To maximize the effectiveness of any machine, the operator must remain alert and seated at the controls. Automation of functions, ergonomic placement of controls and a clean and quiet environment help the operator maintain peak efficiency.
"Enhanced operator comfort translates directly into increased productivity," says Tom Meyer, JCB Vibromax. "Operating a roller for an extended period of time can become fatiguing in the extreme. The 14-ton and larger rollers often used in large site preparation projects may operate continuously for periods of up to 18 hours each day. Many of these machines are now equipped with fully enclosed cabs complete with A/C, heat and a CD player."
Ray Gallant, marketing manager for compaction, Ingersoll Rand, says the two most commonly expressed concerns among roller operators are noise and vibration. "We are constantly working on getting the vibration and noise transmission to the operator down as low as possible," he states. "Most of the platforms across the industry are fully isolated. We are steadily advancing the whole isolation issue to get the drum isolated as much as possible from the frame, as well as working on noise cancellation technologies that you will see coming out in the future."
Cabs gain popularity
More rollers are being shipped with cabs, says Gallant. "We have seen a big upswing in the last couple of years. I think you'll see the same trend that you saw in backhoe-loaders a few years ago. Eventually, it will be that non-cab machines will be the minority," he asserts. "Jobs are year-round today. Putting the cabs on is a reaction to that reality in the field."
Soil compactors have been leading the charge. "On dirt rollers, we are now providing about 30 percent of our machines with cabs," says Gallant. "Operators in these applications are exposed to blowing dirt and the elements more than operators on asphalt jobs."
In Europe, Hamm sells most of its compactors with cabs, but the vast majority of rollers sold in the North American market are still open ROPS canopy machines. "We are seeing more people ask about cabs and we are selling a few more," says Bruce Monical, marketing manager, Wirtgen America. "It's not a tremendous amount." Again, the units with cabs tend to be soil compactors.
Europe leads the way in terms of cab acceptance, with most rollers going out with cabs. This is due partially to the perceived value and resale, and partially to regulations. Monical explains that regulations exist in Europe covering the maximum allowable sound level at the operator's ear. While the regulations do not require the use of a cab, the noise at the operator's ear is reduced by its use. "A cab helps tremendously," he states.
Cabs can also protect vital components. "When you have electronics at the operator station, it is certainly easier to keep them protected and make them last longer if they are in an environmentally secured cab as opposed to out in the middle of the weather," says Monical.
To gain the benefits offered by a cab, you must be able to justify the added purchase price. This will vary by manufacturer and size of the roller. Gallant estimates the cab adds 5 or 6 percent to the overall cost of the machine. "Of course, it's a higher percentage on a smaller unit and a lower percentage on a big unit."
The addition of a cab does not necessarily mean sacrificing visibility. "A good cab design will provide all the comfort benefits with no negative impact on visibility," says Meyer.
"An operator must be able to see the edges of the drums and the area he is operating in to be productive and maintain safety."
European legislation again leads the way in ensuring adequate visibility, and this has carried over into North America. "Europe instituted what they call a 1 meter by 1 meter," says Monical. "That regulation states that anything that is 39 inches tall should be visible within 39 inches of the machine, all of the way around it. So the top of a 1-meter stick has to be visible by the operator in the operator's seat within 1 meter of the machine, all the way around."