Selecting the Right Dump Truck

Needless to say, there are today many different types of dump trucks. There are “standard” or “rigid frame” dump trucks. There are “articulated” dump trucks. There are “transfer” dump trucks. There are “truck and pups,” “superdump” trucks, and, well, the list is practically as endless as the jobs they do.

On August 17, 1920, a Canadian inventor named Robert T. Mawhinney was granted patent number CA 203,004. Little did he know that his invention, what he called a “dump box for truck,” would be instrumental in the development of our present trucking industry. This crude creation was considered to be the first prototype or creation of a dump truck. Since then, manufacturers or producers of these transportation means created various types of dump trailers depending on their uses.

To create this first dump truck, a mast was mounted between the cab of the vehicle and the dump box. A cable was threaded over a sheave at the top of the mast and was connected to a winch at the base of the mast and to the lower front end of the dump box. The dump box was pivoted at the rear end of the truck frame. A simple crank handle was used to operate the winch, which raised the front end of the dump box, dumping the load before lowering the box. Today, the hand-cranked winch has been replaced with hydraulically activated systems.

Dump trucks or trailers are very useful in transporting almost any kind of materials. These vehicles are also known as a tip truck, a tipper, or even a tipper lorry, but they all have the common usage: the transportation of huge loads. Although a dump truck typically is used to haul loose materials like dirt, sand, and gravel, it can carry virtually anything the truck’s functions and specifications will allow.

Standard (Rigid Frame) Dump Trucks
Despite the vast improvements in dump truck design and technology, standard (also known as rigid frame) dump trucks remain the same general idea as the one devised by Mawhinney in the beginning. Fortunately, today’s dump trucks have evolved magnificently from their humble origins to masterpieces of design and engineering.

“If you’re in the market for a dump truck, it’s important to do your homework before making any kind of a decision on what to buy,” says Randy Peart, a product manager at Kenworth Truck Co. in Bellevue, WA. “Unlike some other vocations, dump truck specifications are very regionalized. What works in one area of the country will not work in another.”

First, as Peart explained, is to find out what the weight and length requirements are in your area. Try to take advantage of the weight laws to maximize payload. Some states, mostly in the West, require compliance with the Federal Bridge Formula; others don’t. This will have a big influence on how the axles are set up and spaced.

“A bridge formula truck will tend to be longer to spread the weight,” says Peart. You may need to have lift axles, but there are different rules on how much load you can add with lift axles. And some states don’t allow lift axles. Most dealers will know the rules and regulations.”

“Even when you consider what is generally called a “standard” dump truck, there really is little about it to be called “˜standard,'” explains Ray Paradis, director of vocational markets for Peterbilt Motors Co. (Denton, TX). “Anyone who went into the business to create a standard or one-size-fits-all dump truck is ignoring the very diverse needs of today’s clients and probably won’t be in business very long.”

That’s one of the things Paradis likes most about Peterbilt. “This is a big enough company that we have the resources to effectively keep up with the market and the needs those markets have,” he says. “In this way, when there is a change in needs by the market, we can be right there to meet those needs, or even anticipate the needs before they change.”

Articulated Dump Trucks
Have you ever marveled at an ATV as it maneuvered over a rough hill or a pile of rocks or debris? It’s almost as if the wheels work independently of the body itself to accommodate the rider and give him the most level and comfortable ride possible. An articulate dump truck could be thought of as the ATV of the construction world.

An articulate dump truck, commonly called a “yuke,” differs from a standard dump truck since the cab and the dump box are not one unit, but distinct. At the same time, they are connected with a hinge, which makes them permanently attached. Steering of the vehicle involves a hydraulic drive instead of the more common rack-and-pinion configuration. This enables an articulated dump truck to maneuver easily over rough terrain.

According to Ken Emmett, product manager at Terex Construction Americas, one important feature of a dump truck, whether rigid or articulated, is the load capacity.

All trucks, Emmett explains, are configured based on the load they are designed to carry. For example, a Terex TA400 articulated truck has a designed capacity of 41.9 tons. A Terex TR60 rigid truck has a designed load capability of 60 tons.

Case Construction is a major maker of articulated dump trucks that feature several unique and beneficial features, according to Tim O’Brien, marketing manager for the company.

O’Brien attributes much of the success of Case’s equipment to the wider body frames it manufactures. A wide frame allows a wider-at-the-bottom body that makes for a lower center of gravity (carries a load low) for stability and faster cycles over rough terrain.”

Dump trucks are only one of the articulated vehicles made by Hydrema in Roswell, GA, for a variety of industries, including construction, flood relief, military, and others. “Our firm was started in Denmark in 1959, but we have been making dump trucks since the 1980s,” Jette Binder, executive vice president of Hydrema. “Our goal has always remained the same: to build equipment that will do jobs in a safe and efficient manner. In my opinion, there cannot be bigger priorities than that.”

To accomplish this, Hydrema produces three basic models of dump trucks, with each having the capability to be modified, depending on the work planned for each vehicle. For example, the 912 model is available in six series: D, DS, HM, D, and DS in multichassis, and a DS model for rail transport. The company also offers a 922 D model. Each vehicle offers different advantages for different jobs.

With more than 90 years of experience in making a full line of construction equipment, Komatsu America Corp., in Rolling Meadows, IL, makes articulated dump trucks as well as fixed-frame trucks as part of its product line.

