Luck Stone, Caterpillar venturing into the unknown (Part 1)

By |  February 6, 2023

Leadership will be critical to this project, she adds.

“As you look at the first introduction into a quarry application, Charlie was hands down the kind of leader we needed to collaborate with as Caterpillar looked at developing MineStar for the quarry and aggregates industry,” Johnson says. “It became a natural decision point to choose Luck Stone.”

Denise Johnson


According to Luck Stone’s Travis Chewning, autonomous hauling discussions between the two companies began more than 10 years ago. The discussions matured over time, he says, and they intensified over the last two or three years.

“This past year, we really began to dig in deep with Caterpillar to get to where we are today,” says Chewning, a 23-year veteran of Luck Stone who’s currently the vice president of engineering and operational support.

As Chewning describes, Luck Stone intends to use the rest of 2023 to complete its project plan and the design for much of Bull Run’s network infrastructure. Some noticeable changes will be made to Bull Run next year.

“When we get into 2024, we’ll begin to install and outfit the Bull Run location with the network infrastructure,” Chewning says. “Also in 2024, we’ll outfit our 777G 100-ton haul trucks with the autonomy solution.”

Chewning expects Luck Stone to run autonomous haulers at Bull Run next year.

“Between 2025 and 2027, we’ll be working with Caterpillar as they further develop the technology and develop a commercial solution for our industry,” he says. “We’ll be working with them in a live production environment for the better part of two years.”

Scaling the technology

From left: Luck Stone’s Ryan Emmons, Paige Gill, Charlie Luck IV and Travis Chewning were present at CES 2023 in Las Vegas to celebrate the company’s new venture with Caterpillar. Photo: P&Q Staff

From left: Luck Stone’s Ryan Emmons, Paige Gill, Charlie Luck IV and Travis Chewning were present at CES 2023 in Las Vegas to celebrate the company’s new venture with Caterpillar. Photo: P&Q Staff

While autonomous haulers have not yet been commercialized for aggregate producers, mining companies have been using Caterpillar’s MineStar Command for hauling solution for years.

According to Caterpillar, it currently has more than 580 autonomous haul trucks in the field at mines around the world. Those trucks have operated without a single lost-time injury, the company says, and they’ve moved more than 5.5 billion short tons of material to date.

Still, quarries – while smaller – are entirely different operating environments. So plenty of learning is ahead.

“If you think about a quarry application where you may have many fewer trucks, the heavy touch from an automation perspective is not required,” Johnson says. “So how do we scale in a way that makes all of the infrastructure that’s required and the operation much more seamless?”

Communication between Caterpillar and Luck Stone will be critical, Luck adds.

“I do believe we are on the same page philosophically on the senior level,” Luck says. “We’ve enjoyed communicating with our associates about this exciting project and partnership with Cat, as we want to ensure our frontline leadership and frontline operators are embracing  this philosophy around how this changes mining, transportation, the use of technology and that they see a future beyond the current day.”

Luck recognizes mistakes may be made along the way. But failure often breeds success and true progress.

“What we try to move toward is being lifelong learners,” Luck says. “We’re trying to open up and be curious about the things we don’t know about. This is the mindset of everybody on this project. As we think about the financial components, downtime, productivity [and] the complexities of the site, innovating, communicating and working together is where the magic is going to be.”

Want to learn more about this project. Read Part 2 of P&Q’s two-part series highlighting the partnership between Luck Stone and Caterpillar here.

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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