As part of a continuous effort to optimise payload and improve customers’ profit margins, while decreasing emissions and impact on the environment, South African earthmoving equipment provider Bell Equipment has invested heavily in research and development in its drive towards realising full autonomy in its articulated dump trucks (ADTs).
Its ADTs are currently fitted with many automated features for operators in the cab and are autonomous-ready.
“After about three years of research and development we now have two live test sites, one in Austria and our newest in the US, which were initiated over the past two years,” says Bell Equipment ADT product marketing manager Nick Kyriacos.
“Our ultimate goal would be to have operators out of harm’s way, at a distance or in a control room, while still enjoying full control of the vehicle.
“Adoption of interoperability and ease of integration, as well as remote monitoring and control have been sped up, owing to Covid-19.”
He adds that autonomous control was a futuristic concept pre-Covid-19, but now it has come to the forefront as a realistic solution.
“Although still in the early adopter and commercial investigation stage, there have been increased requests for information on what is possible and discussions on potential real-world commercial opportunities.”
The advent of collision avoidance systems and pedestrian detection systems has helped streamline the Bell ADTs’ autonomous operations, allowing for most efficient driving control in terms of striving for what is commonly known as a ‘golden lap’.
A golden lap is defined as being able to dispatch a vehicle to the face, retrieve the optimal load, drive to the offload area without extremes in acceleration or braking, and arrive at the drop-off at the perfect time to avoid any congestion and idling.
“Being able to hit these parameters head-on will save time, optimise load, decrease fuel use and, consequently, carbon footprint and also result in less wear on the vehicle.”
Fundamental Fleet Management
Kyriacos points out that, essential to a productive and profitable fleet, is the ability to monitor and manage machines and operators efficiently.
Hence, Bell Equipment’s promotion of its Fleetm@tic fleet management system, which offers automated reports, alerts, production data and remote connectivity.
Machine operational data, including standard payload data, is processed and compiled into useful production and performance statistics, accessible on the Bell Fleetm@tic website.
Additionally, reports are automated and emailed directly to the client for ease of access.
Fleetm@tic helps clients maximise productivity, as well as identify operator training requirements and implement proactive maintenance planning.
The system is able to receive real-time geospatial data, as well as receive machine fault codes, while suggesting troubleshooting procedures, helping a client to protect its investment.
Fleetm@tic also integrates easily with the new autonomous controls, negating the need for further add-ons in the cab of the ADT.
Bell Equipment continues to strive for a greener economy by offering better machines which comprise more components that can be recycled at their end of life.
Extensive use of high-strength, lightweight materials give these trucks the “best” payload-to-mass ratios and hauling efficiencies in each class.
The fuel-efficient, emission-certified engines supplied by vehicle manufacturer Mercedes-Benz deliver clean power “without compromise”.
Additionally, specially sourced transmissions supplied by global transmission manufacture Allison Transmissions, and installed with FuelSense 2.0 software, add to the ADTs fuel efficiency and reduce fuel consumption.
Other uptime-boosting features include “world-class”, on-board diagnostics with livestream functionality, solid-state sealed switches and satellite fleet management system.
Bell Equipment offers the widest selection of surface mining ADTs manufactured by an original-equipment manufacturer globally, with capacities ranging from 20 t to 60 t.
This includes drive configurations in 4 × 4, 6 × 4, and 6 × 6 models as well as two specially adapted ADTs for underground applications, Kyriacos concludes.