At Saltchuk, essential employees across our family of companies are facing challenging circumstances to keep the supply chain running smoothly for our communities. We believe that now, more than ever, it is important to share their stories, fostering connection as we prepare for the challenges of the future.
  • Saturday , 27 November 2021

Alaska’s Heavy Haul expert

Andy Lewallen joined Carlile in 2012 and has overseen some of the most difficult moves in modern trucking history.

Heavy Haul Project Manager Andy Lewallen moved to Alaska to join Carlile Transportation in 2012. His first impression of the company was that it rewarded employees for a job well done.

“That’s true to this day,” he said. “It’s nice to have that sense of pride in riding for the brand.”

Born and raised in Colorado, Lewallen grew up wanting to be a truck driver – heavily influenced by his childhood obsession, the movie “Smokey and the Bandit.”

“Curse you, Burt Reynolds and Jerry Reed,” he laughed.

Lewallen worked as a laborer during the early years of his career, first on a concrete flatwork crew mucking mud behind a screed rod, then as a form-setter and finisher.

“That kind of work is hard on the body, though, especially when you’re six-foot-four and skinny,” he said. “The company I worked for then had a couple of trucks with end-dumps that would haul in the fill we used on our jobs. I would be busting my butt on a pour and see them pull up off in the distance and dump a load and think to myself, ‘That looks like a lot more fun and not too hard on the body.’”

Lewallen began riding with one of the drivers on his days off, learning the basics of driving. In 1989, he earned his Class A license. For the first five years, he pulled hazmat, gas and diesel in tankers, propane and butane in bottles, and hot oil and acid in “shotgun” trailers, primarily throughout his native Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming.

In 1994, Lewallen moved to Denver and drove a truck pulling a lowboy for an earth-moving excavation company, moving bulldozers, scrapers, blades, hoes – all CAT equipment – around Colorado.

“I got married in 1998, and by 2001, we wanted to start a family,” he explained. “Truck driving can be hard on a family, so I changed careers and began my own trim carpentry business, which evolved into a full-blown cabinet-making shop.”

The Great Recession, which began with the collapse of the investment bank Lehman Brothers in 2008 and eventually spilled over into all aspects of the American economy in the ensuing years, hit Lewallen’s shop hard.

“It took a major toll on the business,” he said. “So in 2012, I decided to dust off my CDL and got a job with Carlile in April of that same year.”

‘I’m proud of every one of them’

Lewallen started with Carlile as a general freight driver but moved to heavy haul a few weeks later, mostly driving between Anchorage and Prudhoe Bay. In 2014, an operations manager position opened up at the Deadhorse terminal, and he landed the job. He’d been working on the Slope for 14 months when he was asked to come back to heavy haul as a project manager.

“I’ve been doing this ever since then,” he said. “My job is never the same, and every day is a new challenge. Besides, I get to work with some pretty cool stuff. I enjoy working with the crew of heavy haul drivers that we have. We laugh and poke fun at each other, but at the end of the day, it’s a high-profile job that they do, and I’m proud of every one of them.”

Lewallen “wears several different hats” besides project management. 

“I do most of the Alaska heavy-haul pricing, the necessary permit work with the State of Alaska for all the major loads we move, and act as truck boss when it comes to matching the right equipment and loads with the skillset of the drivers. I just try to help wherever I’m needed, and, on occasion, I’ll even jump back in a truck.”

Lewallen’s heavy haul team recently wrapped up a project for ConocoPhillips, transporting modules from Big Lake to its newest production drill site at the Alpine oilfield in Prudhoe Bay: GMT2.

“That stands for ‘Greater Mooses Tooth 2,’” he said. “These modules are 80 feet long, 21 feet, and 15 feet tall. They weigh 90 tons. Basically, they’re steel buildings loaded with various equipment to process the oil onsite before it enters the pipeline headed for Valdez.”

Every year between the middle of January and the middle of April is “Ice Road Season” on the Slope when roads are made out of ice to access locations that don’t have year-round gravel roads.

“So all these loads had to be moved over about 35 miles of ice.”

‘Life is about choices

When Lewallen looks back on his years as a driver, he said he found nature’s beauty and the animals along the roads to be the most enjoyable part.

“This state abounds with natural beauty every day of the year,” he said. “One January, I’d stopped driving for the day at a point on the haul road called Toolik above the Arctic Circle.  I was sitting at the wheel filling out my logbook when, out in front in the headlights of the truck, a wolverine and red fox were having a standoff.  One would chase the other, and this went back and forth for a couple of minutes until they ran off into the darkness.”

Another time, in May, Lewallen had stopped at the bottom of Atigun Pass to chain up. 

After initially placing the chains on top of the drive tires, I got back in the truck to roll forward onto the chains. I looked out the passenger window, and about 30 feet from where I’d been working with my back turned was a big grizzly bear that I had no idea was there. It got my blood pumping a little. He wandered off, and I was able to get out and finish chaining up to pull the pass.”

Lewallen said he’s most proud of his two daughters. His eldest is attending the Colorado University in Boulder as a freshman in the fall, and his youngest is a senior in high school. He bought a house two years ago that was built in 1970.

“I’m methodically remodeling it and making it pretty special,” he said. “I’m no longer married, but I’m happy with the choices I’ve made in my life, and I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Lewallen hopes to continue to work for Carlile until he retires.

“There’s a lot of opportunity in the years ahead for Carlile and heavy haul,” he said. “I hope the company remains dedicated to supporting us and helping us live up to our full potential in the work that we do.”

He said he’s not surprised at where his career has taken him.

“Life is about choices, and that is no different with your career. I’ve never rested on one specific skill set. I’ve always had the ability to adapt and prosper with life’s changes, whether directly or indirectly influenced by my decisions.”


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