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Lafarge North America's Coquitlam, British Columbia, Quarry Banks on Contractor Support for Site Prep.

By Mark S. Kuhar

Greater Vancouver-based contractor Vertex Excavating Ltd. is a ­general excavating company whose main contract for the past decade has been with Lafarge North America at its Coquitlam, British Columbia-based 90-hectare open-pit aggregate mine site.

When your customer is Lafarge North America, one of the largest diversified suppliers of construction materials in the United States and Canada, there is no room for equipment that is not reliable. Vertex relies on Volvo equipment to get the job done at the Lafarge site. “Volvo reliability alone speaks volumes,” said Vertex president Mike Patchett. “Then there is efficiency, productivity, drive-ability, off-road capability, creature comforts… the list goes on.” Vertex’s mandate for Lafarge includes clearing the mountainside of logs, road-building, stripping over-burden that in some areas can be more than 100-ft. deep, mine-waste management and control, as well as working with the provincial and local authorities on water management and environmental issues.

“We do everything that our customer asks of us. If we don’t have the equipment or the manpower, we’ll go and get it. Our motto: On time and on budget. A satisfied customer is a happy customer,” said Patchett.

Currently, Vertex is excavating and moving approximately 4,000 tons of glacial till and clay daily, exposing some of the best concrete aggregate available. “They keep us pretty busy, and that’s a good thing,” said Patchett. Busy indeed, and in a somewhat harsh environment.

This mine site is located in the heart of the Pacific Northwest rainforest where average annual rainfall is in excess of 50 in. (1,270 mm), and at higher elevations much of it falls as snow in the winter months with averages exceeding 60 in. (1,524 mm) annually. Sunshine is scarce and mountain road grades on the mine site are steep, with many in excess of 18 to 20 degrees.

A New Performer
Currently the Vertex fleet on the Lafarge site consists of a pair of Volvo EC360B excavators, five Volvo A25D articulated haulers and its latest acquisition, the brand new Tier 4 compliant Volvo EC380D crawler excavator.

One of the first of its kind to be delivered in North America, the new Volvo EC380D features a powerful Volvo D13-Tier-4i engine rated at 279 hp (208 kW), maximum digging reach of 38.45 ft. (11.7 m), maximum digging depth of 26.74 ft. (8.1 m) and a maximum operating weight of 86,860 lbs. (39,399 kg), this Volvo is the heavy-duty production machine owners can rely on for quarrying, road building, truck loading, mining construction, mass excavation, utility trenching and more.

Patchett and his team are pleased with this new excavator. “I went to ConExpo-Con/Agg and had a pretty close look at the machine, got my questions answered and came back and placed my order through [our dealer] Great West Equipment. When the machine arrived, we added a few additional accessories like the larger 60 in. (1,524 mm) digging bucket, a hydraulic thumb and because our contract calls for log clearing we added the FOPS guarding on the cab. It’s a tremendous machine, plenty of power, great stability, superior lighting and a cab full of creature comforts. Even in this compacted-for-centuries till and clay, this new excavator has allowed us to improve our cycle times and that equates to more truckloads per hour. It’s all I expected it to be and more.”

Since this is the first machine in the Vertex fleet that is Tier 4 compliant, the usual questions of power and fuel efficiency came up. According to Patchett, “We have noticed no power loss, matter of fact we find this machine to be highly productive. With regards to the engine regeneration system, other than having to confirm that we are in a safe environment to activate, you wouldn’t know that anything was happening. As for fuel efficiency, we have not noticed any difference.”

Patchett went on, “We work in the dirt, we work to protect and enhance our surroundings, so even if we were burning an extra liter or two of fuel, it would be a small price to pay to protect our environment from further exhaust emissions.”

Another feature on the new Volvo EC380D that Patchett and his team are looking forward to working with is the Volvo CareTrack System. This telematics system works with the excavator’s internal diagnostic system to remotely track usage, productivity, fuel consumption and much more. More importantly, it works to enhance preventative maintenance techniques allowing for optimized machine uptime and, in turn, a greater return on the customer’s investment.

Reliability in Action
The Vertex team is pretty pleased with the performance of its fleet of Volvo A25D articulated haulers as well. “Look at where we are working, grades from 18 to 20 percent and steeper, almost 2 mile (3.2 km) rotation, rain for 10 months of the year, mud and slippery slopes, it’s not very nice here most of the time,” Patchett said. “Each of these trucks has upwards of 4,000 hours on the meter and because of the efficiency of the transmission retarders and exhaust brakes, we haven’t had to replace a single brake pad. The brakes are just like new.”

There is little doubt that Patchett is satisfied with the production of his Volvo fleet. He feels the same way about his maintenance program. “We have a terrific working relationship with Great West Equipment,” he said. “We do the daily maintenance, but when it comes to the larger issues, we just give them a call and they’re here. Some would argue that having the dealer do all the maintenance costs more. Again, I disagree. They have the expertise, they have the service trucks, they have access to all the warranty information and the right parts… again, it’s the cost-versus-value debate. For my company, the value far outweighs any additional costs… if in fact there are any, and I don’t believe there are.”

What does the future hold for this very successful company? According to Patchett, “We want to expand and become more versatile to ensure every one of our customer’s needs are fulfilled no matter how big or small the job might be. At Vertex we are focused on growth in a very competitive market and to continue to succeed we need to be as efficient as possible. That includes continuing with the best job processes, people and equipment available and that certainly includes Volvo.”

Information for this article courtesy of Volvo North America.