Feature: Earthmoving equipment - the developing split in regulation

By Chris Sleight09 December 2010

Hitachi has supplied 14 excavators to Chinese contractor COVEC for earthmoving work on a 67 km stret

Hitachi has supplied 14 excavators to Chinese contractor COVEC for earthmoving work on a 67 km stretch of the Taza to Guercif highway in Morocco.

This year is not one that you would necessarily expect many new machines to be launched into the earthmoving sector. The introduction of Stage IIIB emission laws in Europe and their equivalent, Tier 4 interim, in the US at the start of 2011 for 130 to 560 kW engines means manufacturers will have to renew their entire ranges. So surely 2010 would be a quite year, particularly given the tough economic climate.

But not a bit of it, this year has seen almost all of the major players coming out with significant new models. Perhaps most notable has been Hyundai, which used April's Bauma exhibition to unveil an all new line of both excavators and wheeled loaders.

The same show saw fellow Korean Doosan take the wraps of several key products including its DX380LC 38 tonne class excavator, DX235LCR 23.6 tonne reduced swing radius excavator and 209 kW DL420 wheeled loaders.

Bauma also saw three new large wheeled loaders launched by Hitachi - the first fruits of its alliance with Kawasaki on these machines. The range now tops out with the 6 m3 bucket capacity ZW 550.

It has also been a busy year in the haulers sector. As reported in our October feature, Terex has continued the renewal of its articulated dump truck (ADT) range this year, with the 25 tonne capacity TA 250 being added to the larger machines launched in 2009 and earlier in 2010.

This sector also has a new player, with Liebherr using Bauma to unveil the 30 tonne capacity TA230, the first model in a range of ADTs that will cover the 30 to 50 tonne classes.

Komatsu meanwhile has just announced the launch of its 28 tonne PC288USLC-8 tracked excavator, an ultra short tailswing machine fitted with the company's KOMTRAX satellite management and monitoring system as standard.

And it doesn't end there. Although the new engine emission laws do not come into force until the start of 2011, a handful of manufacturers have seen an advantage in getting their Tier 4 Interim/Stage IIIB machines out into the market early.

Most notable has been Deere's early introduction of its K-series wheeled loaders. By the middle of the year it had already sold its first 744K to New Jersey, US-based contractor J. H. Reid, which needed the lowest emission machine available to be able to bid for work in the New York metropolitan area.

Caterpillar has now joined the party with the December announcement of its M Series 2 motor graders. The first machines available are the 140M2 and 160M2 along with their all-wheel drive counterparts, which cover the 144 to 224 kW power bands and are powered by a common Cat C9.3 ACERT Interim Tier 4/Stage IIIB engine.

New for 2011

But those few machines are just a taster of what is to come next year with the new regulations. The 130 to 560 kW engine range covers a huge variety of machines, encompassing pretty much all of what would be described as earthmoving machines for the civil engineering sector. The regulations will apply to all off-road haulers up to about 60 tonnes capacity, excavators from about 25 tonnes to well over 100 tonnes, wheeled loaders from the 3 m3 buck class and upwards and graders above about 15 tonnes.

The likely launch pad for these new machines will be the Samoter exhibition in Verona, Italy in early March and/or ConExpo in Las Vegas, US two weeks later.

But this move to new, lower emission machines will also emphasis a split that has been growing for some time in the global construction equipment industry. In order to meet the new emission standards, Interim Tier 4 and Stage IIIB engines need to be fitted with a variety of exhaust after treatment systems to reduce pollution.

In order for these systems to work, machines need to be fuelled with diesel containing very low levels of sulphur. However, this type of fuel is generally only available in Europe and the US - the regions that are introducing new controls - so to avoid breakdowns in other parts of the world, manufacturers are now producing machines for less regulated countries, which is to say, the rest of the world.

A good example is Caterpillar's K Series graders, which were launched in the middle of the year. These replace the H Series standard range and feature Stage II/Tier 2 compliant engines.

But this is not to say they are lesser machines. The K Series can be used with Caterpillar's AccuGrade grade control system, and have features like variable horsepower (VHP), which matches engine power to the loads on the machine to reduce fuel consumption. Other features include electronic throttle control for precise operation and electronic clutch pressure control for accuracy when inching.

The EC200B Prime excavator launched by Volvo at last month's Bauma China exhibition is another good example of this move among manufacturers for a second line of high quality machines for the less regulated markets. Although not up to Stage IIIB/Interim Tier 4 standards, the 20 tonne machine still has a low emission engine, which combines with load-sensing hydraulics and electronic controls to deliver productivity and fuel efficiency.

As manufacturers roll out their new Interim Tier 4/Stae IIIB-compliant machines in 2011, you can also expect to see more of these types of machines that are tailored to the needs of emerging, less regulated countries.

In action

Two years ago the Moroccan government has and its national highways authority, Autoroutes du Maroc (ADM), the national motorway company, approved a programme to link all major cities with a population over 400000 to the highway network by 2015. The scheme will see some 1800 km of motorways built.

One of the key schemes is to link the northern city of Fez to Oujda, some 325 km away near the Algerian border, at a cost of some US$ 1.1 billion. The road is also part of the wider north African l'Autoroute Maghr├ębine road, which will run from the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott to Tobruk in Libya.

Construction of the four-lane motorway is divided into ten contract packages, with the 67 km stretch between Taza and Guercif being built by This has been contracted to China Overseas Engineering Group Co., Ltd (COVEC), a wholly owned subsidiary of China Railway Group Limited (CREC).

As far as earthmoving equipment is concerned, the company opted for 14 Hitachi medium excavators, seven 25 tonne class ZX250H-3s and seven 35 tonne ZX350H-3s, which were imported from Japan. By May this year they had collectively excavated 7 million m3 of material and by the end of the scheme they will have filled a similar amount.

COVEC's Project Director Lin Sen Zhang tested some of the new excavators himself when they arrived on the site. He was immediately impressed: "Ninety per cent of the excavators working on this project are Hitachi. It is an excellent, high-quality brand and the products are reliable, with no downtime.

"They are also highly efficient in that they can complete their loading cycles faster and offer better fuel consumption than other brands. Most of our operators are local and vary in terms of their experience. However, they find both models easy to use and enjoy working in such comfortable cabs."

This site report illustrates the crucial point about emerging markets, that while they may not have the same stringent regulations on emissions as Europe and the US, other factors like operator comfort, fuel efficiency and productivity are vitally important.

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