In It for the Long Haul
Albert Einstein once said, “The important thing is not to stop questioning.” In the mining industry, a lack of inquisitiveness may lead to a blissful ignorance, but it certainly won’t increase efficiencies.
While one may claim necessity is the mother of invention, questioning and analyzing how methods and systems can be improved is the catalyst to discovering necessities. Understandably, when working in a coal mine, where trucks operate around the clock every day of the year, it’s nearly impossible to pull the nose from the grindstone long enough to provide thorough analysis. Fortunately, industry-leading manufacturers have assisted by taking a long hard look at the process and ensuing headaches within this application.
On the surface, it may appear as though truck bodies don’t deviate much from one design to another with their applications deviating even less. Each day is virtually the same in coal mines around the world — trucks spend their time loading and unloading countless tons of coal. However, take a moment or two to speak with an operator about the pain in his or her day and it’s easy to see that assertion couldn’t be further from the truth. The goals of these operators may all be the same — increase payload, decrease downtime and get the highest lifespan on the truck — but the outcome in each mine depends greatly on the equipment at use.
To help ensure productivity, a high-performance coal-specific truck body design that addresses the three major challenges inherent in the coal industry can provide major benefits. First, the design maximizes full truck capacity to increase potential profit. Second, the bodies are constructed so little maintenance is needed, decreasing downtime. Finally, the truck body is engineered to have an average life span that exceeds coal body alternatives.
Filled to the Max
Coal is mined in more than 50 countries, with a total of more than 7,000 million tons per year (Mt/yr) of coal being produced. That total is expected to climb to more than 13,000 Mt/yr by the year 2030. With numbers such as these, it only makes sense that equipment constructed for coal hauling is constantly becoming more efficient.
Trucks are all designed with a finite capacity. Part of that capacity, of course, is the truck itself. In a perfect design, the amount of coal able to be hauled would consume the rest of the capacity limit.
High-performance coal bodies are engineered with that exact goal — to maximize truck hauling capacity and increase payload. Designed with the mine in mind, these bodies are custom constructed after all specifications have been taken into consideration — height and width restriction, loading equipment shovel type and size, the grades trucks will be driving on, hauling distance and the average number of haul cycles per day.
With this knowledge at hand, high-performance coal bodies are constructed in a way to achieve the greatest capacity possible. Bodies are wider and match up with the loading equipment shovel, allowing for a larger loading target. Additionally, certain manufactures can apply advanced testing systems that examine the natural angle of repose (how the material lays once dumped out of a container) of the materials being hauled and engineer a custom design that provides greatest load.
To further increase capacity limits, high-performance coal bodies can be constructed in a lightweight version. Still designed around the specifics of each mine, this “throw-away” version is constructed with a lighter body weight in order to achieve an even greater capacity. While not the standard, as these coal bodies provide only three to five years of life, in some mine operations this design is desired to get the most immediate payload possible.
Focusing on the specifics of the mine significantly increases hauling productivity. In fact, high-performance coal bodies can increase an operation’s hauling rate by 10 – 15 per cent more than alternative or traditional coal bodies. Customizing the body to each individual mine also aids in productivity by ensuring low maintenance.
In an industry where trucks are running around the clock, 365 days of the year, productivity is the last thing that should be sacrificed. In order to ensure downtime is minimal and job productivity stays high, low maintenance equipment is a necessity.
High-performance coal bodies are designed for increased stability and operator safety. They are constructed with a low center of gravity, and with 1/3 of the weight on the front of the truck and 2/3 of the weight on the back of the truck. Doing so puts the truck at its greatest weight distribution. Additionally, a wider truck body allows the shovel to get down lower to the floor of the body — providing the lowest loading height and eliminating the potential for loading equipment to damage the sides of the body. This provides less vibration to the truck driver and less impact on the body when coal is loaded, as well as eliminates loading equipment damage.
Unlike traditional coal trucks that are constructed with straight body sides, high-performance coal bodies are engineered with outwardly tapering body sides, desired for a better load release. Tapering the body decreases the abrasive wear that occurs due to the constant scraping of materials on the sides of the body when dumped.
Due to the lightness factor of coal, high-performance coal bodies are often constructed with a tailgate to enable greater control of the load. However, to further eliminate even the slight maintenance need that comes with a tailgate, coal bodies can also be gateless.
With the intense, 24/7 work done in mines around the world, it’s important to use quality materials to extend truck life. The key to any house is a good foundation. If a house isn’t built on a good foundation, it will crumble. The same holds true for truck bodies. To ensure a good foundation, high performance custom truck bodies run steel bolsters from side to side under the body floor. But unlike traditional bodies, which simply butt-weld the bolsters to the frame rail, high performance bodies run the bolsters through the frame rails, doubling up the “sweet spot” within the center floor section. By intersecting the bolsters with the frame rails, which run from front to back, these custom bodies create a super-structure that won’t buckle under the immense weight of the mined materials.
This enhanced truck design can couple with some of the strongest steel in the world to significantly extend the life of the truck, as well. Steel with a Brinell of 450, which is manufactured in Sweden, has been found to be the strongest, most durable steel available. Within high-performance coal bodies, the steel is used only where steel is needed (at the greatest load containing areas) –providing body durability while ensuring payload isn’t sacrificed. Even in intense environments and after hundreds of thousands of tons hauled to and from mines, the steel doesn’t show signs of wearing thin. In fact, constructing the bodies in such a fashion increases the life of the trucks by 25 – 30 per cent.
A Purpose Driven Design
Questioning exactly how a mine operates and has changed the success rate of mining operations throughout the world. Custom design increases productivity rates, while superior construction decreases downtime and increases truck life. It’s a focus that’s paying off in payload significantly – and helping contribute to the expected 2030 date of reaching 13,000 Mt/yr of total coal production.
It turns out that inquisitiveness, not ignorance, results in bliss.
About the Author
Josh Swank, vice president of sales and marketing for Philippi-Hagenbuch, oversees the steel mill, refuse and mining industry sales group and has been with the company for more than 16 years. His previous roles within the company include global sales and marketing manager and account manager. Outside of Philippi-Hagenbuch, he participates in multiple industry and philanthropic organizations, including the National Stone Sand and Gravel Manufacturers & Services Board, the NSSGA Young Leaders and the National Mining Association Board of Governors. He is a trustee of the JWAS Foundation and active within the Peoria, Illinois, start-up community.
About Philippi-Hagenbuch Inc.
Engineering innovative haul-truck solutions for over 50 years, Philippi-Hagenbuch Inc. is located in Peoria, Illinois and has been building equipment for off-highway haul trucks since 1969. During this time PHIL has become the global leader in off-highway truck customization. In addition to their innovative tailgates, push blocks, rear-eject bodies and trailers, Philippi-Hagenbuch designs and builds end-dump bodies, trailers, sideboards, load ejectors and water tanks for nearly every make and model of articulated and rigid frame off-highway truck available. For more information visit www.philsystems.com