“In many instances they’d roll the spreader hauler up as close to the porch or roof as possible to where the people were waiting,” Ken said.
The repetitive actions went on through the night. “It’s not the type of cycle times we usually talk about with equipment,” said Larry Brunton, Strongco Equipment branch manager for Calgary. “But it did wonders.”
All told, Ken estimates that they helped move about 1,000 people throughout the night, at a rate of about 50 people per full hauler load.
“The core Volvo hauler gave them the weight, power, height and design to actually be a good fit for this type of rescue effort,” said Mike Eperjesy, Volvo District Product Support Manager. “Of course Volvo didn’t design its machines for this flood application, but some of the key design attributes that helped the machines run for as long as they did in the flood, were the high placements of the engine exhaust, the engine air cleaner and breather filter. The engines could run as long as they stayed dry.”
Ultimately, the high waves of water were too much for the machines. Jarrett’s articulated hauler was overcome by an 8’ (2.5m) water surge and he had to be rescued by boat. The machine ended up submerged in water higher than the cab floor for more than two weeks following the rescue efforts.
Built for work
Although Volvo didn’t design its haulers expressly for use in water, they certainly did fit the bill for Ken’s intended business use. His customized spreader trucks drive out onto ranchers’ fields to clean pens and haul manure, gravel and silage, which often involve encountering rough terrain, deep mud and rocky soil.
“We looked at all the hauler brands and liked Volvo best,” Ken said. “The hydraulics suited us perfectly because we only had to add an extra flow pump to run the mechanical end of the spreader unit at the back of the bed. All other makers would have required an additional pony motor and extra lines. We liked that Volvo was built stoutly and had flotation tires with six-wheel drive. They were reliably perfect for us and then we outfitted them to help us even more.”
Ken’s custom spreaders are the only two of its kind in the world. He said the two modified Volvo haulers did the work that was previously done by five tandem trucks, and with less need for labor or maintenance. What’s more, he said the Volvo A30Ds were better suited than its bigger brothers the A35 and A40, due to its narrower width, making it easier to fit through the gates of farms and ranches.
The two haulers weren’t the only Volvo machines helping during the Alberta flood, 10 Volvo A35D and A40D haulers that Ken purchased from Strongco were also used in the ongoing government cleanup efforts.
Pulling together in the aftermath
Ken’s family, like almost everyone in the community, lost a lot in the disaster, including the custom Volvo hauler spreaders, which were declared a total loss after all their heroic efforts. Some people lost their homes and small businesses, and sadly there were also several flood-related deaths. But the community stuck together during the crisis.
“We weren’t the only ones helping with our machines. Others were using their rock trucks, loaders and even farm combines with their tall platforms to help people get to dry land,” Ken said. “There’s no playbook to evacuate an entire city. Everybody just said, ‘Let’s get it done. Let’s get to work.’”
Just like the Smith family, Strongco, the largest Volvo Construction Equipment dealership across Canada, is heavily vested in the recovery. Strongco’s corporate and employee donation program recently raised $12,300 for Canadian Red Cross’ recovery efforts. Volvo Construction Equipment North America contributed an additional $5,000 to the donation.
Together, the Smiths, Strongco and High River residents, all pulled through and worked together to help wipe away the mud, water and tears from one unforgettable summer.