Trailer Talk

The Army Uses Serious Rigs to Haul Armored Vehicles

Armored vehicles can “road march” to battlefields, but suffer high rates of wear and tear when doing so. It’s far better to carry them.

July 9, 2015

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M1000's five axles are mounted along most of its bed length. Loading ramps are part of the trailer's equipment. Photo from U.S. Army via YouTube
M1000's five axles are mounted along most of its bed length. Loading ramps are part of the trailer's equipment. Photo from U.S. Army via YouTube

The U.S. Army operates some of the more serious tractor-trailer combinations in the world, because soldiers have to deliver some deadly serious and very heavy “weapons systems” to battlefields, then retrieve them. Wheeled and tracked armored vehicles can “road march” there, but suffer high rates of wear and tear when doing so. It’s far better to carry them.

A prime example is the M1A1 battle tank, which became well-known for its effectiveness against enemy armor in the first and second Gulf Wars. It weighs about 70 tons, so an extra-heavy-duty rig was designed to haul it.

This is the M1070 truck-tractor and M1000 semitrailer, which the Army calls a Heavy Equipment Transport, or HET. Both are made by Oshkosh Truck Corp. and sold to the government by its specialty arm, Oshkosh Defense. The Army has acquired more than 2,600 of them, according to a listing on Wikipedia.com.

Several tractor series have been produced since the Army began buying them in 1993, and they were originally powered by 500-hp Detroit Diesel 8V-92s. All are 8x8s with steerable front and rear axles, and have powerful winches to drag loads aboard.

The current M1070A1 tractor has a 700-hp, 18.1-liter Caterpillar C18 diesel, a 7-speed Allison 4700SP full automatic transmission and an Oshkosh single-speed transfer case. It weighs 45,550 pounds and its fifth wheel can support 46,000 pounds.

The M1000 gooseneck trailer sits on five moderately spread axles, is 51 feet, 10 inches long and 12 feet wide. The trailer alone weighs 50,000 pounds, so a rig’s tare weight is 95,500 pounds, and its gross combination weight is about 235,500 pounds when hauling an M1A1 tank.

These HETs and their crews were busy in recent years, hauling tanks and other armored vehicles from various regions of Iraq to ports where they were shipped back home. The other day I came upon YouTube videos of them. Here’s one, showing members of a North Carolina Army National Guard outfit at work.

Most soldiers are young, and young people are the ones driving the HETs. They’re highly trained and well motivated, and make very good employees when they return to the civilian world, say trucking executives who’ve hired them. The industry has formal programs to recruit them.

By the way, you can buy a government-surplus HET and a lot of other equipment, as other YouTube videos show. IronPlanet.com is among the outlets. Maybe I’ll go get me one.

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Author Bio

Tom Berg

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Senior Contributing Editor

Journalist since 1965, truck writer and editor since 1978. CDL-qualified; conducts road tests on new heavy-, medium- and light-duty tractors and trucks. Specializes in vocational and hybrid vehicles.

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