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Earthy ambitions: the maturing of dirt shovelling

As the pincer attack of cost and productivity close around the earthmoving segment, we see fleet operators and manufacturers chart the mature course


It’s not all that often that there is a complete consensus on the demands and requirements that are driving a particular equipment market segment, but at present, in loaders, dozers and graders the objectives of Gulf customers and the OEMs that serve them appear pretty clear.

Assigned as they are to tasks where the workload is usually heavy, the work environment intensive, and the productivity evaluated in tonnage, the demands of the industry upon these machines are always for ever greater power and greater efficiency.

In many other segments, some moderation is due — for instance in light-duty logistics applications, where forklifts might be matched to relatively modest weight requirements and required to operate for shifts of only half a dozen hours a day.

Earthmoving by comparison is a no-holds-barred drive for raw power, where the winning bidders will be those manufacturers who can deliver the most material in the shortest time, and with the least fuel.

There is moderation in this segment too. A machine like a wheel loader is often selected by a fleet operator to achieve a certain delivery speed, like the rate at which their trucks can deliver or take away material, or the rate at which waste can be processed.

However, by and large, in April 2017’s report on loaders, dozers and graders we see the dynamic interplay between power, efficiency, fuel consumption and price currently factoring into the decision-making process of fleet operators in the Middle East, and how this interplay is influencing the product being rolled out by the big manufacturers.

In both Oman and Saudi Arabia, we see SDLG making inroads, including a massive 58-unit deliver of both graders and loaders to Shibh Al-Jazira Contracting Company, a Jeddah-based firm. As a Chinese-branded, but Volvo supervised and controlled product, the suggestion is that a combination of competitive price and performance is driving buyers in these oil price-affected markets.

Caterpillar, PMV’s knowledge partner in this report, is meanwhile pushing power and fuel efficiency with the completion of its L Series range of medium wheel loaders. These finely tuned machines offer power increases ranging from 5% to 22% while simultaneously delivering significant reductions in fuel consumption: 15% on average.

Nowhere, however, do we see evidence of contractors driving towards purely cost-oriented solutions or at the other end of the spectrum towards volume-oriented solutions that disregard total cost of ownership considerations like fuel efficiency.

Contractor requirements in the Middle East are clearly maturing into a balanced model in the context of earthmoving, and the observant manufacturers are taking note.

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Construction Week - Issue 725
Jan 19, 2019