The newest equipment hauling solutions allow the hauling of big, tracked machines to be routine, increasing fleet mobility. (Photo: Sleipner)

Two new trailers can routinely haul huge shovels and drills, at a clip, using fewer people

by jesse morton, technical writer

Improving fleet mobility offers a laundry list of benefits. Better availability, streamlined maintenance and increased productivity top it.

A couple of new trailers now out can haul massive shovels, drills and dozers from one working area to another. They are designed for easy loading and unloading. Few personnel are required. And in some cases, the machine being hauled can be moved at the rate of mine traffic.

In short, what both trailers primarily offer is speed. Speed that can be built into processes and routines. Below, the suppliers explain how faster is better.

Lowboy Trailer for World’s Biggest Shovels

Philippi-Hagenbuch (PHIL) announced the PHIL Ultra-Class Lowboy Trailer, gargantuan trailers designed to haul some of the biggest mining shovels on the planet.

PHIL described the unit, which can be designed to move a shovel weighing up to 2,000 tons, as a bridge on wheels. “The capacity will be decided by the client’s hauling needs,” said Josh Swank, vice president of sales and marketing, PHIL. “PHIL engineers will then create a trailer with the support necessary to transport the weight of the largest piece of equipment being hauled.”

The trailer was conceptualized as a niche solution. “There are a number of lowboy trailer manufacturers around the world that have done a great job building trailers, up to 400 tons in capacity,” Swank said.

“However, an ultra-class solution was needed to transport larger shovels,” he said. “Radically different thinking was required to accommodate such a haul and we were the ones that focused on that need.”

And the need was apparent. For example, a gigantic trailer could be used to move the shovel to a centralized location to speed up repair work. “Shovels can now be transported closer to maintenance facilities for optimal maintenance efficiency,” Swank said.

“When shovels go down in the field, it can take crews significant amounts of time to travel back and forth between the shop and the shovel in order to diagnose the problem and get the proper tools and replacement parts,” he said. “Along with this time-consuming process, workers that are out of sight are often out of mind, which can result in inefficiencies and unnecessary downtime.”

An artist’s rendering of Philippi-Hagenbuch’s lowboy that has been designed to allow a miner to cart a shovel from one operating area to another with limited disruption and minimal wear on the shovel. (Image: PHIL)

An ultra-class trailer could also be used to regularly move a shovel from pit to pit without creating wear and tear on the shovel itself.

“When mines have multiple pits and fewer shovels than pits, walking the shovels from one location to another causes degradation to their running gear, resulting in replacement costs of up to $1.5 million per shovel,” Swank said.

Walking a shovel can contribute to the need to replace the undercarriage every two to three years, he said. Using an ultra-class trailer could double the undercarriage life and result in savings across a fleet.

“With this solution, the shovel can simply drive up on to the back of the trailer and be transported to another location within the mine,” he said. “Additionally, loading an electric shovel on the trailer eliminates the need for a motivator to power the unit as it walks from one location to another.”

For several reasons, the PHIL Ultra-Class Lowboy Trailer started out as a blank-sheet design. “Because our solution is focused on sizes that range from hauling 400 to 2,000 tons of equipment, we did not start with a preconceived idea of what has been done previously to haul 100 tons of equipment,” Swank said. “That simply won’t work.”

Innovative, unique thinking was required, he said. For starters, the stresses are completely different.

“How you attach the trailer to the chassis and how you load the trailer is different,” Swank said. “Our focus is not to push a square peg into a round hole, but to engineer the peg to fit the hole correctly, the first time.”

The resulting design provides “an incredibly stable and tight integration of the trailer with the chassis,” he said.

During loading and unloading, the trailer is not disconnected from the chassis. “It eliminates the need to reconnect the truck and trailer in the field, which is often difficult, time consuming, and can be unsafe for operators,” Swank said.

“With our rear-loading solution, the truck and trailer simply pull up next to the piece of equipment to be transported, which then drives up on to the trailer deck from the rear,” he said. “Hydraulic ramps raise, the axles swing back into place, the trailer deck rises and then the truck is able to drive off to its destination.”

