Productivity’s Big Tip

In November 2021, Aussie Angles8 MinutesBy Howard ShanksDecember 22, 2021

Mining company executives have little time for the finer details of truck and trailer specifications and even less for manufacturers’ marketing garrulity. Except, that is, when your trailer combination promises to deliver a 10% payload increase. Townsville-based trailer-builder Mick Murray Welding knows this only too well.

Kenworth T659 8×6 Tri-Drive looks the business in Toll’s characteristic teal.

The introduction of Mick Murray Welding’s Highway-Bowl side- tipping trailer roadtrain combination, which delivers significant productivity gains, has not gone unnoticed by mining company accountants.

For mining companies seeking their fortune from a mining operation located in the ‘Boom-fields’ of Queensland’s Cloncurry-Mount Isa region, heeding the advice of the company accountant is pivotal to the success of the mine, more so than any other region in the country.

Today, tourism brochures promote the ‘Curry’ as the home of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, the destination of the first Qantas flight, and not surprisingly, its mining heritage. But as Dr K.H. Kennedy’s paper, A Short history of the Cloncurry Copper Field, noted: “The Cloncurry region is likely to have the same impression on a modern visitor as it had on the inveterate traveller A.C.C. Lock, who in 1949, despaired having reached ‘the end of the world’. The relentless heat and windswept dust which rolled across the desolate red earth remained a lasting memory.”

In the early 20th century, mining companies in the Cloncurry-Mount Isa region did attract the attention of stock exchanges in London and Melbourne. Nevertheless, like most boom fields, the tyranny of distance, the adversity of the region and the outbreak of hostilities in 1914 sent copper prices plummeting, which brought the inevitable end to mining operations. Today, a smattering of rusting relics are all that remains of the region’s early copper empire.

In the past decade, the price of copper has risen fast and high without any sharp decline.

At the time of writing, copper is trading at US$4.30/lb (about NZ$6/lb).

From top: Haldex braking and stability system.

But mining accountants are all too familiar with how quick and far the price of copper can fall. So, they constantly read the market with the keen eye of an eagle.

They understand a minute 1% imbalance in supply and demand can influence prices by as much as10%, up or down. Increasing unit payload efficiency is undoubtedly one optimistic step miners employ to even out the fluctuations caused by global copper

The exceptionally low tare of the Highway-Bowl side- tipping trailer, combined with optimised axle group placement, gives these multi- combination units the ability to achieve the highest PBS gains.

The high-tensile steeldeep-dished-designed cradle chassis delivers a very light tipper chassis with a low centre of gravity. The bin construction is from QT450 grade abrasion-resistant high tensile, giving the body a very light tare. Tipping is via two five-inch (125mm) double- acting hydraulic cylinders with hardened rods.

The Highway-Bowl side-tipping trailer has a single hydraulic ram construction, which lessens the need for extra controls and hydraulic circuits, consequently reducing potential downtime.

The single-ram design means there is only one action for tipping when the trailertips, speeding up the overall process considerably. In the meantime, the body floor design encourages this fast- unloading process, reducing product build-up in the corners and sidewalls. As a result, the whole load can be tippedin as little as 30 seconds, depending on the hydraulic flow supplied.

Meanwhile, the robust bin-to-chassis pivot bearing distributes loads evenly across the bin and chassis, resulting in a low-maintenance operation.

In addition, an optional self- opening sealed-lid system, which significantly improves the safe operation for loading, transit and unloading of dangerous goods such as the copper concentrate these trailers haul, is also available. The running gear is nothing short of top-shelf premium pedigree, with BPW(SHZA10110-15 120-mm square x 15mm) axles and suspensions used exclusively throughout the trailers and dollies.

The electronic brains of the braking and stability system is by Haldex.

Single hydraulic ram construction lessens the need for extra controls and hydraulic circuits.

Throughout Queensland’s outback and the Northern Territory, BPW is the preferred brand, and it has the lion’s corroborate this accolade.

Oakdare’s Michael Connolly says about his BPW equipment: “Over the past few BPW disc brakes on our 95% of disc brakes through the trailer fleet,” Michael explained. “We’re finding we’re getting great service life outthem both on-bitumen and off.

The main reason we originally went to disc brakes was for found that they have better is giving us a lot better tyre life, and the braking capability of the discs is far superior to the drums.

Also, there is a lot servicing of the trailers without the grease points, and we a service life point of view, we have trailers that have worked in mixed service with both on and off-highway operation that have over 300,000km, and the pads are still good.”

These units undoubtedly tick the boxes of lower operating costs, increased vehicle utilisation and productivity gains with the consolidation of a light tare, premium running gear components and the features such as a completeauto-greasing system.

Low tare and optimised axle group placement achieve the highest PBS gains.

This Kenworth T659 (8×6 Tri-Drive) quad roadtrain predominantly hauls =Gunpower Mine and 180km from Cannington Mine to the Oonoomurra rail siding, east of Cloncurry.

So far, the Mick Murray Welding Highway-Bowl side-tipping trailer combinations are living up to their expectations.

However, there is no question that they certainly operate in one of the hottest and harshest environments in the world. The bitumen road is so hot in the summer months you can place a frying pan on the street in Cloncurry and cook an egg. It’s that hot.

For the time being, at least, that 10% productivity gain that initially caught the eye of the mining accountants is paying dividends..