As reported by Aggregates Business earlier this year, as an addition to its range of seven ‘traditional’ 6x6 ADTs, with payloads from 18 to 45.4 tonnes, Bell Equipment is the only global ADT manufacturer to offer a parallel three-model (B60E 4x4, B45E 4x4 and B30 4x4) range of two-axle ADTs for the past six years. Each ADT is aimed at a different market segment and represents a strong operating offer thanks to the advantages of the 4x4 ADT concept. In the right applications, Bell Equipment says the models outperform conventional rigid dump trucks (RDTs) that need good haul roads and the three-axle ADTs designed for extreme off-road mobility.
Speaking to Aggregates Business at the exhibition, Brad Castle, territory manager at Bell Equipment, said: “You don’t always need a 6x6 ADT in a quarrying environment. In a B30E, for example, the 4x4 version has a 13% smaller turning circle than its 6x6 equivalent. That makes a big difference when you need to turn around on-site. The 4x4 haulers also reduce tyre wear and road maintenance costs, as you don’t have middle tyres like a 6x6 dump truck, which causes scuffing."
Castle says the fact that Bell Equipment and Doosan Infracore are the only two ADT manufacturers offering 4x4 articulated haulers has facilitated adoption by quarrying customers. “It is a niche product line but one that is very much needed. The 4x4 models have been developed through our Specials [applications] department in [Richards Bay, KwaZulu-Natal], South Africa. The truck’s power head is the same as the 6x6 equivalent, with the rear end being the difference. Our 4x4s have become known in the US as a ‘quarry’ truck. It doesn’t replace our 6x6 ADTs; it competes against [40-tonne-class] rigid dump trucks.
“The fact that our 4x4s have drive on both axles, compared to RDTs with drive on one axle, gives it a capability edge. The B45E 4x4 now comes with full suspension as standard, rather than the previous rigid rear with no suspension on the back. This offers more operator cabin comfort. We also offer a narrow or standard bin option, with the narrow bin preferred when operating under a crusher feed hopper.”
Castle stresses that fuel consumption and tyre wear are the two biggest costs linked to running an ADT fleet, with Bell Equipment “known” to offer the lowest articulated hauler fuel burn globally. Now, with its 4x4 ADT range, Castle says Bell Equipment also has a great offer on reducing fleet tyre wear compared to 40-tonne class RDTs.
“We had a quarry customer in South Africa running B60E 4x4s. They calculated their tyre wear costs against their rigid trucks, and they narrowed it down to how much in rands and cents the B60E 4x4s’ tyres were saving them – and it was 2 rand 28 per tyre per hour. You add that up over many working hours across a fleet, and it’s a huge saving.”
In 2019, Bell Equipment completed a €17mn facility at its Eisenach-Kindel assembly plant in Germany. The new production complex makes ADT components for the Northern Hemisphere. With around 12,000m² of floor space, the facility tripled the available space at the Eisenach-Kindel site. The new site directly adjoins the main factory hall. It provides in-house manufacturing of truck components in Europe for all seven Bell ADT models (B20E to B50E) assembled in Germany.
Emphasising the commercial advantage this gives Bell Equipment, Castle says: “Like any heavy equipment, our ADTs are only as good as their support. You must keep the machines running, or customers lose money, so having a factory in Germany closer to our [Northern Hemisphere] customers is hugely important. We expanded the factory significantly two to three years ago, and it’s now three times larger.”
Bell Equipment announced earlier this year that it would increase its ADT manufacturing at Eisenach-Kindel due to the strength of the company’s North America and Western Europe sales. Kiesel, Bell Equipment’s German dealer, reports that its strongest ADT demand comes from quarrying businesses, who are particularly keen on the 4x4 haulers.
Since 2020, Bell Equipment has been working closely with xtonomy and Voestalpine at a lime quarry site in the Alps, where xtonomy has fitted its iTruck autonomous haulage system (AHS) on two Bell B30E ADTs with great results.
A link-up with Pronto AI, an American safety and automation technology developer, followed, including the official launch of Pronto AI’s autonomous haulage solution at MINEXPO 2021 in Las Vegas last September. A full test site has since been established in Reno, California, where three autonomously operated Bell B45Es and a Bell B50E are working in a sand mine. A second US test site, at a Texas sand mine, has also been created in recent months.
“We now offer an autonomous-ready articulated hauler, with our partners’ technology talking to the machine,” says Castle. “We have customers talking to both xtonomy and Pronto about real-world applications.
“I visited Pronto’s Californian quarry test site last month [September], and it was quite something to see the ADTs driving around the site with nobody inside. We are actively talking to customers in America about this technology. It is very software intensive and hardware minimal, with the autonomous haul truck app controlled. We have videos playing here [at bauma 2022] of our test sites, and you see the driverless ADT stop when someone gets near it. Where site connectivity allows, the autonomous hauling solution in quarries will really take off over the next year.”
Joining Castle in conversation with Aggregates Business, Tristan du Pisanie, Bell Equipment’s head of product development, highlights the articulated hauler major’s development on making its machines compatible with alternative fuels.
“All our ADTs are fully compatible with HVO (hydrotreated vegetable oil). We believe HVO is a very good low-carbon solution, provided it’s using the right input material. The biggest controversy I have heard recently is people who get palm oil from countries where it is unsustainably grown. That can give HVO a bad name. If you use the right raw material, it is a great solution for our customers that are carbon reduction minded.
“Longer term, the size of our machine range is probably not compatible with where batteries are today; they are too big, and the energy cost is too high, making them too expensive. So, we are looking at alternatives, and the only two things that look feasible are hydrogen fuel cells and hydrogen internal combustion engines. Both will need a lot of investment around production and supporting infrastructure.
"The challenge with hydrogen is how to store it on the articulated hauler, as it takes up a lot of space, considerably more than conventional fuel, like diesel. You need around twice the size of a diesel fuel tank to run on hydrogen for four hours at a time. It must be said, though, that we don’t know for sure the direction our low carbon journey will end up taking us, and I believe that this is true for all OEMs. Technology is changing every day, and we don’t know which solution will advance faster than the rest.”