Now those are BIG wheels

This vast miner’s truck is the first step be­tween us and China’s wealth

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Working Wheels - JAMES STAN­FORD james.stan­ford@cars­

NOT all work­ing trucks use pub­lic roads, so there are some re­ally in­ter­est­ing trucks in Aus­tralia that most of us will never see.

The huge Western Star 6900XD is a prime ex­am­ple. This rugged beastie is be­ing used by mines in Aus­tralia, but it can’t be reg­is­tered for road use. The 6900XD is not even close to get­ting regis­tra­tion ap­proval given it is a whop­ping 3200mm wide, 70mm too broad for Aus­tralian de­sign reg­u­la­tions. It is a rigid truck, mean­ing there is no trailer, and has a tip­per bucket fit­ted for min­ing work.

All up, the truck and its load can add up to 40 tonnes.

The 6900XD is never go­ing to carry the same amount as one of the big yel­low dump trucks from Cater­pil­lar or Ko­matsu that dom­i­nate mine haulage, as they can run at more than 300 tonnes.

Even so, Daim­ler Trucks vo­ca­tional spe­cial­ist, John Tom­lin­son, says the big Western Star has its ad­van­tages.

‘‘ They don’t carry as much but you can put a re­ally big bucket on the back, and you can get how­ever many com­pared to one of the tra­di­tional (yel­low) dump trucks,’’ he says.

Work­ing Wheels un­der­stands the tra­di­tional dump trucks can cost up to $7 mil­lion, while the Western Star is closer to $400,000 de­pend­ing on the spec.

‘‘ They go a bit faster,’’ Tom­lin­son says. ‘‘ They are a bit more nim­ble on-site, they have bet­ter ac­cess on min­ing sites and driver train­ing is eas­ier be­cause they are like a reg­u­lar truck to drive.’’

He says the num­ber on duty in Aus­tralian mines is not huge, but that’s not the case with our neigh­bour to the north. The Freeport mine in In­done­sia, the sec­ond-largest cop­per mine in the world, runs about 300 of the big Star trucks.

Be­cause it is not run­ning on the road, a min­ing truck such as the 6900XD doesn’t need to meet emis­sion re­quire­ments.

This is why it runs a 14-litre Detroit Diesel 60 Se­ries six­cylin­der, that has been re­placed by the lat­est gen­er­a­tion Daim­ler DD en­gines which are far more ad­vanced and much, much cleaner. The Se­ries 60 gen­er­ates plenty of pull, with a to­tal of 373kW (500hp) and 2102Nm of torque.

It makes do with­out Se­lec­tive Cat­alytic Re­duc­tion, which uses AdBlue fluid to dra­mat­i­cally re­duce the tox­i­c­ity of the ex­haust emis­sions.

The Detroit Diesel is de­fault engine as the com­pany is now part of the gi­ant Daim­ler group — along with Western Star, Freight­liner, Mercedes-Benz and Mit­subishi Fuso— but it is also pos­si­ble for cus­tomers to se­lect Cum­mins power.

As is the case with many trucks that haul heavy loads in tricky con­di­tions, the 6900XD runs a tra­di­tional au­to­matic, which not only makes life eas­ier on the driver, but re­duces the chances of driv­e­train dam­age caused by poor clutch op­er­a­tion.

The big Star uses an Al­li­son 4700 torque con­verter au­to­matic with a re­tarder, which comes in handy when drop­ping down a hill with a tray full of rub­ble.

It has six gears and the torque con­verter locks up in all of them, which can save lots of fuel.

One of the big ad­van­tages of this truck, over the big yel­low Cater­pil­lars and Ko­mat­sus, is that it runs rea­son­ably sized tyres, 25-inch Miche­lins, which don’t cost any­where near as much as those use by the full size dump trucks, which can knock you back more than $80,000 and can also be hard to get hold of dur­ing a re­sources boom.

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