A radical quest for a safer truck led the team working on the design of agitators in the Boral fleet to come up with a solution which not only improved safety, but also lowered the tare mass of the truck, with no increase in cost.
The task of thinking about what could be improved in the way Boral builds its agitators came to Merv Rowlands, Boral Fleet Engineering Manager Logistics. The problem to be solved was the overrepresentation of agitators in the number of rollovers experienced in the Boral fleet. In a diverse fleet like the one Boral operates, the issues are many and varied. Tippers have a tendency to rollover, especially when unloading on site, but when it comes to rolling over on the highway, agitators are much more likely than other vehicles in the fleet.
In fact, the highway rollover rate per truck in Boral is virtually the same across the Boral fleet. However, the agitators do a much smaller number of kilometres than the tippers and tankers. The rollover rate per truck, per km is highest in the concrete fleet.
Boral has developed a very strong safety culture within its business and in its quest to improve safety has been a collaborative process, where all the stakeholders get involved and work out the best solution to a perceived safety issue.
During each acquisition round the company specify safety enhancements, which truck manufacturers must include to be considered as possible vehicle suppliers. Most of the enhancements have been around slips and falls etc. This includes an improved step designs, correctly placed grab handles, high vis seat belts and many more small but important elements in a truck’s design.
The process Boral have gone through to develop this new concept involved looking at the way agitators are designed and built using a clean sheet of paper and looking at all the options. The solution was simply to lower the centre of gravity and the static rollover threshold, and, as a consequence, the danger of rollovers would be lowered.
“This new truck tared at 8.04 tonnes, a standard one is 8.4 tonnes,” said Merv. “That’s really important in concrete. There’s a lot of steel in those sub-frames and the front pedestal is much bigger on the old design.
“The price of the truck is all but the same. So, we have got a vehicle which has a much tougher chassis, steel spring suspension with less to go wrong and, overall, a vehicle which has got no real down side. It’s lighter and it’s the same price.
“We haven’t built something where we tried to save weight and made something lighter and more fragile. We’ve gone the other way and ended up with a lighter vehicle. It’s been a win/win for us.”
Concrete agitators in the Boral fleet are run for ten years, with just the barrel being swapped after five. Of the 1500 agitators running under Boral colours, half are company trucks and the other half are what the company call LOD trucks where Boral own the barrel, but the truck is owned by an owner driver. The renewal process should work through the fleet over the next five or so years.