How tailgates can improve efficiencies

By |  June 21, 2021
Quarry managers rely on tailgates to increase load volume and jobsite productivity. Photo: Philippi-Hagenbuch

Quarry managers rely on tailgates to increase load volume and jobsite productivity. Photo: Philippi-Hagenbuch

Efficient hauling practices are at the heart of every successful mining operation. 

Maximizing capacity with each load while minimizing maintenance requirements and unnecessary downtime leads to increased profits and a healthy bottom line.

Many aggregate producers have found that simply adding a tailgate to their haul trucks makes a significant impact on their overall efficiency. Tailgates aren’t standard on rigid-frame haul trucks from any manufacturer. However, aftermarket options are available from manufacturers specializing in off-highway truck customization.

Like any piece of equipment, adding a tailgate requires careful consideration for optimal results. Some benefits can be achieved with any old tailgate, but to truly enhance their overall operation – and ROI – producers should look for a tailgate with features that align with their specific application. Let’s take a look at how tailgates can improve efficiency and what options are available.

Tailgate to the rescue

For being a relatively simple piece of equipment, tailgates can have a significant impact on how and how much material loader operators will fill. This underhauling is often unintentional, but usually results in loads that are 10 to 15 percent below rated capacity. Sacrificing 15 percent per load per trip is simply not affordable for mining and aggregate producers looking to remain profitable.

Hauling a half-full load costs relatively the same amount of money in labor, fuel and wear on a truck as a load filled to capacity. By allowing loader operators to meet the truck’s rated capacity without fear of spillage, tailgates quickly and easily boost an operation’s profitability.

For example, a 70-ton-capacity truck with a tailgate hauls its rated payload, which is nearly 11 more tons per load than a 70-ton truck without a tailgate. Underhauling costs operations millions of dollars per year. If a fleet of six trucks adds 11 tons to each of their respective 12 loads per day, an additional 792 tons is hauled daily. That equates to nearly $7,049 in profits if hauling aggregate at an average of $8.90 per ton. It’s like adding another truck to the fleet without the increase in fuel, maintenance or labor.

Hitting the target

A tailgate optimizes the loading target and equalizes weight distribution while reducing the risk of damage to a truck’s frame and suspension system. Photo: Philippi-Hagenbuch

A tailgate optimizes the loading target and equalizes weight distribution while reducing the risk of damage to a truck’s frame and suspension system. Photo: Philippi-Hagenbuch

Tailgates further reduce wear and stress on trucks by providing loader operators a better, larger loading target.

Tailgates allow loaders to safely dump materials in the middle of the body, rather than near the front, improving loading target, weight distribution and overall truck stability. Without the added benefit of the tailgate, loader operators avoid spillage by placing most or all of the materials toward the front of the bed. This loading technique ends up overloading and stressing the front tires, axles and hydraulic hoist cylinders of the truck, resulting in premature tire wear, body maintenance and potential axle and hoist cylinder damage.

Typically, rigid-frame haul trucks are designed to carry one-third of the payload on their front axle and two-thirds on the back. Placing heavy materials toward the front puts excessive stress on the chassis, axles, front tires, suspensions and hydraulic systems. Front tires are designed to support 33 percent of the weight and, when overloaded, rim damage may occur – or worse, they blow.

Sometimes, tires can be salvaged, patched or re-treaded, but even repairs are expensive, costing up to 60 percent of their original cost, in addition to the labor associated with repairing the tire and equipment downtime. An optimized loading target, equalized weight distribution and reduced spillage means that trucks with tailgates can extend a tire’s service life by as much as 40 percent – or up to 13,000 hours in some cases.

One thing to remember: Even if a tailgate makes loading easier, that doesn’t mean loader operators should overload. A 150-ton truck cannot haul 175 tons of material without operating outside of the OEM truck manufacturer’s guidelines. This can cause damage and safety hazards in addition to voiding the truck warranty.

