What makes a good mine vehicle?

When we think of mine vehicles, images of super dump trucks, diggers and equipment hauling mega machines come to mind. However there is another vehicle strutting its stuff all over mines in Australia; the mine ready four wheel drive (4WD). For obvious reasons a conventional vehicle will simply not suffice in the tough, rugged, dangerous and changeable environment of a living mine. So what makes a long living, sturdy and reliable mine 4WD?
 

What’s required?

With mining vehicles the first second and third requirements are all getting it to meet compulsory standards. Starting at federal level, mining health and safety requirements will dictate specific additions to any mine vehicle. Once these standards are met it's then on to the state level health and safety regulations (the Western Australian mining health and safety page is quite useful in this regard). After these standards are met it’s down to mining companies (and in some cases the site operator) to formulate standards, requirements and specifications based on the mine type, environment and vehicle job role.

The image of a four wheel drive with a diesel engine, manual gearboxes, large tyres, a high clearance and bull bars is not far from the true image of a conventional mining vehicle. Simply put, mining vehicles will almost always have all wheel drive and will frequently have all the advanced traction control, tow capabilities and passenger protection that would be expected of any high end four wheel drive.
 

Why is Toyota so dominant?

Why is it that Toyota has Hilux and Prado models in almost every mine site in Australia while Holden and Ford are, relatively speaking, minor players? There is choice in the market (competition is heating up) so why are mine sites continuing to choose Toyota? After some online research and speaking with in house experts, the reasons for Toyota's dominance becomes very clear. Toyota has, over the years, built vehicles that fulfil all the most important needs of the mining industry - as noted below.
 

Build quality

Even in the consumer market Toyota is renowned for its build quality. Numerous models (Corolla, Camry etc.) sell very strongly on a reliability pitch.

Maintenance and support networks

Because of advanced production techniques (Toyota developed the “just in time” method of logistics and parts management after decades of trial and error) Toyota are capable of running a support network which can respond quickly to mining customers.

Parts network 

After years of working with the mining community the related parts network has blossomed and as a result Toyota have tried and tested logic behind inventory and staffing levels.

Parts interchangeablility

Toyota have a very well developed policy of building parts which work across a rande of different models and vehicle types. This makes ordering parts quicker and reduces the dreaded vehicle downtime.


Conclusion

In a nutshell a good mine vehicle should start with health and safety regulations, it should continue with mine related specifications and should finish with a quality after sale service. The real question in the coming years will be whether or not other vehicle manufacturers will be capable of getting a foothold into this lucrative marketplace. Ford in particular, with their new Ranger series, are making some serious ripples with plans for after sales services that hope to challenge Toyota's current model. In any case it has to be pointed out that whatever any competitor is planning, it had better be planning it for the long term, as a mine support network is not built overnight. 
 

See another Article about Toyota fighting to stay on top


Do you have an opinion on the best mine vehicles?


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