Develon’s Thomas Lee outlines good loading practices to minimize hauling challenges with large crawler excavators
Transporting large crawler excavators — machines in the 80- to 100-tonne size class — is no easy task. These large machines are built for big challenges, like digging, lifting and loading heavy materials for infrastructure work and stone, sand and other aggregates in quarry production facilities. Often, the excavators have a long-arm configuration and heavy attachments for these rugged tasks.
Due to their size, crawler excavators require special handling to be transported from one jobsite to another or from a dealership to a quarry.
Thomas Lee, Director of Product Management at Develon, discusses several ways to improve the transportation process.
Know the weight and height of your machine
Before transporting crawler excavators, understand the dimensions and weight of your equipment. Also, consider the attachments you need to haul. Match the transport vehicles, like trailers or heavy haulers, to the equipment, and follow regulations on gross vehicle weight ratings. Remember to account for the weight of the trailer when calculating total weight.
Determine the need for permits
If you are transporting oversized machinery, you will likely need a larger trailer with a larger weight rating. Special approval or transportation permits may be needed for oversize loads along your route. The permit may also require you to have escort vehicles that drive with you to alert other drivers of your load on the road.
Plan your transportation route ahead of time. Watch for narrow roads and bridges with weight restrictions. Make sure your trailer and the excavator can pass under bridges and overpasses. Try to pick a route that’s easy to drive. Oversize loads should have proper banners, signs and lights.
Follow basic loading procedures
Before loading your crawler excavator and attachments to a trailer, understand basic operating and loading guidelines as outlined in the owner’s manual. Here are a few loading and safety procedures:
- Park the trailer on firm, level ground
- Ensure ramps can handle the weight of the excavator. Add blocking under the ramp for support, if required
- Remove grease, debris or mud from the ramp and equipment that could cause the excavator to slip or slide
- Travel up the ramp with the heaviest end first when loading the excavator on the trailer
- Run the engine at the lowest speed setting. Travel at the slowest speed possible when loading or unloading the excavator
- Distribute the weight of your excavator on the transport vehicle. Improper weight balance increases the pull on the transport vehicle and tire wear
“The best way to determine if the load is distributed is to look at the transport vehicle’s suspension and make sure it is balanced,” Lee said.
Properly secure your equipment
Secure your crawler excavator according to regulations in a manner that prevents it from tipping or rolling off the trailer while travelling. Your equipment must not be able to shift in a way that affects the stability of the transport vehicle.
Once your crawler excavator is on the trailer or transport vehicle, follow these steps:
- Lower the bucket or attachment to the floor
- Stop the engine and engage the parking brake. Turn the battery disconnect switch to the “off” position
- Lock all doors and covers before transport
- Place chocks, cradles or wedges in front of and behind each track. This will help prevent any rolling or shifting during transport
- Install tie-downs at the front and rear tie-down positions as identified in your owner’s manual
Most manufacturers recommend at least four tie-downs to prevent any movement. Some transport devices have D-rings, chain slots or built-in strap rails.
“These allow you to easily connect your equipment to the transport vehicle,” Lee said. “Always use the recommended connection points and securements. It will help minimize damage and maximize the effectiveness of transporting your excavator.”
Before hauling your crawler excavator, inspect the tie-down points and tie-down equipment used to secure the machine.
“All pins and connection points should be secure and the hooks still functional,” Lee said.
“If any cracks, stretches or fatigued links are found, remove the tie-down equipment from service. All tie-down equipment should be able to meet or exceed the machine’s weight rating.”
Transport attachments efficiently
Secure the attachment or accessory to the crawler excavator during transport. If that isn’t possible, secure the attachment with chain straps. Don’t forget about hydraulic attachments. Route the hoses so they are not interfering with the excavator on the trailer.
“Hoses should not be lying underneath the machine, located in the way of a tie-down or connected in a manner where they could become disengaged,” Lee said. “Secure all hydraulic hoses according to the owner’s manual.”
Once you have loaded and secured your crawler excavator and attachments, make sure that you or the driver can see out of the front and sides of the transport vehicle.
Safely unload your crawler excavator & attachments
Once you’ve reached your destination, safely unload your crawler excavator and attachments. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Clear the unloading area of large debris and make the ground as even as possible
- Walk around the machine while it’s on the trailer or transport vehicle. Make sure nothing looks out of place
- Free the load, releasing the chains and ties one at a time
- Slowly back your excavator down the ramp
- Complete a final inspection. Check the crawler excavator and attachments to make sure they’re ready to operate at full capacity
Depending on the size of your excavator and transportation requirements, you may need to disassemble the machine before transporting it.
Work with your local equipment dealer for the correct procedures to disassemble the machine and reassemble it at your jobsite.
Transporting heavy equipment, like crawler excavators and attachments, requires attention and planning. But it doesn’t have to be difficult or unsafe if you follow proper techniques and local transport regulations.