Squeezing an extra 25 tons in a load might seem like a quick way to bring in extra profits, but repair costs far exceed the additional revenue if a tire is blown or the chassis and axles are crippled. The goal of a tailgate is to achieve the truck’s rated payload.

Maximizing uptime

Optimizing payload capacity and reducing tire and axle wear are only the beginning.

The benefits of adding a tailgate extend beyond the truck to haul roads and the other equipment, as well. Anyone who spends their day in a mine knows roads are narrow, rough and littered with spillage, making them hard to navigate and posing risks to the trucks and equipment operating at the site.

All options for dealing with the challenges result in lost time or increased expenses. Road grading crews deployed to clean debris off haul roads equates to lost productivity and the added costs associated with the fuel, labor and expense of additional equipment.

Navigating debris can damage tires, as well as the truck’s suspension systems. In some large mines, more than 200 tires are replaced per month because of debris damage or overloading. Many businesses aren’t equipped to handle the negative impact that has on the overall profitability, especially since the cost of rubber has skyrocketed over the last decade.

Weighing the options

Crunching the numbers, it doesn’t take long to realize the benefits of a tailgate quickly add up.

A tailgate enhances operations, whether you’re hauling aggregate, copper, coal, iron, gold, oil sands or soupy, viscous materials. But to truly maximize profitability, certain design aspects should be considered before making a purchase decision, such as durability and versatility.

There are a variety of tailgate options on the market. Finding the design that complements the specific operation is important.

First and foremost, work with a manufacturer that engineers their tailgates for each specific make and model of truck and truck body. Options exist for rigid and articulated frames. How a tailgate opens is also important for efficiency and long-term durability.

A tailgate won’t last long if it can’t withstand the breadth of material being hauled. Find a tailgate that’s built with durable materials, such as high-strength steel, and features strong components such as steel alloy chains and fiber bushings that don’t require ongoing lubrication.

Customizations to tailgates are also a way to tie them into the truck fleet methodology employed at any given site. Truck bodies frequently have sideboards that add height onto the sides for either added volumetric capacity or to keep material within the bed. In this case, having the tailgate built up to the height of the sideboards creates a unified height around the entire bed, as opposed to a high-sided body with a low-sided tailgate.

Adding cushion pads to a tailgate will soften the blow when it is raised and lowered in harsh worksite conditions. When operations have extremely bumpy haul roads, or when mining underground, the cushion pads minimize noise and increase the tailgate service life and other truck components.

Operations that haul large amounts of wet material arguably need a tailgate more than any other operation that uses off-highway haul trucks. In these applications, a tailgate with a fluidic seal can create a near-perfect seal, resulting in minimal fluid leakage during transport. For operations that require a 100 percent positive seal, there are specialty tailgates available from select manufacturers.

Finally, make sure the tailgate lifts high and fast enough to get out of the way before material starts to unload. The last thing you want is the tailgate to hold back the material during dumping rather than allow it to flow freely out of the back of the truck body. Fast dumps lead to increased efficiency and productivity. Materials left behind in the bed or stuck in grease points damage hinges and overall structure, and the amount of carryback reduces the volume of the next load.

Optimizing ROI

For a simple piece of equipment, a tailgate can sure make a big difference – increasing volume, reducing maintenance and maximizing hauling efficiency.

Six 100-ton-capacity trucks with tailgates hauling ore could result in about $10,700 in additional profits per day. Even with the average tailgate cost between $22,500 to $30,000 – based on the size of haul truck and options chosen – a producer purchasing six tailgates for his 100-ton truck fleet would see a complete ROI on a tailgate project purchase in less than 17 days with those numbers. And that’s based on profit alone.

Factor in additional fuel and tire cost savings associated with the use of tailgates on a truck fleet, and the numbers really start to add up. Pay for tailgates once and reap the benefits for the truck fleet’s lifetime.

Josh Swank is vice president of sales and marketing at Philippi-Hagenbuch.

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