Sizing and gaining the most from your mining excavators and haulers

In the extractive industries, it is important to match excavators to your haul trucks to lower your total cost of ownership (TCO). If they are mismatched, you will be inefficient and burn extra fuel. If you can mitigate that, you will lower your operating costs over time and start realising higher profits as a result.

Below are some tips to help you properly size your haulers and excavators, plus ways to ensure you are getting the most of the construction machines you run each day.

There are tools out there to help you size and pair machines depending on your set-up and situations. In most instances, Volvo Construction Equipment’s Site Simulation tool can be adopted to look at the job, the haul roads, the total distance, the time constraints and the material that needs to be moved. That information is used by CJD Equipment to right-size the truck fleet to the excavator to increase an operator’s efficiency on the job. While many customers already know what they want, they can still be guided in the right direction as CJD talks more about its unique set-up. For example, if a single A60H haul truck can match (or even increase) production over two A45Gs, they can potentially reduce the fleet size, optimise the workforce and so on.

Construction weight and excavator calculators can help producers uncover costs and savings they may not realise up front. Volvo CE utilises a proprietary sales toolbox with customers alongside its dealers. These worksheets calculate TCO on a machine, allow customers to select different specifications for certain machines (eg buckets, boom configuration, etc), calculate fuel consumption, the number of passes to fill a hauler, and more. It is a handy tool to ensure customer fleets are sized correctly for the type of work at hand.

Once your haulers and excavators are sized correctly, the following tips will help you get the most out of them:

The most efficient way to load a truck — for the fastest cycle times — is side loading. Don’t waste time, fuel and money backing in and manoeuvring your trucks. If you can set up your site to side load, you will experience faster cycle times and lower operating costs over time.

When loading the bucket, make sure you have good, heaped loads go in the truck, and utilise the bed as much as possible. It is best practice to evenly distribute the load across the bed. You want to feather the material into the truck because it won’t have that “splat” effect that usually leads to material sticking to the bed. This is especially true in sticky clay situations.

Configure your mining excavators appropriately with boom and arm options. Some customers prefer a longer reach, while others want as big a bucket as possible to load more material, which requires a shorter boom and shorter arm. The most popular compromise between reach and the bigger bucket approach is a hybrid — a standard boom and short arm. The advantage of a hybrid configuration is that reach is reduced by about one-third of a metre but lifting capacity can be increased by eight per cent or more. Obviously, there’s give and take with different arm and boom configurations, so it is important to configure your excavator for the type of work you are doing, then ensure your haul trucks are appropriately matched.

Use on-board weighing scales to improve accuracy. Volvo CE offers Haul Assist on-board weighing, which comes standard on A30G through to A60H models. With other manufacturers, the scales aren’t standard equipment. The Haul Assist scales help operators see each loading cycle. The lights on the end of the mirrors on the truck are indicators. Yellow means put more material in the bed, green is perfectly loaded, and red is overloaded. Operators can always tell exactly where they are at in the loading cycle as far as the actual bed capacity. Anywhere from 90 per cent to 110 per cent of the bed capacity is considered a perfect load.

Working with an OEM and a dealer who have parts and can react quickly is critical. Your support will be even faster when you use telematics systems to diagnose and take care of problems before they become catastrophic issues.

If your operation moves a lot of material and you’re looking to gain some efficiencies in your cycle times, you might also consider pairing up an EC950E excavator with A60H haulers. You will move more tonnes and keep your haulers moving without burning excessive fuel.

It has been more than 25 years since construction giant Volvo CE partnered with CJD Equipment. This successful partnership has supplied Australia with Volvo’s world-class products, along with after market service and support right across the country.

CJD’s branch and dealer network spans the country, providing 24/7 sales, parts and service support from more than 500 highly experienced staff with knowledge and skills. For more information on CJD Equipment’s Volvo CE line-up, visit •

Source: CJD Equipment

Integrated machine control bolsters hazardous rock face

When New Zealand contractor Fulton Hogan was awarded a contract to remediate a steep, unstable rock face overlooking the Port of Otago, it faced a number of challenges to deliver the project safely, within a tight budget, and in a highly visible location.


