Hitachi AH500D ADT

By: Glen Croasdale

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Glen Croasdale of CablePrice travelled to the Maimai Valley to visit the owners of the country’s first 50-tonne ADT, Gary Birchfield and his four siblings of Birchfield Coal Mines Ltd, to discover how the truck was faring in challenging West Coast conditions

Hitachi AH500D ADT
Hitachi AH500D ADT
  • 50-tonne payload
  • World’s largest articulated dump truck
  • Operates well in poor conditions
  • Comfortable and smooth ride
  • V8 512hp German engineered Mercedes Benz engine
  • Fully automatic Allison transmission with touch pad shift control
  • Automatic downshifts and retarder activation

Gary’s parents, Max and Betty Birchfield, began working the open cast Giles Creek coal mine in 1984 processing through a flume and a trommel screen, with a capacity of about 15 tonne an hour. Since taking the mine over from their parents around a decade ago, Max’s five children have been focused on increasing the tonnage going out of the mine by investing in productive and durable machinery, and are now processing in excess of 300 tonnes of coal an hour.

Gary looked towards his trucks to get a lot more coal up from the pit to the top site, but wet winters restricted his rigid trucks ability to operate, and Gary says the 40-tonne ADT’s were not able to carry enough.

Gary explained that he had a good appreciation of just how big a truck the AH500D is, but said, "I was still worried about putting that sort of weight on the truck, that it wouldn’t hold up. But since having it onsite we’ve found that our fears didn’t hold water," and he adds, "it handles the ground as good as the 40-tonners do."

From Karen’s point of view the fact a new truck would have less downtime was attractive, but she say "for the others, its ability to work in bad weather and its ability to compete on load capacity with the rigid trucks were also influencing factors."

In fact, one of the most persuasive arguments for Gary was the ability of the AH500D to carry the same loads as their 50-tonne rigid trucks and still be able to operate in poor underfoot conditions where the rigid trucks could not.

The AH500D ascended the haul road and passed in front of me with a full load of coal on its back, keeping traction and good speed with obvious ease in the muddy conditions.

Gary says, "Because the articulated trucks can keep working in the wet, the pit can stay open and it gives us the continuity of supply for our customers that we had been looking for. We now have the ability to access the deepest parts of the pit with a 50 tonne capacity truck."

Additional to the Hitachi AH500D’s ability to work through the bad weather, another of its benefits according to CablePrice’s National Equipment Sales Manager Andrew Crane, lies in its ability to move more tonnes per litre burnt. With fuel prices as they are today there is potential for real savings in this area.

Both Gary and Steffan were very impressed with the fuel consumption figures the AH500D produces - which is easily downloaded from the trucks computer. Gary comments, "The way the price of fuel was going…fuel consumption had a big bearing on our decision."

Operating the AH500D is one of the mines youngest staff members. With quality training, 20-year-old operator Danielle Lineham has quickly found herself at home in the company’s newest piece of mobile plant. Having come off an old rigid truck she says of her new workstation; "It’s pretty nice compared to the older rigid I was in. It’s a lot more comfy and has a real smooth ride."

Although, Danielle says, "It’s a bit slower because it’s bigger and it takes more time to turn around," [than the 40-tonne ADT’s operating at Giles Creek] she points out, "it’s carting a lot more at the same time though," which makes it much more productive.

Once the 28.2m³ capacity bin was loaded Danielle depresses the accelerator pedal. Immediately the V8 rumbles to life and the 512hp German engineered Mercedes Benz engine begins pulling us out from the base of the pit. Fully loaded the six-wheel drive AH500D comfortably ascends the steep access road 80m above the base of the pit to the overburden dumping site without strain. When carting coal Danielle travels the 2.5km haul road, climbing a further 120m to the coal processing plant near the mines entrance.

Danielle says one of the other things she likes about the truck is its simplicity of use. The AH500D features a fully automatic Allison transmission with touch pad shift control, automatic downshifts and retarder activation, and abuse-proof Controlled Traction Differentials (CTD).

Due to the dependency the rest of the mine has on the trucks to meet demand and fulfil their orders; a vital criterion for the Birchfields was reliability. Because of their relative isolation they also took out a four year extended warranty and service contact on the AH500D with CablePrice. Gary adds that he likes how a service contact also takes the hassle away from servicing and holding stock of oils and filters.

Their ability to match load capacity with the rigids and leave smaller ADT’s for dead in the productivity stakes, whilst still maintaining strong fuel efficiency and the renowned ADT ability to go anywhere, all add up to the total package that was being displayed at the mine.

To read in-depth machinery reviews, see the latest issue of Deals On Wheels magazine.

Read more about the Hitachi AH500D here.

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