Why Turner Mining Group turns to excavators

By |  May 30, 2019
A Turner Mining Group excavator on a job high above Silicon Valley, California. Photo courtesy of BuildWitt Media Group.

A Turner Mining Group excavator on a job high above Silicon Valley, California. Photo courtesy of BuildWitt Media Group.

Excavators or loaders?

Which, if either, is better across the board for quarry applications?

It’s somewhat of a controversial topic in the quarrying world, with no shortage of opinions. But Turner Mining Group, a mine services contractor based in Indiana that operates from coast to coast, has a clear preference. And it has no fear of sharing why.

Anyone familiar with Turner Mining Group knows it has an affinity for excavators. Currently operating excavator and truck fleets in a variety of locations and conditions, from California to Michigan to Virginia, the company is confident in its choice of excavators over loaders – and for a multitude of reasons.

“I love excavators for a lot of reasons, but the most important reason for us is that we can do anything with them,” says Keaton Turner, president of Turner Mining Group. “We can dig or load any material anywhere.”

As a mine services contractor running large excavators alongside wheel loaders in mining applications, Turner Mining Group encounters rapidly changing environments and material conditions – shot rock one day, for example, with mud and sand the next.

Due to the constant travel of loaders, Turner Mining Group requires solid underfoot conditions all shift long. Excavators, on the other hand, can dig just about anything anywhere, the company says.

Additionally, Turner Mining Group finds excavators offer advantages in tight work areas. While loaders need a solid face and plenty of room to back up and position trucks, excavators can attack material from a stationary position at a near unlimited number of angles.

“We’re running two of our Volvo 750s right next to two comparable-size loaders in the same material,” Turner says. “An excavator is a no-brainer there because it’s a tight area and cycle times are so much faster.”

Other advantages

Turner Mining Group utilizes a variety of equipment brands for both mining and stripping projects. Photo courtesy of BuildWitt Media Group.

Turner Mining Group utilizes a variety of equipment brands for both mining and stripping projects. Photo courtesy of BuildWitt Media Group.

When it comes to safety, Turner Mining confidently claims excavators have the edge here, as well.

Loaders can present dangers, the company says, due to the constant backing up they do while loading. The bigger the loader, the more blind spots there are. And if something is a hazard for the most experienced operators, then it’s incredibly hazardous when new operators are in the seat.

“Excavators are stationary,” says Travis Brown, Turner Mining Group’s production manager. “Eliminating the travel keeps things safer, especially for newer crews.”

Turner Mining Group is aggressively hiring and training young and inexperienced operators. Thus, training is a consideration when selecting loading tools.

“You’re only looking at the back of the bucket while operating a loader,” Turner says. “With excavators, you’re generally on a bench staring right into the truck bed.”

Due to more intuitive controls and a more open line of sight, Turner Mining Group finds that new operators can load more efficiently, safer and faster with excavators.

Availability and resale

While excavators make good, practical sense for Turner Mining Group, any quarry operator or contractor knows operational costs are king. If the dollars don’t work out, a machine will only last so long before something more cost-effective replaces it.

Considering this concept, excavators also offer advantages on the operational side of the business. Excavators are often more available, both new and in rental fleets. Due to Turner Mining Group’s continuously shifting nature, the company needs machines available wherever it goes.

When buying excavators, resale is an obvious consideration. Thanks to the versatility of excavators, a 75-ton machine can be sold to a broad spectrum of potential buyers. When Turner needs to sell an excavator, it is confident it will find a buyer in no time.

Size preferences

Turner Mining Group finds that new operators can load more efficiently, safer and faster with excavators. Photo courtesy of BuildWitt Media Group.

Turner Mining Group finds that new operators can load more efficiently, safer and faster with excavators. Photo courtesy of BuildWitt Media Group.

Of course, choosing a loading tool starts with a truck. Turner Mining Group leans on fleets of 45-ton trucks, utilizing multiple brands to do a significant amount of its material hauling in both mining and stripping projects.

Articulated trucks are Turner Mining Group’s preference because, like excavators, they’re flexible, available and easy to mobilize. The company’s excavator of choice to load 45-ton trucks in high-production environments, regardless of brand, is any machine in the 75-ton weight class.

“Anything smaller might struggle whereas anything bigger may not be cost-effective to move,” Turner says.

Depending on the material, Turner Mining Group’s operators typically average three to four passes per truck with load times ranging from 40 to 60 seconds.

Buckets and machine configuration can make or break profitability, Turning Mining Group adds, so the company invested a lot of time analyzing which setup is best.

“We mostly run oversize 7-yd. buckets and short sticks,” Brown says.

Thanks to the shorter boom and stick on mass excavation-configured excavators, Turner Mining Group operators can swing a much larger bucket.

Breakout force is also dramatically improved on mass excavation-style machines, the company says.

Takeaways

For Turner Mining Group, excavators are the obvious choice in the majority of mining cases thanks to ease of training, improved safety, flexibility and availability. Turner Mining Group is currently operating excavators across the country and reporting extraordinary production numbers as a result.

“Excavators are just sexier,” Turner says.


Aaron Witt is managing director of BuildWitt Media Group.


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