Full-Suspension Versus Conventional Haulers: 3 Factors to Consider

Operating conditions usually make the choice between a rigid and articulated hauler an easy one. But once a customer knows they want an articulated hauler, I often get asked just how severe the conditions need to be to justify upgrading to a full-suspension (FS) model over a conventional model. Since the cost difference is in the neighborhood of 20 percent between the two machines, it’s important that buyers make sure it’s a worthy investment for their operation. Here are a few things I think they need to consider.

1. What’s the difference?
Conventional articulated haulers use mechanical connections between the frame and axles, while FS models use hydraulic cylinders in place of the mechanical connections — putting a hydraulic cylinder connected to computers and actuators at every tire. This allows the FS truck to hydraulically move the suspension based on the terrain.
In addition to allowing for the machines to move quickly on rough terrain, the hydraulic connections allow for a less bumpy ride that eliminates vibration and noise, which makes for a much more comfortable ride for the operator, making longer shifts easier.

2. How much better will the FS actually perform?
We recently ran a side-by-side test to see just how much faster an FS model could run through cycles compared to a conventional in tough off-road conditions. While every site is different, the test showed that at this particular site, the FS model proved to significantly outperform the conventional. See the video.
Based on a fleet of 16 articulated haulers and a total haul cycle of 1.9 miles, the results showed:

  • 20 percent reduction in cycle times. In the test, the FS model completed each cycle nearly five minutes faster than the conventional hauler.
  • 18 percent fleet size reduction. Since the FS haulers produce more cycles per hour, the example fleet could be reduced from 16 haulers down to 13 haulers.
  • 13 percent cost per ton reduction. With 18 percent fewer haulers and 20 percent shorter cycle times, the total cost per ton and cost of ownership can be reduced by 13 percent — an easy justification for the upgrade.

3. Are you willing to upgrade the whole hauler fleet?
I always tell people — your fleet is only as fast as its slowest hauler. You’re not going to see the full benefit of an FS hauler if it has to wait in the queue behind a slower conventional model. One great way to predict the most efficient mix of FS and/or conventional haulers is to have a Site Simulation study conducted — a topic I recently blogged about.

To see if an FS model is right for you, contact us, and we’ll help you find the best solution for your site.

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