The goal of the project, known as the Flagstaff Hill Earthworks, was to stabilise a steep hazardous rock face next to the Port of Otago.

Also known as Observation Point, reclamation of areas of the port during the 1990s had resulted in an unstable rock face, with several slips, as well as rocks and boulders falling to the road below.

For the past 20 years, half the roadway at the foot of the face has been battered off
with safety fencing to protect public roads and walkways.

The area is one of outstanding beauty, with views to Otago Harbour’s historic Quarantine and Goat Islands, and across to the Otago Peninsula.

A KiwiRail line for freight and daily passenger services during the cruise ship season runs adjacent to the site, while both locals and tourists use the road and tracks below for recreation.

Over the years, slips have caused closure of the road, while frequent rock falls and boulders have come down the slope.

At the turn of this century (circa 2000), Port Otago installed a shipping container wall across half of the road, along with additional safety catch fencing, to minimise risks and protect the public. At the same time, an adjacent log yard storage and handling area was reduced, to allow the public road to use part of the Port’s land for access.

The unstable nature of the face meant daily inspections of the road had to be carried out since the 1990s works. Slips, boulders and rock falls had to be removed on an all too regular basis.



Consulting engineers WSP Opus were awarded a design contract to assess the underlying geology and develop a design for a cut slope with benches to remove the risk of further slips and rock falls in the area. The result of the design was the planned removal of 47,735m3 of material.

Fulton Hogan successfully tendered for the works, which commenced in the winter of 2019, completing the project in the four months to October 2019.

According to Grant Sime, Fulton Hogan’s senior project delivery manager in Dunedin, the contract scope was to work at height on an unstable rock face and strip off more than 47,000m3 of clay and rock, and safely remove all the material from site.

“Before we would work out where and how to start the physical work, the entire site needed to be accurately surveyed,” Sime said. “With existing gradients of 70 per cent and greater, combined with the instability of the ground, putting people on the slope face would have been extremely dangerous.

“Using our own in-house surveying team, and external subcontractor Jared Reeves of Overview Surveying, we carried out a point cloud survey using a drone to understand what we were up against.”

The pre-start drone survey was mapped against the required finished batter of 35 per cent, along with three five-metre wide benches at the top of the slope, so the
exact quantities of material to be excavated were known.

Given the safety and operational challenges of excavating on such a steep, unstable slope, Fulton Hogan sought input from excavator operators Ray Te Huna and Kevin Patrick on how best to proceed.

Sime describes Te Huna and Patrick as two of the best operators in the region.

“It’s simple,” Te Huna said. “When you are loading out from a digger, you sit on top of the material and load out while your mound comes down gradually.”

Sime said this response gave Fulton Hogan the basis for how to proceed, knowing the company had full engagement of its expert operators. “Together we developed a plan.”

With the drone survey having provided a highly accurate 3D overview of the existing site, and WSP Opus providing a 3D model of the required final design, making use of an excavator fitted with precision GPS-based machine control was the solution.

Designs can be imported into the PC210LCi-10’s iMC systems and portrayed on the in-cab screen
to assist the operator.


Fulton Hogan purchased a Komatsu PC210LCi-10 intelligent Machine Control (iMC) excavator specifically for this project. Based around Topcon Positioning Systems’ precision machine control capabilities, fully factory-integrated within the machines, iMC allows earthworks to be carried out to millimetre-level accuracy.

“Having intelligent Machine Control on this excavator was magic,” Sime said. “Not having to set out pegs using manual survey methods improved efficiency ten-fold. And because we didn’t have to have a surveyor on the ground, it was much safer.

“In that type of environment, we had no option but to start at the top and work down, and there was no going back.

“And the end result was without a doubt the best batter slope I have ever been associated with,” Sime added. “It wasn’t just a simple slope either; it was benched at the top, then battered and curved around to follow the line of the point.”