The axles use running gear made by Caterpillar and use Cat’s long-proven oil-cooled braking system.

“Simplicity is the key to this design,” Swank said. Which means it can be built to the specifications of the application.

“We’ll work with each client to discuss their needs and what’s required based on specifics of the piece of equipment they specify with us,” he said. “Items discussed may include haul road width, turns and switchbacks, but will be handled on a client-by-client basis.”

Such is par for the course for PHIL, which has a deep history of working with customers on custom jobs. “Each design is built upon the standards we have developed over the past six decades,” Swank said.

“We provide the benefit of working with a small, family-owned firm that is deeply committed to our clients’ success, while providing the engineering of a world-class equipment manufacturer,” he said. “We like to say that we have a small footprint with a wide reach, as we have equipment in every major mining environment globally.”

With a max payload of 120 mt, the DB120PLUS can haul drills, dozers, excavators, mining trucks, wheel dozers, wheel loaders and graders. (Photo: Sleipner)

Trailer for Drills, Dozers Ups Fleet Mobility

Sleipner released the DB120PLUS equipment transport trailer, which has a maximum payload of 120 mt and is ideal for drills, bulldozers and other tracked equipment. Like the two other units in the series, the trailer is compact, offering speed and agility that translates to substantial time savings and costs savings, the company said.

“It is the size of a David but with the strength of a Goliath,” said Maaret Elijärvi, sales and marketing coordinator, Sleipner Finland Oy.

The trailer can be used in routine relocation of equipment. It also allows the miner to be more reactive to emergent realities on the site. Both capabilities can help increase productivity, Sleipner reported.

Becoming more reactive can mean being able to quickly overcome setbacks, Elijärvi said.

“With the Sleipner DB system, drills, dozers, diggers and auxiliary equipment can be relocated quickly and safely from the bottom of the pit to the next work area, or to the workshop for service and maintenance during shift change or blast breaks,” she said.

The DB120PLUS can carry drills, bulldozers, excavators, wheel loaders, trucks, buckets, pumps, light towers, graders and more. With a hydraulically lowered and raised bed, it offers quick rear loading. “One person can handle the whole loading procedure,” Sleipner reported.

It offers a max towing speed of 15 km/h fully loaded. Unloaded it can travel at 30 km/h.

A top-tier benefit offered is the opportunity to improve site safety. The bed is wider than the loaded equipment tracks. It poses no risk of overturning. And it has a reversing camera system and an advanced braking system.

“Drag brake surfaces at the tail of the trailer can be lowered to touch the road during downhill transportation and the operator chooses the needed brake assist according to conditions,” Sleipner reported. “A secondary wheel brake system is connected to the brake circuit.”

Elijärvi said big safety gains can also arise from the fact that it can easily join mine traffic while requiring minimal personnel. “Thanks to the compact design and agility, the Sleipner DB-Series fits in with the flow of the haul road traffic, and there is no need for escort teams in the front and back of the lowboy, releasing resources and people.”

The wheel span of the unit is 11.8 m. The trailer bed is 8.2 m long and 5.8 m wide. It has a turning radius of 14 m.

The DB120PLUS can be towed by a 40-mt truck equipped with ADT.

The model is the natural evolutionary successor to the original DB120.

Since its release in 2013, the DB120 has been widely deployed and has garnered positive feedback. One customer with multiple pits on a site spanning roughly 10 km used it to cut maintenance costs enough to justify running four additional dozers, Elijärvi said.

“In this case, in order to fit the maintenance budget, the mine was planning to cut the dozer fleet from 13 to nine units,” she said. Before it did, it adopted a DB120.

The trailer basically made the fleet mobile enough to dramatically reduce maintenance costs. With the dozers being wheeled around when needed, all maintenance could be done at the workshop. With minimal availability disruption, they could be dropped off for unplanned maintenance.

“After using Sleipner DB120 for only six months, the maintenance cost of the 13-dozer fleet was at below the projected maintenance cost of nine dozers,” Elijärvi said.

