Articulated Haulers, Scrapers and the Future of Earthmoving

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IRONINTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

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The Contractors

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Introduction

Long-Term Vision, Long-Term Success
With global leadership and deep heritage with articulated haulers, Volvo looks to the next decade and beyond for its ‘rolling iron’

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ROGRESS. At its heart construction is all about moving the world forward. More than 7 million workers and nearly $1.2 trillion put behind U.S. and Canadian construction each year aim to make life better for a growing society. At its heart,

Volvo Construction Equipment is also about progress. It’s very name, volvo, means roll forward or roll on. It’s brand mark, the atomic symbol for iron, creates a strong image of Volvo equipment as “rolling iron.” With its 40-year heritage building off-road articulated haulers, Volvo is looking forward to the next generation and beyond. Will the role for articulated haulers change in 10 years? Will earthmoving practices dictate need for a different kind of machine? Will changing use of other equipment such as scrapers create opportunity for Volvo? Where is the construction economy headed, and how will it affect demand for off-road haulers? Is Volvo doing all it can to innovate with technology and customer-focused equipment? With those weighty questions as the backdrop, Volvo set out to learn how contractors and owners of earthmoving equipment see the future. Those on the front lines are closest to the applications, the trends and the changes. What do they see? Will the artic hauler play a larger role in North America? What will happen with self-propelled scrapers and pulled scrapers? Will some other machine concept come into play? To sample the voice of the customer, Volvo commissioned in-depth interviews with contractors in four major American markets: • HOUSTON, TEXAS — With a metro area population of 5.3 million, this market spans eight counties and is home to Fortune 500 companies including ConocoPhillips, Marathon Oil, Halliburton Co. and Waste Management. • ATLANTA, GA. — The capital of Georgia, Atlanta is the heart of a metropolitan area with 4.7 million people in 28 counties. It is home to business giants including Coca-Cola, Home Depot, Delta Airlines and United Parcel Service (UPS). • DETROIT, MICH. — The Detroit metro area includes 4.3 million people, many of whom hold jobs related to the auto industry. Birthplace of the Ford Model T, the Detroit area is home to the Ford Motor Co., General Motors and DaimlerChrysler. • SANTA ANA (ORANGE COUNTY), CALIF. — The county is home to 3 million people and part of the huge Los Angeles metro area (population 10 million). Major businesses include Disneyland, Boeing Co., Albertson’s and Bank of America.
Michigan Detroit
Atlanta
Texas


Georgia

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Ca lifo rn

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Orange County

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Introduction

The Study: Interviews Yield a Depth of Information
To sample the thoughts and opinions of earthmoving customers, Volvo had numerous traditional avenues at its disposal, including a traditional phone survey, mail survey, Web-based survey and local focus groups. We chose a different type of qualitative research, the one-on-one interview, in order to delve into the issues with depth. Participants were recruited from lists of Volvo artic hauler customers and from a database that identified equipment owners from Universal Commercial Code (UCC) filings. This two-source strategy covered contractors who buy equipment with cash, and those who lease or otherwise finance equipment purchases. Recruitment lists included buyers of nearly all major brands of articulated haulers,
Interviewees included business owners, foremen, fleet managers, business managers, operators, a union steward and maintenance directors.

owners of Caterpillar and Terex self-propelled (motorized) scrapers, and contractors who use pull-behind scrapers. The pool was a thorough cross-section of the earthmoving, hauling and land-development segments in each market. Seeking trends and insight The major goal of the interviews was to look for trends in where the earthmoving business is headed over the next five to 10 years. We asked each participant about their current and future business levels, and if they see shifts in how equipment is used by their own firms or competitors. We asked about preferred earthmoving methods in each market and what might cause changes in tactics or equipment. We talked about equipment performance, maintenance and cost of operation. The interviews included discussion of operator training, non-traditional or unorthodox use of machines, acquisition strategies and many

The videotaped one-on-one interviews yielded the kind of deep information that is not practical with a survey and not possible using other ‘traditional’ methods such as focus groups.

other topics. The yield — more than 30 hours of videotaped interviews that would fill hundreds of transcribed pages — forms the core information for this report. Our four market locations had different market conditions and dynamics: • HOUSTON — Texas is a wide-open construction market with strong activity in highway, residential and commercial building. Artic haulers, dedicated scrapers and pull scrapers are all common here.

• ATLANTA — Much of the construction activity has moved into the sprawling suburban areas from the city. Contractors are facing more rock and muck on construction sites since most of the “good” land has been developed. Robust economic activity.

