How Luck Stone is shaping the future of hauling (Part 2)

By |  March 27, 2023
Working with Caterpillar, Luck Stone plans to deploy autonomous haul trucks at its Bull Run Plant in Virginia. Photo: P&Q Staff

Working with Caterpillar, Luck Stone plans to deploy autonomous haul trucks at its Bull Run Plant in Virginia. Photo: P&Q Staff

Editor’s note: The following article is the second in a two-part series highlighting the autonomous hauling partnership between Luck Stone and Caterpillar. Read Part 1 of the series here.

The idea of running a haul truck fleet autonomously in a quarry setting is one that’s mesmerized Travis Chewning for years.

Now, Chewning and his Luck Stone colleagues are taking steps to make a dream their reality.

In collaboration with Caterpillar, Luck Stone revealed plans in late 2022 to deploy Cat’s Command for hauling on 777G haul trucks at its Bull Run Plant in Chantilly, Virginia. The companies will undoubtedly learn a lot over the next few years as they develop people, processes and technology running 100-ton haulers autonomously in an aggregate environment.

Still, that Luck Stone gets to take the lead on the concept for the aggregate industry is highly rewarding for Chewning.

“This is something me and many others at our company have wanted to explore for a long time,” says Chewning, a 23-year veteran of Luck Stone who serves the company as vice president of engineering and operational support. “I’m really excited for the opportunity this technology will bring to dozens of folks within our company who are going to have a chance to work on something that’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime project.”

Charlie Luck, president and CEO of Luck Stone, is equally excited about the impact the project will have on people.

“When you think forward and consider where talent may come from over the next 50 years as we continue to sophisticate and improve this industry, I believe prospective associates will have more experience in the field of technology,” Luck says. “I believe the next generation has a refreshingly innovative spirit, embracing technology and engineering solutions that optimize the way we work and live.

Coming together



Luck Stone and Caterpillar, of course, must put in the work to ultimately commercialize autonomous hauling for aggregates. One challenge to getting there, however, is deploying haulers at an active operation.

Luck Stone, after all, can’t afford to shut down its Bull Run Plant to take on the project. The operation must still produce despite autonomous haulers traversing the quarry from the pit to the plant.

“Caterpillar right from the start recognized that this is a fully operating, multimillion-ton operation that has to produce and continue,” Luck says. “We have customers who are coming in every day.”

System adjustments will likely have to be made to accommodate regular production, Luck adds, but he is confident Caterpillar will work with his company to ensure Luck Stone’s business obligations continue to run smoothly.

“Running a business like this, you must have a partner on something new who isn’t just focused on the technology,” Luck says. “You need a partner who realizes there’s an operating business component to this that’s ultra-critical, as well.”

According to Chewning, Luck Stone selected the Bull Run Plant for this project for a couple of key reasons.

“One is the team at Bull Run,” he says. “We have incredible talent there that is very innovative. Their level of readiness for this is extremely healthy.”

Luck Stone also needed a site operating Cat 777 trucks in order to implement Cat Command for hauling technology. Plus, Bull Run has a history of being Luck Stone’s go-to site for pilot projects.

“Bull Run has been our pilot site for so many things,” Chewning says. “We’ve learned so many things over the years at Bull Run. It’s where we deployed our remote-controlled loader back in 2013 and 2014.”

Tech analysis

So, how can a 100-ton hauler safely run autonomously in a quarry? Cat’s Aaron Donnelli says two elements are critical.

“One is the onboard autonomy side, making the truck operate as a robot,” says Donnelli, an engineering manager at Caterpillar.

“There are common systems involved that you might expect – a perception system with LiDAR. That serves as the eyes of the machine. It looks at the environment ahead of where the truck is about to be. It’s looking for obstacles that maybe shouldn’t be in its way. It also sees things that it knows about that should be there and verifies those.”

Kevin Yanik

About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry. He can be reached at 216-706-3724 or

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