Heil ramps up Army tanker production

March 1, 2004
JUST WEEKS after Heil Trailer International celebrated the production rollout of the US Army's new M967A2 and M969A3 fuel transports, 28 of the tank trailers

JUST WEEKS after Heil Trailer International celebrated the production rollout of the US Army's new M967A2 and M969A3 fuel transports, 28 of the tank trailers were en route to Kuwait. The next likely destination — Iraq.

The production rollout ceremony was held January 14 at Heil's massive Athens, Tennessee, cargo tank factory. In attendance were a number of special guests, including representatives from the Program Executive Office (PEO), Combat Support and Combat Service Support. A part of the US Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM), the PEO directs the Army's tank trailer program.

Speaking on behalf of the Army, Maj General Gus L Hargett III, adjutant general of the Tennessee National Guard, said that such standardized equipment as the new fuel tankers from Heil have never been more important than they are today.

“What you at Heil do for our soldiers lets us accomplish our missions throughout the world,” he said. “Currently, the US military is deployed around the world in the war on terror.”

LTC John Myers, PEO product manager trailers, added that soldiers in the field need the best equipment possible, and the M967A2 and M969A3 have been significantly improved. The tankers are likely to continue evolving based on lessons learned in Iraq and other areas where the US military is deployed.

“Heil worked very closely with us in developing the newest fuel transport and dispensing units,” he said. “They were a partner throughout the process and were very flexible. These tankers meet or exceed DOT406 requirements and are able to operate anywhere in the world. Technology improvements include higher capacity pumps and electronic fuel sensors and level gauges.”

Bob Foster, president of Heil Trailer International, said that the current contract renews a relationship with the military that dates before World War I. “After being absent from the military tank trailer program for 15 years, we're proud to be back,” he added. “We're also pleased that the Army contract brought 70 new jobs for our Athens plant.”

Production underway

Under the contract, which runs through fall 2005, Heil will build 881 fuel transports. The military tankers are being turned out at a rate of 38 to 40 a month on a production line that is fully dedicated to the military contract.

While some of the new fuel transports already have been sent to the Iraq theater, most will be delivered to Army National Guard units in the United States. A typical National Guard combat service support battalion will have 60 tank trailers.

“This project is an excellent example of the National Guard getting the latest equipment,” LTC Myers said. “Too often, we hear uninformed people saying that the National Guard always gets hand-me-downs from the Army.”

The new trailers hold 5,000 gallons and have single-compartment tanks constructed of Type 304 stainless steel. “We're using a lot more stainless steel in the tank trailers as part of an effort to provide more protection against external corrosion,” LTC Myers said.

Vessel design is elliptical with internal surge baffles and a reduced frontal cross section. The tanks have fully welded overturn rails and bottom support framework. Tank hardware includes a 20-inch Betts stainless steel domelid and Betts mechanical vapor vent, four-inch aluminum piping, and a single API bottom loading adapter.

Overfill protection

Two overfill protection systems are used, one of which is Civacon's ROM II for commercial loading racks. The tanks also have a Carter “Jet Level” sensor for other bottom loading locations.

A special feature requested by the military is the Ohmart Vega liquid level gauge system. Radar detects the level inside the tank, and readings are displayed on a control panel gauge. The Ohmart Vega system keeps soldiers off the top of the trailer and could be tied in with a satellite tracking system currently under development by the Army.

A Gorman Rupp centrifugal pump powered by a 35-horsepower Lombardini diesel motor facilitates product handling. The system is capable of pumping rates of up to 600 gpm for offloading and 375 gpm for loading.

While the basic specifications are identical for both the M967A2 bulk fuel transporter and the M969A3 fuel dispensing tanker, the M969A3 does have some key differences. Housed in a large cabinet are two 3-inch Smith meters and two Nordic electric-rewind hose reels, each with 50 feet of 1½-inch petroleum hose. The dispensing system also includes a fuel filter and water separator.