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Luck Stone, Cat taking the lead on autonomy for aggregates

By |  December 15, 2022
Caterpillar’s autonomous solution will be deployed at Luck Stone’s Bull Run Plant in Chantilly, Virginia. Photo: Luck Stone

Caterpillar’s autonomous solution will be deployed at Luck Stone’s Bull Run Plant in Chantilly, Virginia. Photo: Luck Stone

Autonomous haulers made their way into mining in recent years, but the technology so far has only been conceptual in nature for aggregate operations.

That concept should soon become a reality, though.

Luck Stone, the nation’s largest family-owned and -operated producer of crushed stone, sand and gravel, is taking the lead on autonomous haulers for aggregates, establishing a unique partnership with Caterpillar. 

Cat plans to implement its MineStar Command system for hauling on a fleet of 777G trucks that will be deployed at Luck Stone’s Bull Run Plant in Chantilly, Virginia. The deployment will expand Cat’s autonomous truck offering to include the 100-ton class.

“Luck Stone and Caterpillar’s partnership has been grounded in shared values for many years,” says Charlie Luck, president, and CEO of Luck Companies. “Together, we believe that safety, innovation and a commitment to people are critical – not only to propelling important projects like this, but [in] ensuring our focus on the future and all of the exciting possibilities technology affords our industry.”

Cat, which has more than 560 autonomous haul trucks in the field, says the autonomous 777G solutions will be implemented in 2024. The company adds that its autonomous haulers have operated without a single lost-time injury, and they’ve moved more than 5 billion tons of material to date.

Off and running

Aggregate producers are sometimes demonized for being laggards when it comes to technology adoption – and the criticisms are arguably fair.

But this autonomous hauling development is a big one for aggregates. Although widespread implementation of the technology is, perhaps, years or even decades away, Luck Stone is taking a huge first step for crushed stone, sand and gravel producers everywhere.

While the cost of implementing autonomous haulers in the typical aggregate operation is not yet feasible, the Luck Stone-Cat partnership will surely provide insights to both parties that allow for more cost-effective commercialization.

Aggregates is still a people-oriented industry, but autonomous haulers and other machinery could also make a dent in the workforce issue that’s long been an Achilles’ heel of producers. The productivity opportunity autonomy presents is exciting, too, as the tech could allow operations to run around the clock more easily.

The safety gains are noteworthy, as well. With accidents related to powered haulage noticeably up of late, the Mine Safety & Health Administration published a proposed rule that addresses mobile equipment safety.

Luck Stone, of course, will be the first in aggregates to get a sense of the overall gains autonomy provides – and it’s no surprise the Virginia company is leading the way for producers everywhere.

Kevin Yanik

About the Author:

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

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