September 25, 2017

We Did It Our Way

When you cannot buy a curbing truck built the way you want it – which is to say, “backwards” – and you cannot find anyone to build it that way, you do what Jim Zambero and Keith Woolford at the South Main Maintenance Facility did. You build it yourself.

But first, why would you want to take a conventional curbing truck configuration – feeding hot asphalt out the back of the truck – and flip that around? Flipping is not fine tuning, it’s ground- up re-engineering. Zambero, Vice President of Equipment, says there are two principal reasons. “The first is safety. As curbing trucks are now, asphalt crews have to proceed very slowly, with the body of a dump truck tilted up in the air and the driver paying attention to live wires and overhead obstructions. There are 24 tons of hot asphalt in those bodies.”

The second reason is productivity. A front- feeding curbing truck eliminates labor-intensive steps in coupling and uncoupling paving elements from dump trucks. The front-discharge model is self-contained and self-sufficient, carrying over 20 tons of asphalt. It can carry and discharge topsoil and two-inch stone, too, all through a conveyor belt and a flexible shoot the operator directs right where materials are needed.

For Woolford, the shop’s foreman who took on the engineering and design of the new trucks, it was a challenge he enjoyed. He based his design off existing front-discharge trucks but worked with a much wider feeder conveyor belt (a high- capacity 36 inches wide, not the 14 inches he was expecting). The belt required dramatic re- engineering, especially around the steering column that bypasses the belt. “It worked out well,” says Woolford, “they’ll never have to fool with that steering, trust me.” Being bomb-proof throughout was tops on Woolford’s requirements list, so he built the first trucks as strong and simple as he could. “We want them to work and never come back. Reliability is the most important thing.”

In the process of building on a stripped mixer chassis, Woolford remade the driver’s cab door, switching sides and making new closers and handles in his shop which, he smiles, work better than the originals. He learned that he had to move the engine back and drop it down deeper into the frame to get the right driveline angle, and position the body so it would “axle out” and be legal. “A lot of thought went into it, an amazing number of things that don’t show that we needed to engineer,” says Woolford.

No supplier wanted to build such a curbing machine, including body maker E.D. Etnyer from whom O&G buys various truck bodies. But when company president Don Etnyer flew out from Illinois to check on what O&G was up to, he was duly impressed and said, “When I saw your design and your facility I knew I should never have doubted you guys. You should be building equipment for me.”

Will their design catch on with other companies when these new curbing trucks hit the road this spring? Preliminary reports from those who’ve seen the trucks taking shape say it just might.

CurbingTruck3

A pair of “backwards” curbing trucks are being designed and built from the frame up in the South Main Maintenance Facility, under the direction of Shop Foreman Keith Woolford