The designs for the batter were provided to Fulton Hogan electronically, then downloaded to the iMC excavator, so at all times it was working to the client’s designs.

“In addition, the client accepted the as-builts coming out of the machine,” Sime said.

“Then, when we completed the 47,000m3 material removal, we were between 80m3 to 100m3 out, compared with the original design. It was so close, the client was just blown away. We are very proud of how close we got; in terms of that volume of material, it was nothing,” Sime said.

When Fulton Hogan was considering which excavator machine control system to use on the project, Sime said the company looked at a number of different makes.

“With the Komatsu system, what really impressed me was the simplicity of the cab layout for the operator. In terms of the operator interface, it’s spot on. I think it offers by far the best operator layout,” he said.

Fulton Hogan’s Komatsu PC210LCi-10 hydraulic excavator working at the foot of the face.


Operator Ray Te Huna, who has been an earthmoving equipment operator for nearly 20 years, with the last 10 years almost exclusively on excavators, said the Komatsu iMC excavator made his job “a hell of a lot easier”.

“It also takes a lot more people off the ground, so it’s much safer and easier not having to work around them,” he said.

“Certainly, it’s heaps faster. I’m probably 50 to 60 per cent quicker doing my work, because I don’t need people to check it all the time. Now we just need the surveyors to come in and check the calibration a couple of times a week, if that.”

Since the Port Chalmers project, Te Huna has been operating the iMC excavator on a range of projects, including a logging yard extension, building pads for a large carpark, drainage works, and on an arterial road project.

“Using designs imported into the machine is so much easier,” he said. “I think I’d probably find it hard going back to a conventional machine after this.”

The excavator was part of an extensive program to strip off more than 47,000m3 of clay and rock.


Fulton Hogan’s Otago-based surveyor Craig Kenneally also said the Komatsu iMC concept has made his job much easier.

“I like the Topcon operating system, I always have, because you can put your drawing files straight into it, rather than having to use third party software,” he said. “That’s one less step, and it’s easier than loading up terrain models.

“And because the sensors in the Komatsu machine are integrated, the excavator works really well, as you don’t need to worry about them getting knocked. I’ve seen how vulnerable they can be with the bolt-on systems.”

Kenneally said Komatsu’s Smart Construction crew also provided invaluable support. “There’s a feature where they can log into the excavator’s system remotely and help us out where there’s any issues. There was a bit of a training/transition period when we first got the kit, but the support’s always been really good.

“With the Port of Otago, we flew a drone over the job every few weeks to check everything. But on a nearly 50,000m3 job, to come within one to two truckloads is really good.”

Kenneally worked closely with operator Te Huna setting up project protocols and loading the data. “It’s also really nice that it’s got that feature where I can load the data externally whenever we get a new set of plans to work from.

“At the Port of Otago, we were using the excavator to quality assure all the time. Ray would go to a known point to check it was calibrated, and it was always consistent, always good.

“We were very happy with the data coming off the excavator, it was always very close to what we were getting off the drone and our other surveying systems,” Kenneally said.

Komatsu’s Smart Construction program consists of five phases – from initial site survey and design, through to machine control management, machine interconnectivity and review of project progress. It builds on industry-leading expertise in machine management through an INSITE fleet management centre, the KOMTRAX remote monitoring service and its iMC offerings, which are currently available in dozers and excavators.

For more information about Komatsu’s Smart Construction program and offerings, visit  

Source: Komatsu Australia

Wombat rock site cements two-decade relationship


A Victorian southwest coast quarry has steadily grown its relationship with a major OEM, hailing clever design, fuel efficiency and cost savings as the backbone of their 25-year partnership – and all while extracting a colloquially famous rock.

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CCAA: COVID-safe construction essential to Australia’s recovery


Ken Slattery, the chief executive officer of the peak body for Australia’s heavy construction materials industry, has warned in an opinion piece that the capacity for the industry to be an engine for the nation’s post-pandemic economic recovery is being hindered by snap lockdowns.

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