There were other savings that proved incalculable. “After all the tracked machines were relocated on wheels, the road repair costs were reduced drastically,” Elijärvi said. “Previously, the heavy-tracked equipment was tramming on dust beside the roads, causing damage to the haul roads.”

And using the DB120 proved to be the safest option, she said.

“Safety is not always a calculable or quantifiable factor, but in a comparison between the operational procedures of a conventional lowbed-type trailer and Sleipner DB120, no doubt Sleipner will clearly win,” Elijärvi said. “Low center of gravity allows exceptional stability. Fall risks are minimal. And with ADT, there is no unhitching or rehitching of the DB120.”

The DB-Series builds on the success of the E-Series, wheeled excavator-transportation solution systems that originated with the release of the E90 in 1996.

The biggest of the E-Series is the E550, which is pulled by either a Cat 797 or a Komatsu 960E and can move a 550-ton excavator.

The E550 was released in 2013. The system is comprised of two units, each with four wheels. Each unit is 3.6 m long, 5.5 m wide and offers clearance of 0.4 m.

It works like a giant dolly. The units are placed behind the tracks. The excavator pulls on to the units. The bucket goes into the body of the truck. The excavator then lifts the remaining tracks off the ground and the truck tows it away for maintenance or to be relocated.

The topmost benefit offered is increased productivity, Elijärvi said. “It offers 50% savings on undercarriage maintenance, and a colossal 85% reduction of travel time equating to an increase in productivity,” she added.

That productivity increase can range between 12% and 20%, she said.

Other benefits include reductions in the environmental impacts of transporting an excavator.

E-Series solutions can help an operation do all excavator maintenance at a workshop. “All small or big maintenance or breakdown-related issues can be done in a clean, safe, contamination-free and environmentally controlled workshop area,” Elijärvi said.

The solutions have become the benchmark in excavator transportation, she said. “It is a unique series like no other in the current market.” Different mines have deployed E-Series solutions to solve challenges particular to their site.

For example, an Australian miner adopted the E400 to reduce relocation time. Previously, the mine simply drove the excavators from work area to work area. “This mine used traditional traveling methods within its large geographical operations area,” Elijärvi said. “As a result, the excavators’ relocation times were long and easily took the whole working day.”

With the E400, relocations now take less than an hour. “The time saved is close to an entire shift,” Elijärvi said.

Increased availability and utilization helped the miner increase both efficiency and production. “The increased production and cost savings resulted in a break-even period of a couple of months since the Sleipner investment,” Elijärvi said.

Other benefits are offered.

By reducing wear on the tracks, undercarriage lifespan is often doubled or tripled. Further, work done in a workshop is typically 20% faster than repairs done in the pit, Elijärvi said. “Thanks to improved service times, the machines’ downtime is further reduced,” she said. “After maintenance, the equipment can be easily dropped off at the next working location according to production needs.”

The time saved, the increased production, the improved component lifespan, and the improved maintenance outcomes all combine to create new possibilities for mine planning with tracked equipment.

“With Sleipner mobility solutions, the work can be done with one excavator less than normally required,” Elijärvi said. “Because drill fleet mobility doesn’t set any restrictions on the planning, the blasting sequences can be planned without compromises. Dozers can be relocated according to production needs. Areas that don’t need full-time dozer service availability can be operated with shared resources.”

Drills and dozers can drive on to the DB120PLUS’s hydraulically lowered bed in minutes. The bed is then raised, and the rig can join the flow of mine traffic. (Photo: Sleipner)

The adoption process typically begins with an assessment of the site and operation. “We meet with the customers to thoroughly discuss the requirements, such as equipment compatibility, ramp gradients and training options,” Elijärvi said. “Sleipner will find the best possible solution to transport all the customer’s equipment and will also arrange the training before any equipment is deployed.”

Providing the best possible equipment transportation solution is Sleipner’s modus operandi, she said.

“Sleipner, as a company, is solution driven to assist the mining industry with cost savings and production growth, while keeping the environmental impact in consideration,” Elijärvi said. “Through the constant development of the product capacity, Sleipner aims to provide solutions that evolve with the industry.”