“We feel like the best way to solve a customer’s equipment needs is to produce a line of equipment that can solve the whole problem and not just a small part of it,” explains Rob Warren, product manager at Komatsu. “There are numerous advantages to making the full line of equipment, number one of which is to ensure that not only the top of the line but all of the components along the line work together. There’s also the benefit that, if there’s a problem, since one company made all of the parts being used, we can make things work better-and if there’s a problem, we can zero in on the problem and fix it faster.”

Among the most recognizable names in heavy construction equipment is Peoria, IL-based Caterpillar Inc., which makes fixed-frame and articulated dump trucks alike.

According to Elizabeth Lambert, a product marketing consultant working for Caterpillar, “First and foremost, we’ve been in the articulated dump truck business for almost 40 years. We started off in 1972 with a manufacturer in Peterlee, England, called DLB Ltd. At first, these trucks were not labeled Caterpillar, but these trucks utilized all of the major Cat components. In 1986, Cat redesigned the trucks, and from this time forward the trucks were labeled Caterpillar. Then, in 1996, Caterpillar officially acquired the company. So, we’ve had a lot of years working with customers to understand their needs in different working environments in which these trucks have to operate, which translates to how and why we’ve designed the truck to what it is today. Of course, there are some specific design components that make our design unique and why we feel that we have the best articulated truck in the market today, such as our three-point front suspension system and our Cat Center hitch arrangement.”

Lambert also points out that Caterpillar also builds fixed-frame dump trucks and has been doing so since the 1960s. This line is called the Quarry & Construction trucks. The company offers five models for this industry, from 40 tons all the way up to 100 tons: the 770 (40 tons), the 772 (50 tons), the 773 (60 tons), the 775 (70 tons), and the 777 (100 tons). A wide variety of options is also available with these trucks, ranging from flat-floor to dual-slope bodies to payload systems.

“Regardless of the application, customers look for safety and comfort for their operators,” Lambert continues. “Most operators are in these machines for eight-plus hours a day and usually not in the best terrain or underfoot conditions. So, we’re constantly working toward improving both of these areas for our customers. Our dealers, as well as our customers, provide us feedback on where we need to improve, and we incorporate these ideas in the truck design.”

Another important maker of articulated trucks is Volvo Construction Equipment, which makes seven models of articulated trucks, ranging in load capacities of 26.5 tons to 43 tons.

According to Buddy Goodman, segment development manager for Volvo’s construction equipment unit, nearly every other articulated truck on the road today is the company’s product. “I think that the popularity of our trucks is because of the philosophy that goes into each design,” he explains. “The comfort and efficiency of the driver is our primary concern. That person sitting behind the wheel spends from eight to 10 hours each day in that cab. If he or she isn’t comfortable and the equipment doesn’t allow him to be efficient, buying a dump truck is a waste of money. It doesn’t matter what the features of the truck are.”

Goodman points out that Volvo makes two basic designs of dump truck, the A25F and A30F. Both are designed to do more with less. Durability, high productivity with low energy consumption, and lowered life cycle costs are just a few of the Volvo product benefits.

“If I had to distinguish Volvo dump trucks from others, I would have to say that Volvo just fits different needs better,” Goodman says. “Face it, a dump truck needs to carry out four functions: loading, travel, maneuvering, and dumping. That’s all, but the way a dump truck is made is critical at each of those phases. At each of those phases, the better a truck is made, the more precise the steering is, the controllability of the equipment is better, and other factors. Everything about the truck can make or break you. That’s why if I had a choice, I’d pick a Volvo dump truck.”

Some Like It Hot
Sometimes, it’s not just a matter of raising the bed of a dump truck and letting whatever is being hauled drop to the ground. Further, in situations where materials are more difficult to handle or when materials needed to be delivered to a specific site, a conveyor is needed to complete a delivery.

According to Valerie Watters, president of HTC Inc. in Millford, IA, “There are times when materials that are being delivered are very hot, such as in the case of asphalt, or otherwise need to be controlled when being delivered. In these cases, materials can’t just be dumped and forgotten. Conveyor systems are excellent tools that can be used to not only make delivery safer, but easier and more cost effective, too. Automating the delivery process with a conveyor, instead of having workers with shovels to do the work of spreading manually, is a huge savings in terms of both time and money.”

Off to the Side
Another dumping option that has enjoyed an expanding market is that of trucks and trailers that dump materials to
the side. The first company to offer this option in trucks and trailers is Side Dump Industries, of South City, NE.

“We were the first in the business to offer the side-dump option to the industry,” says Kelly Rogers, financial officer for the company. “Others have copied our model, but we introduced it in the 1990s, and this had led to a new and often better way to load and off-load materials.”

According to Rogers, Side Dump Industries introduced its products first in the road construction field, with others, such as mining and general construction, following close behind.

“A big advantage to side-dump trucks is the fact that there’s no tailgate,” Rogers explains. “With no tailgate there’s no leakage, so if you have a load, whether it be liquid or not, nothing is going to come out of the tailgate onto the road or whatever else the surface is. Another advantage to the side-dump truck or trailer is that there’s no backing or other maneuvering to dump a load in the right place. There’s also frequently no stopping, either. Another advantage of the side-dump option is that you can dump from either side, so if you have work going on both sides of a truck that’s ready to deliver a load, you can dump part of the load on one side, then stop and deliver the rest of the load on the other.  Side dump trucks offer a lot of advantages over traditional fixed frames and articulated models.”