A KEANE EYE: Carrying more aces

If you take a contractor doing large projects, it can make sense to have machines dedicated to particular tasks and set up to perform well in those tasks, because the scale of the projects allows machines to specialise. Machine utilisation is not generally an issue, but concentrating on setting a machine up to excel at its chosen task can add up to significant dollars on a large project. An owner-operator might see things differently. One of the biggest hassles for an owner-operator can be making sure that there is continuity of work, so there is always one eye on the future and one on the present. When I talk to owners with a good range of attachments for their equipment, they will often say that one of the biggest benefits is spending longer on a job. That’s usually a win-win situation, with both the machine owner and the project contractor having to make fewer phone calls, deal with fewer people, raise less paperwork and … if you really want to stretch a point, it’s good for the environment because machines are spending more time working and less time on the backs of trucks moving between jobs.Of course it’s not just a matter of going out and buying more attachments. Working out what to buy is a balancing act because the more attachments you’ve got, the more capital you have tied up and the more weight you have to cart around. There has to be a payback, whether it’s with being able to hold a higher rate or getting more work. It probably helps if one of the attachments is slightly out of the ordinary so that it gets you onsite in the first place, before you say “but wait, there’s more!” and throw in a free set of steak knives. But it’s not all about the piece of earthmoving equipment when looking for “lazy assets”. Many owner-operators get good use out of their tippers by carrying equipment to site inside the tray and/or on a trailer, and then using the tipper to cart spoil from site. That’s probably about as much as you can hope to accomplish if you do short-term work and both the truck and trailer are full when moving between jobs. In tipper fleets, a water tank and spraybar that can be readily lifted into the tray can be an alternative to having an old clunker dedicated as the water truck, and it provides more reliability.At least one company I know of with a large fleet of tippers and agitators has these as demountable bodies that can be interchanged as demand changes. The same company also has agitator trailers so that if more concrete than fills a standard agitator is required, it can be delivered without the need for a second truck. The use of demountable bodies is probably not explored as much as it could be in Australia, but using a modern truck rather than a clunker for intermittent work, and being able to keep the body when trucks are changed over, is a good argument for considering it.Morooka and Hydrema distributor Sunset Equipment is exploring the option of hooklift systems and interchangeable bodies for these vehicles. For many applications it makes a lot of sense, particularly when so much capital is already invested in having a base vehicle with excellent offroad capabilities.Another option for increasing machine utilisation that is probably not explored as often as it should – particularly for 4x4s that are necessary for personnel to get around a large site but are parked for long periods of time – is to have a compressor or hydraulic pump run off the engine so that it becomes a power source for air and hydraulic tools. It sounds attractive compared to towing a compressor over rough site roads or lifting a hydraulic power pack in and out of the tray on a regular basis, and can get you into most places.The internet can be a good source of inspiration – each country has its own practices that have developed over time and some can be transplanted. One that intrigues me is the use of gooseneck trailers in the US. The monster size of pick-ups available over there probably helps, but putting the weight of the trailer over the drive wheels of the truck and having a long, low flat bed for transporting machinery sounds like an attractive option, and it’s probably easier to manoeuvre than a tag trailer.

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