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By Rick Zettler

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Entering a contract to supply riprap to projects along Long Island, Tilcon needed a machine with the capacity to load up to 11-ton stone at a 44-ft. reach.

Driving around Tilcon’s Clinton Point quarry in New York, you will find the typical equipment expected at a facility that processes crushed limestone at a high capacity. Multiple excavators, loaders, rigid haul trucks and crushing circuits dot the landscape of the 1,200 acre property to load, move and crush 3.1 million tons of dolomitic limestone.

Moving closer to the quarry’s property line along the Hudson River, however, you’ll spot a blue piece of equipment that is seemingly out of place. It has a similar appearance to excavators found at the quarry, but it’s not an excavator.

Its wheeled drive train allows it to move about the quarry much faster than an excavator. It also has a noticeably longer boom/stick reach when loading barges with material, and the cab elevates and extends the operator in ways an excavator cannot. “It can also fully load a barge with riprap in as little as four hours,” said William Leibbrant, Clinton Point Plant Manager for Tilcon.

The Fuchs material handler was once rented for a particular purpose at Tilcon’s Haverstraw and Clinton Point locations but has since proved to be a versatile tool for the aggregate producer. “We see a place for a material handler at the quarry,” commented Jamie Slaughter, Tilcon’s New York Division mobile equipment manager.

It appears, a material handler in a quarry is no longer a reach.

Riprap Contract

In March 2015, Tilcon entered into a contract to supply riprap for multiple shoreline projects along the New York City’s Long Island coast. The contract was originally sold through the producer’s Haverstraw quarry, which produces a high-density basalt product. The project spec required each stone to be between 4 and 10 tons.

Haverstraw quarry needed an efficient way to load the barges. “We had the dock but no infrastructure to load the barges, so we were looking for a machine with the capacity to load up to an 11-ton stone at a 44-ft. reach,” explained Slaughter, who set out on a mission to find a machine that fit Tilcon’s needs.

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Even though the producer lacked experience with a purpose-built material handler, Tilcon worked with Ehrbar to supply the MHL380 handler with a 69-ft. reach.

Slaughter worked with his local equipment distributor, Edward Ehrbar Inc. of Yonkers, N.Y. “We looked at a couple of options,” recalled Bill Tucker, sales representative for Edward Ehrbar Inc. “One machine was a modified excavator/handler with a stationary elevated cab that offered reach options from 55 to 68 ft. We also considered the Fuchs MHL380 handler that offered a hydraulically elevating/extending cab and up to a 72.2-ft. reach.”

For the quarry, obtaining a modified excavator was not an issue, as they are commonplace at most quarries. A material handler, on the other hand, is more of an unknown. They are likely to be found in port applications but not at a quarry, and Tilcon’s New York Division did not have a handler in its fleet.

Even though the producer did not have experience with the handler, officials liked what they saw and worked with Ehrbar on supplying the MHL380 handler. It arrived at Haverstraw quarry in April, where its primary mission was to load barges with riprap that were then sent down the Hudson River to Long Island. The grab attachment was specially built
to accommodate the size of the dense basalt riprap stone.

Quick Adaptation

Not only was the material handler something new for Tilcon officials, but the equipment operators at the plant had no previous experience with the machine either. Tilcon pulled and trained its excavator operators on the use of the MHL380 handler. “Our operators quickly picked up on running the material handler after about three hours of training,” said Leibbrant.

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Machine operators quickly picked up on running the material handler after only about three hours of training.

As safety is Tilcon’s number-one value and concern, one of the first items officials wanted to ensure was the operating stability of the material handler. Whereas the excavator operators were used to a tracked undercarriage, which gives the impression of higher stability, the material handler had a wheel drive train.

“The MHL380 handler,” said Fuchs Technical Sales Manager Steve Brezinski, “is equipped with four point outrigger stabilizers that spread out over an 18.7- x 21.7-ft. area for excellent stability. It offers better stability than the excavator at an extended reach.”

The Haverstraw quarry put the handler to work loading riprap into the barges. Consistently, the machine was able to load the 1,200-ton barges in about 4 to 6 hours. The quarry opted for a 69-ft. reach on the rented handler, so it could easily load the 35-ft.-wide x 100-ft.-long barge with minimal movements.

