Best practices: Loading and hauling

By |  January 14, 2016

Cemex Balcones Quarry in New Braunfels, Texas, haul truck on a roadDavid Nus, director of global key accounts management at Volvo Construction Equipment, presented on best loading and hauling practices at Sandvik Construction and Dyno Nobel’s Quarry Academy educational event in November. Nus and Tony Spake, director of key accounts at Volvo, emphasized the importance of operator training and reducing fuel costs when trying to improve on loading and hauling.

Nus has worked at Volvo for about 11 years. He began his career with VME Industries and Americas, working with large Volvo-Michigan loaders and Euclid rigid trucks about 25 years ago. He has presented at the Quarry Academy six times in North America and three times overseas about loading and hauling practices.

Pit & Quarry connected with Nus to expand on his thoughts about loading and hauling in the aggregates industry.

P&Q: What are some of the biggest mistakes aggregate producers make with loaders and haul trucks?

Nus: I’d say one of the biggest missed opportunities is unnecessary idle time. It’s something operators don’t always consider and people don’t spend the time to quantify the cost of. When you look at it, as we did at the Quarry Academy, the numbers can be quite significant.

For a larger producer with more than 20 loaders or haul trucks, idle time can add up to a massive amount of fuel burned for no reason. There’s always going to be some idle time – especially with haul trucks when you’re loading them – but certainly there’s room for improvement.

David Nus of Volvo Construction Equipment talks to Pit & Quarry on loaders, haul truck practices

David Nus, Volvo Construction Equipment

P&Q: What are steps producers can take to reduce idle time in wheel loaders and haul trucks?

Nus: Consider where you can cut hours on your loaders and haul trucks. If a producer uses a machine for too many side jobs that aren’t producing salable material, that might be poor allocation of a machine. Instead, maybe use a backup machine for those side jobs like cleaning the stockpile.

Manufacturers like Volvo are also introducing auto shutdown or idling functions all the time with new machines. But it will take years – if not decades – for these to become widespread in a fleet when you consider quarries typically keep machines from five to 20 years before replacement.

I would add that there is value in providing visibility about idle time to operators. If they see what idle time occurs when they use a machine and the cost of it, they can understand how that ties into the profitability of the company, as well as their jobs.

P&Q: Are there any other mistakes aggregate producers make with loaders and haul trucks?

Nus: The second biggest mistake involves bucket-filling practices. Volvo’s studies show an inordinate amount of fuel is burned when a loader is filling the bucket. It’s logical, as that is where the machine works hardest. Although it’s common sense, we really need to remind operators of this.

Sometimes a producer has a loader with a 12-[cu.]-yd. bucket, but the operator is only getting 10 [cu.] yd. of material in the bucket. This creates inefficiencies. You burn fuel getting fewer tons in the bucket. Maximize your bucket loads to minimize fuel consumption.

P&Q: What are some things aggregate producers can do to reduce fuel costs on loaders and haul trucks?

Nus: In general, fuel is the largest slice of the costs directly related to the operation of wheel loaders and haul trucks. The easiest way to minimize consumption is to shut the machine down, but then no work is achieved. Conversely, the machine that consumes the most fuel in a fleet might also be the one doing the most work.

The goal is to find ways to do so in the most efficient manner. Fuel efficiency is defined as the measure of work achieved for each gallon of fuel burned. For a gallon of diesel purchased, consider how many tons or yards of material are moved. Operator training is an excellent way to increase fuel efficiency.

P&Q: Do you have any tips for producers to improve operator training? What have you seen that works through examples from customers?

Nus: This can be a touchy subject, approaching the experienced operator to talk about training or retraining. We have found that the best training or refreshers happen on a quarterly basis.

Consider human nature: We revert back to old norms and not what’s most efficient. So there’s value in doing refreshers with operators on a quarterly basis. I know this isn’t always practical with aggregate producers and even some contractors, but at least consider this on an annual basis. As you understand the value in this, you might be able to do more refreshers on a frequent basis.

P&Q: Do you have any other tips on how aggregate producers can improve on load times?

Nus: We want to stress the importance of putting the right machine in the right job. Second, the machine should be set up to do the job in the most efficient manner. High-impact variables here are the bucket and tires selected for the job.

Wrong selection can easily affect productivity or cost per ton by more than 20 percent. Again, we also stress the importance of operator competence. The best operator in the world can make a bad machine work well, and likewise, the worst operator will break the best machine.

There are many cases where quarries invest in new equipment but fail to invest in a little operator training to ensure it is operated in a safe, efficient manner. When that happens, return on investment on equipment suffers in terms of safety, productivity, cost and downtime.

About the Author:

Megan Smalley is the associate editor of Pit & Quarry. Contact her at msmalley@northcoastmedia.net or 216-363-7930.

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