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Contractor Interviews

When the going gets tough …
Strong recognition of the artic hauler’s command of messy conditions, although some contractors see the hauler as only a specialty player

TOPIC

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muck up to the axles. The artics simply duck-walked right out. “They literally walked through water,” said Hiltscher, general superintendent at LT Engineering & Excavating. “They’re amazing. They’ll go anywhere. They really will. They’ll go through wetter stuff than most people would realize. They would almost swim.” Robert Ings has a similar story cleaning out drain tunnels. “The six-wheel just walked around anything else,” said Ings, maintenance director for the storm-water division of United Pumping Services, City of Industry, Calif. “You know, you could never put … a 769 or any other kind of truck in there. You know, the Volvo, it was like it wasn’t even there. You just pushed on the pedal and away you went.” In our interviews, there was nearly unanimous agreement that the artic is the best option for moving dirt and other material across soft, unstable ground. David Walker, equipment manager at Brad Cole Construction Co. near Atlanta, said reliable uptime is what sets artic haulers apart. “You want that thing to be able to go in any condition and still do the work. And we know we can rely on those things,” Walker said. “If it’s dry, they’ll go. If it’s wet, they go. If it’s terrible conditions, you can fix it where they can go. Whereas with a scraper, things have to be near perfect to make that happen.” Chris Jeffares, a union steward and equipment operator at the International Union of Operating Engineers in Atlanta, said artic haulers show their stuff the best on “real wet jobs where you couldn’t get a scraper and a dozer in there.” “You could get the track hoe or the excavator in there and start loading out the mud and they could haul it and get around where the scraper would never be able to go,” Jeffares said. “Even the double-barrel scrapers couldn’t go where these things would go. It just made life a lot easier and faster.” Even contractors who don’t often run off-road haulers will rent them if job conditions get too severe for scrapers. “I couldn’t do without trucks – without a doubt. Just couldn’t do without them. And there is always that time when you need more,” said Doug Anglin II, operations manager for Jack Anglin Civil Contracting in Novi, Mich. And that’s saying something, because Anglin runs 21 dedicated scrapers from Cat 627s to Cat 657s. Anglin isn’t shy in his preference for scrapers. But he doesn’t see it as an either/or thing.
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T WAS QUITE AN EFFECTIVE DUCK WALK. Jim Hiltscher remembers the conditions well. It was a de-silting job in a drainage channel in Los Angeles. The articulated haulers at work on the job had to travel right through, with water and

The Strong Haul

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Robert Ings

Chris Jeffares

Doug Anglin
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Contractor Interviews

TOPIC

“I WOULD NEVER HAVE TO CHOOSE BETWEEN ONE OR THE OTHER because I think to really make a company profitable, have the trucks available when you have that specialized job,” Anglin said. “When you have a wet job or so many different variables — use the trucks. But when you’re ready to move the dirt — big dirt — you’ve got to use the scrapers. It goes right back to having the right equipment for the job.” Villy Pedersen, equipment manager for A L Grading Contracting Inc., Suwanee, Ga., said his firm’s artic haulers show their value by performing in soil conditions “where the scrapers are just about impossible to use.” “It’s a brilliant piece of machinery and it takes a lot of abuse,” said Pedersen, who oversees 10 Cat scrapers, two Cat artics and six Volvo haulers. “Oh we use them. I know we use them every day because if one breaks down, they’re on me like a wet blanket.” Roger Pullian, equipment manager for Reeves Ditching & Contracting in Buford, Ga., said articulated haulers can work more days of the year, access difficult-to-reach areas and traverse rough haul roads that would stop other equipment. “You can run them on a much steeper slope, up a steeper incline, than you could a scraper. You can have a lot rougher haul roads,” Pullian said. “With a scraper, you’ve got to have a really nice haul road and you’ve got to keep in maintained. Much more than you do an articulated dump. Get into any rock, it shuts down scrapers. Articulated dumps with an excavator — you can dig through just about anything.” At California contractor Yeager Skanska, articulated haulers are a fairly recent addition to the fleet. Equipment Manager Jeff Buckmaster said they have carved a place in the

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The Strong Haul

Villy Pedersen

fleet, even without being called to haul in

“It’s a brilliant piece of machinery and it takes a lot of abuse. Oh, we use them. I know we use them every
Roger Pullian

muddy conditions. “We’re using them for rock, but we haven’t got any jobs in real wet, mucky stuff here,” Buckmaster said. “I know that’s probably what they’re good for, but we don’t have any wetland jobs that we need them for. But they’re great – they’re fast, they’re smaller than our rock trucks. The sixwheel drive helps out. In loose material, they work out real good.” For levee builder Affolter Contracting, La Marque, Texas, many jobs are just made for artic haulers. “We have certain jobs that

day because if one breaks down, they’re on me like a wet blanket.”

they just require off road trucks,” said Terry Affolter, general partner. “And we’re working
Terry Affolter

a lot of times with spoil areas for dredging. And it’s a soft ground out there that you’re dealing with. That’s the reason we go with off road trucks.”

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