The handler’s hydraulically elevating cab design helps to improve loading efficiency. The machine offers a maximum eye-level operation of 20.3 ft. to improve all-around site visibility, and its independent horizontal adjustability of up to 7.2 ft. allows the operator see into the hull of the vessel.

While the handler was efficient at loading the barges at Haverstraw quarry, Tilcon officials worked with the Army Corps of Engineers to allow the limestone product at the producer’s Clinton Point quarry to be used for the shoreline reinforcement projects. With established port access and two stiff-leg cranes, the Clinton Point operation was set up for higher loading capacity. “It’s an opportunity to serve our customers in a higher capacity, so it’s better for all parties,” said Slaughter.

The dolomitic limestone product at Clinton Point was less dense than the Haverstraw basalt, so the riprap pieces were larger to meet the 4- to 10-ton specification. With the grapple attachment purchased specifically for the Haverstraw product, Tilcon went back to Ehrbar for some modifications. Tucker mentions, “We extended the tines of the grapple so it could easily grab the larger feed material.”

Getting a Workout

At the Clinton Point operation, Tilcon had a number of options for loading the barges with riprap. One option was to use a loader to place material onto the platform of the stiff leg crane for loading the barges.

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Four-point outrigger stabilizers spread out over an 18.7- x 21.7-ft. area for excellent stability, especially at an extended reach.

“This turned out to be a slow process, as we could only get three to five pieces on the platform at one time,” said Leibbrant. “The MHL380 handler, even though it places one stone at a time, was about 20-percent more productive than the crane, due to the slow cycle time of the stiff-leg model. Plus using the handler instead of the crane freed up the loader for other work in the quarry.”

The officials also experimented with an excavator they had on site to load the barges. “We could only load half of the barge at a time with the excavator, and then we would have to spin the barge around to load the other side,” explained Gerald Smosarski, equipment superintendent at Tilcon’s Clinton Point operation. “It took about two days to load a barge with the excavator.”

However, the MHL380 handler could load a barge in less than six hours, and it efficiently handled the riprap material. “The hydraulics appear to be stronger on the handler than the excavator,” observed Slaughter.

Fuchs’ Brezinski explained that this is due to the handler’s purpose-built design. “An excavator’s hydraulics are arranged for digging, while the handler’s hydraulics are set up to lift material. In addition, the MHL380 handler’s slewing ring is positioned in the center of the undercarriage base, compared to the excavator’s off-set ring positioning, offering the same load handling capacities throughout its 360-degree rotation.”

Tilcon stuck with the material handler to load barges at Clinton Point. With the capacity to load two barges per week, the handler had some availability to do other work at the quarry. “Jamie (Slaughter) came to us and said, ‘See what other uses you can find for the handler,’ so we have been experimenting with it in a number of ways,” mentioned Smosarski. With riprap being the heaviest job at the quarry, if the handler can handle that, then it can handle other projects.

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The Fuchs MHL380 handler can load a 35-ft.-wide x 100-ft.-long barge with riprap, ranging from 4 to 10 tons in weight, in as little as four hours.

When the long-reach excavator, typically used to remove fines from the wash plant retention ponds, was temporarily moved to another Tilcon site, the MHL380 handler stepped in to take on the job. It was equipped with a 3-yd. clamshell bucket and put to work. Tilcon employees were thoroughly impressed.

“It worked well for mucking out the settling ponds,” said Smosarski. “One advantage is the excavator’s pins were submerged in the water to remove the fines but this was not the case with the handler.” Slaughter adds, “The excavator only has a 2-yd. bucket, so we have a 1-yd. per cycle advantage with the handler. Plus, the handler’s cycle times are a little faster than our excavator’s.”

The handler has also been used to remove oversized shot rock from the blast material. “Before, we used large loaders to pull out the oversized material,” says Leibbrant, “but picking out the large rock with the handler has also worked well.”

Although not having gone the material handler route before, the MHL380 handler has impressed Slaughter enough to where he sees the need for a handler at a quarry. “As long as there is enough work and the cost per hour is better than the alternative, there is a place for a material handler at a quarry,” said Slaughter.

President of Z-COMM, Rick Zettler is a writer, photographer and PR and marketing consultant for the construction, material handling, mining and road-building industries.