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Written by Darren Scully
The biggest articulated dump truck in Ireland has found a new home with Tobermore concrete products, whose quarry is based in County Tyrone. Darren Scully headed up to this picturesque part of Ireland to gets hands-on with this fantastic machine.
“You could say being the first to have it, you feel a bit like a guinea pig, but I can tell you now we are well impressed.”
Yes, it is a fair old spin from my home in Kildare up to Tyrone. When you must travel far, you do hope the journey is worth it. On this occasion, it was well worth the trip to see the new Volvo A60H. This beast of an articulated dump truck (ADT) is hard at work in its new home in Tobermore’s concrete products quarry, based beside Lough Fea, Co. Tyrone. It is a busy place, with excavators; loading shovels and even a dozer hard at work making sure the washing and screening plants are kept supplied with pay dirt.
History of Tobermore
The company which purchased the A60H was founded in 1942 as a sand and gravel business by the Henderson family. They then started to manufacture concrete products for the local area in the ‘50s. In the late ‘70s, they became the forerunners in the production of block paving, and they are now one of the biggest manufacturers of Pavia in the UK & Ireland. They currently employ over 200 people in the local area, with staff and offices also based in Scotland, England and Wales. They also have paving centres in Dublin and Cork with plans for future expansion. To supply the aggregate required for their products means a very busy quarry and a lot of equipment to process the sand & gravel. They run a Metso cone crusher, Kleeman jaw crusher with Terex screeners and washers, and equipment from CDE global. A large collection of conveyors is also used to move the product. In the mobile plant side of things, they have a Volvo 350F loader working in the pit, a Volvo L220 feeding the hopper and a Volvo L120 loading the Lorries. A Volvo EC360 excavator and a Komatsu 70-ton rigid dumper are also down in the pit. Along with their new A60H, you could say Tobermore is a very big fan of the Swedish construction equipment giant.
To explain why Tobermore keeps on buying Volvo is plant manager Paul McKeever, “They are very good machines, heavy built and very long lasting and, most important for us is the backup Pat O’Donnell gives us. If we have a problem we can just pick the phone up and someone from O’Donnell’s will be out quickly to get the issue sorted, that is very important to us”, said Paul. Tobermore is a great example of the phrase ‘brand loyalty’ – they bought their first Volvo machine back in the 1950s.
As you can imagine, there is quite a significant investment with the Volvo A60H ADT. I asked Paul why they bought it. “We have had a significant increase in business and that requires more output. Our prospects are looking good; even with Brexit looming; demand for our products is high. Some of our quarry faces are two miles away from our crushers, and therefore we needed to move a high volume of material a considerable distance quickly. As we are stripping back more land we needed a dumper that could handle rough terrain and carry a large payload. A rigid 60-ton machine won’t handle the rough terrain, but the A60H in our eyes is the perfect dumper for the job”, he said. Also, fuel burn was a major factor in choosing the right machine. Volvo supplied them with figures that gave them a good idea of how much juice their new dumper would consume: so far, the machine has performed better than expected with its fuel burn rate.
A first time for everyone
I got to have a chat with the quarry manager, William Paul. He has been in this business a long time and knows a lot about machinery production targets. He tells me they were originally looking at getting another A40 until O’Donnell’s told them about the A60H. Considering the A60 carries 20 tons more than the A40, this was a very attractive proposition. “We were a little unsure at first – was this the right machine for us? You could say being the first to have it, you feel a bit like a guinea pig, but I can tell you now we are well impressed”, said William. There are plans to put the A60 into the very soft ground soon when they start work around the silt ponds and when they start stripping back. William also feels that a lot of other quarries and, indeed, large civil contractors based in Ireland will be watching to see how they get on with their new purchase. “With big muck shifting jobs, this machine I think will be the way to go. It carries the payload with ease and is really fast. I think we will be seeing a lot more of them around the country soon”, concluded William.
A view from the cab
It was time to hitch a ride in this mammoth dumper. Operating the A60H is a young man who really enjoys his work. Harry Gray is only with Tobermore for about a year and had been operating the 20-year-old Volvo A40. This is a big trade up for him and he really is a happy man in his new chariot. “This is a great machine, comfort wise it’s fantastic. You don’t hear any noise at all, and it has loads of power and just glides along with a full load, I love it”, said a contented Mr. Gray.
We head from the washing plant on a journey that takes us across the main road and then into the pit. Down the steep hill, we then reverse, to the Volvo EC360 excavator. Enda, who operates the digger, starts loading us with the sand and gravel. What I find very interesting is the set of traffic lights located over the left-hand wing mirror. As the passes continue, the lights change from amber to green; this tells me that we are getting close to the full load. Another bucket is dropped in and the load indicator tells us we are now full and ready to go. This system ensures no overloading and therefore no extra wear on the tyres and stops the burning of extra fuel.
We start the climb up the hill, heading back for the wash plant. A quick look at the dash display and it tells me that we are carrying 54 tons. The climb is effortless, and when we start to reach the top, it upshifts. Now that we are on the haul road it does start to stretch its legs. 30 kph carrying nearly 55 tons – and she still has plenty to give if your right foot gets a bit heavier. We are back at the wash plant in quick fashion and then reverse up the ramp to the hopper. I am really impressed at how quick she tips the load. From the initial lift to dropping the box back down again is about 25 seconds; fast. We then decide to head down and get loaded by the Volvo 350F shovel. It takes the shovel four full bucket passes to fill us and we are off again. Again, the climb is a walk in the park and this machine really does bring a smile to the face. I ask Harry how big his smile was when he first drove it. “It was ear to ear and still is”, he says.
Under the covers
As with all my site visits to see new machines, I like to get her opened and see what makes her tick. The Volvo A60H is powered by a Volvo D16F 16 litre, 6-cylinder variable geometry diesel engine. This provides 639 horses of power. If you want to carry out a service, well, this is the bit I really like. The front grill swings down, opening a service platform with ladder steps. I really like the way Volvo has thought this out. This enables a safe, clean and easy way to carry out the service without the hassle. To access the full engine and all associated machinery you just release a couple of locks and the bonnet raises electrically.
The access to the cab is again very well laid out and safe. Handrails and anti-slip steps are everywhere; the designers have certainly earned their wages. Inside the cab is what you would expect, very roomy and comfortable. The cab is mounted on rubber pads and has been made with ergonomics and operator comfort in mind. The operator sits centrally positioned above the front axle. The console layout is very similar to that of her siblings; this means that you should be able to hop from one Volvo to the next and start work straight away.
“We’re at 30 kph carrying nearly 55 tons – and she still has plenty to give if your right foot gets a bit heavier.”
The A60H is fitted with active hydraulic front suspension – permitting high hauling speeds in tough conditions. This optimizes operator comfort and stability during travel. The On-Board Weighing System guarantees the optimal load every cycle. This maximizes production, boosts fuel efficiency and reduces machine wear in all site conditions and operations. The Dump Support System allows the operator to see the percentage side inclination of the truck and set allowable parameters for safe operation. This new feature adds to the already user-friendly dumping process aided by Volvo’s patented load-and-dump brake technology with automatic hold and float tipping lever, which provides precise control for faster cycle times.
With matched drivetrain, automatic drive combinations including 100% differential locks, all-terrain bogie, hydro-mechanical steering and active suspension, this machine will go into and get out of most tricky ground conditions.
This is the biggest articulated dump truck in the world. In plain English, this machine can carry heavier loads quicker and for a cheaper cost per load than ever before. Volvo has really put a lot of thought and effort into designing and building this hauler. I ask its operator, Harry Gray for his score out of 10 before I leave. He quickly says ten. I totally agree.