KIRKLAND LAKE, Ont. - From region to region, the applications and work environments heavy-duty vehicles face can vary dramatically.Even within a single industry like logging, for example, the demands ...
NO PICNIC: Despite a steady diet of Tim Horton's doughnuts and coffee, Smith says running northern Ontario's logging roads is no picnic. (File photo)
KIRKLAND LAKE, Ont. – From region to region, the applications and work environments heavy-duty vehicles face can vary dramatically.
Even within a single industry like logging, for example, the demands placed on a tractor in northern Ontario will differ greatly from those experienced in B.C., explains Donald Smith, with the Paccar Technical Institute. “That can make it difficult to develop vocational durability testing that accurately simulates life in the field without actually going out and collecting the data.”
So, when Paccar wanted to get a better fix on how logging trucks in northern Ontario handle the strains of operation, Smith and his research team packed up their gear and headed into the bush to spend September of last fall testing a Kenworth T-800 with Rosco Forestry Operations.
“Getting a vehicle prepared is major work,” says Allan Whitmire, manager of structural evaluation at the institute. “Operators are very good at developing the optimum truck spec for their environment. So we build a truck to their standards.”
He says the whole process – including rigging the high-priced sensor equipment to collect and analyze strain and load data – cost approximately $250,000 to $300,000.
That’s why the manufacturer can only visit one or two locations a year for this type of thorough investigation.
But the data collected is invaluable – even if it makes for some extremely long days – contends Smith.
“Everyday we were up at 3 a.m. to get the truck set up, we’d then usually ride along for the day before downloading about two gigabits of data every evening,” he says. “One day, the crane caught us accidentally and lifted the truck in the air. We dropped about a foot; the Tim Horton’s doughnuts and coffee went flying everywhere.”
While the experience probably isn’t something most truckers would enjoy, Smith was ecstatic it happened.
“We got some great data that day,” he insists. “The strain gauges in the walking beam took a severe beating.”
The washboard logging roads (not exactly potholes, but constant jarring dips and rises that go on for miles) were one of the factors that brought Smith and his team to Kirkland Lake, Ont.
“We knew there was a lot of washboard out there,” he says. “It’s the most damaging event a truck can face even in a severe vocation like this … Everything is at resonance. It certainly gets the radiator jumping around.”
He says Paccar needed to better understand the destructive effects the washboard roads many of northern Ontario’s log haulers face from day-to-day.
“It shakes the doors and windows, the hood tries to loosen,” Smith explains. “It can fatigue the daylights out of a truck.”
After returning home to Washington State, the research group crunched all the numbers and set to the daunting task of establishing an accurate correlation between in-lab, durability testing and actual miles spent in the field for every major component.
“For one component, for instance, a mile of durability testing may equal 35 miles in the field, but for another it may be more like 100,” Smith says. Understanding these relationships allows Paccar to better eliminate bugs in new equipment before it reaches the end-users.
While the statistical information gathered on the excursion was priceless, Smith says he also learned three other important lessons that month.
Joe Rosco has a great group of drivers working for him; Kirkland Lake is one of the friendliest communities he’s ever seen; and, “driving a logging truck in northern Ontario is no picnic.” n