought I was going to die!

"Wait a minute, this isn't real," I thought to myself.

I got my heart out of my throat and carried on to get loaded up with sand from one of those giant shovels. I did pretty good for a rookie, getting pretty close to the optimal spot for the virtual shovel operator to do his business. "Honk!" shouted the shovel, indicating that the bed was full and it was time for me to go and dump my load.

I kept thinking about my kids, wishing they could see me driving through the mine in my pretend heavy hauler -- Super Size Wii.

January 28, 2010 - 196.4 pounds, 27.1 % body fat


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