Queensland quarry transport operator is switching its 12-truck fleet to Allison transmissions as a result of productivity gains it has experienced since 2012
SUNSHINE COAST, Australia – Using a fleet of 12 trucks operating as tipper dog units, Eldorado Mining operates as a key contractor for Boral’s Moy Pocket quarry near Kenilworth in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland of Queensland. Nearly half of the fleet is now equipped with Allison fully automatic transmissions.
According to Dean Harding, owner and operator of Eldorado Mining, Allison automatics have delivered improved performance, lowered maintenance, improved fuel economy, increased safety and achieved strong driver approval. He purchased his first Allison-equipped Western Star after reading a story about successful use of a similar truck in quarry operations in Sydney.
“At the time we needed another truck for our fleet, we saw a story about Boral’s experience and took one for a test drive,” said Harding. “As time went on, we became even more impressed with the truck and now all new additions to our fleet are ordered with Allison transmissions.”
That first Allison-equipped Western Star 4800 has now been in operation for four years and Harding said the Allison 4000 Series™ transmission has delivered strong gains in productivity, safety, fuel consumption and durability. Since adding the Western Star to its fleet, the number of Allison-equipped trucks has grown to six, with the latest five purchases including another Western Star 4800, a Freightliner CST112 and two Freightliner Century Class, all powered by Detroit’s DD13 rated at 450 hp and 1650 lb-ft torque.
“In quad dog configuration, the trucks leave the quarry grossing just on their maximum legally allowable of 55 tons and the Allison quickly show what it does best, picking the best gear for the conditions,” said Harding. The newest trucks have been ordered to operate under the Australian Performance Based Standards (PBS) rules which could see the trucks operate at up to 68 tons, if needed on specified roads and routes.
Colin Jenkins, operations manager for Eldorado Mining, said the Allison-equipped trucks do exactly what is required of them and are nicer to drive.
“Turning out of the quarry, the trucks encounter a particularly tough route which I believe is the ultimate test for the Allison,” said Jenkins. “The trucks work hard for around 11 to 12 hours a day, five and a half days a week and have to tackle all sorts of terrain and conditions. The impressive thing is the Allison 4000 makes full throttle, seamless downshifts with no interruption of power.”
Harding said the Allison-equipped trucks outperform other higher horsepower manual transmission units through undulating terrains. Engine braking performance is also excellent thanks to the programmable range pre-select feature in the transmission that raises the downshift points under closed throttle conditions, when the engine brake is requested.
“This feature means that on a downhill run, our drivers don’t have to reach for the shifter to manually request an early downshift in an effort to lift engine speed to maximize the engine brake retardation effect,” he said. “It’s all done automatically, allowing the driver to keep both hands on the wheel and his eyes on the winding road ahead and that is a big boost to fleet safety. Once our drivers have been assigned an Allison-equipped truck they complain if they have to go back into a manual truck when their automatic truck is scheduled for maintenance.”
Another factor that has impressed Harding is the lack of brake wear as a result of the more effective retardation offered with the automatic. When the throttle is closed, the lock-up clutch remains engaged and keeps the engine brake active right up until the vehicle comes to a stop. In these conditions, drivers typically need to apply the service brakes at the last minute to bring the truck to a final stop.
“This is borne out by the fact that our first Allison equipped Western Star achieved 250,000 km before we had to change the brake pads on the drive axles and we are still yet to change the front pads on the other Allison-equipped trucks,” said Harding. “Couple that to the facts that we don’t have to worry about clutch replacement and our maintenance costs have dropped dramatically compared with the manual trucks.
“Once you’ve tried the Allison, there is no going back. Any new trucks we order will be exclusively Allison-equipped.”