Online Equipment Focus on Haul Trucks: The Big Haul


August 3, 2011

A Canadian producer lowers operational costs and improves site safety while test-driving a new dump truck.

An operator in Lacombe, Alberta, Canada, found that the right articulated truck could reduce its internal roadbuilding requirements, improve visibility, and increase operator comfort. Hopkins Construction Ltd., a construction company specializing in the aggregate business, is using a Hydrema 922C articulated dump truck to handle materials transportation for its mobile stone crushing services.

Hopkins Construction consists of more than 100 employees and handles both governmental and private work. Its large mobile equipment fleet of more than 300 pieces allows it to service its wide customer base throughout Western Canada. It currently has six mobile crushing plants which consist of screeners, cone crushers, loaders, and gravel trucks, all of which can be quickly relocated within a few hours to accommodate the needs of various job sites.

For the past few years, Hopkins has relied on its gravel trucks to handle much of its stone hauling. These gravel trucks are on-road, tandem-axle dump trucks that have to be retrofitted by Hopkins for off-road pit applications. The trucks can handle up to 20 tons per load.

In an effort to reduce retrofit costs, as well as parts and labor throughout the year, Hopkins turned to its local equipment dealer for suggestions. “Alberta Construction Equipment Sales and Services first told us about Hydrema’s line of articulated dump trucks,” says Joe Nolan, Hopkins Construction’s fleet manager. “We then visited Hydrema’s tradeshow booth during the last ConExpo to see their equipment first hand and speak with a Hydrema representative.”

After ConExpo, Hopkins rented a Hydrema 922C articulated dump truck to see if it would function well in its mobile operation. “Our mobile system is designed for quick setup and breakdown on each job,” Nolan says. “It became apparent almost immediately that the 922C seamlessly fit into our current method of operation.”

Meeting the Hopkins mobility spec was just one of the requirements for the truck. It also had to gain the support of Hopkins’ operators. “Our equipment operators are very impressed with the…visibility, controls, and comfort,” Nolan says.

The truck’s cab sits high on the dump truck body and has an inclined narrow hood, giving the operator all-around visibility. It also features broad mirrors for added visibility when in reverse or while tipping. The manufacturer also offers an optional back-up camera. “We had the camera added to the 922C,” Nolan says. “We are constantly backing up at our project. The camera helps us see what’s going on in blind spots, thereby eliminating incidents.”

The unit’s cab also offers a climate control system, user-friendly steering, and joystick controls. The suspended seat, along with electronic suspension and level control, provide a smooth and stable ride on uneven terrain. “The operators love the way it drives in the pit,” Nolan says. “We put in some very long days, and the operators have very little fatigue after operating (it).”

Hopkins has also found that the truck eliminates the need to build roads on certain projects that it would have otherwise had to do with its gravel trucks. “The gravel trucks we have are best suited for on-road applications, which means certain off-road projects require us to build and maintain construction roads to complete our work,” Nolan says, noting that the unit allows the company to get right to work when arriving on a site and eliminates the time and cost of roadbuilding.

The Western Canadian terrain and weather also comes into play for Hopkins. “We work in both dry and wet pit environments,” Nolan says. “The on-road gravel trucks create up to 2-foot-deep ruts in a wet pit environment.” He notes that the unit reduces large ruts, handles the wet pit conditions with its six-wheel drive and low ground pressure, and helps to minimize road maintenance issues.”

Nolan says that the truck — powered by a 6.7 liter, Cummins QSB, 24-valve Tier III engine — has plenty of power. “Its 20- to 25-ton capacity surpasses what we can haul with our current gravel trucks. However, my favorite feature… is the automated compensation dumping system,” Nolan says. “Dump tucks could flip over while dumping a load on uneven ground. The auto compensation system reduces the chances of this happening.”

The unit’s tipping hydraulics automatically increases the engine revolutions when the tipping control lever is acti­vated. This achieves tipping cycle times of 7.5 seconds up and 5.5 seconds down. It also automatically changes the pressure between cylinders while dumping on uneven ground to prevent tip-over.

Hopkins has since purchased the rental unit and is looking to add another one to his fleet very soon. “Our work cycle is 24-hours-a-day for eight months,” he says, explaining that the company ran the unit through that schedule with minimum downtime. “It has proven itself to be reliable and fuel efficient, using 15 to 20 percent less fuel than our gravel haul trucks,” Nolan says.

“It takes a full year to accurately assess the cost savings of a piece of equipment,” Nolan says of retrofit and labor costs. “We’ll have a far better idea of the overall cost savings in a few months. So far, we like what we see.”

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