Electronic controls provide several efficiency-improving features. They create a communications link between the engine and transmission to ensure the selection of the most efficient gear based on engine speed and load. They also make automated functions possible. Case loaders, for example, have "Return to Dig" and "Return to Travel" settings that optimize settings for load and carry applications or truck loading.
Other efficiency-enhancing features include limited-slip axles, which transfer power away from a slipping axle to improve traction, and load scales that measure how much has been loaded into a specific truck. "Trucks that are overfilled won't last as long and can lead to citations and fines," says Keery. "Underfilled trucks aren't fully utilized, which lowers efficiency."
Last but not least, designers have revamped the cab to improve efficiency by reducing operator stress and fatigue. They have simplified controls, improved visibility and made the cab more comfortable.
"Modern, ergonomic cab designs and excellent ride quality keep the operator free from fatigue for longer periods of time, which results in higher productivity," says Seyrlehner. "Travel gear and power hydraulics can be precisely controlled from a single lever, reducing the operator's physical effort and the risk of errors."
Additional efficiencies can be achieved by an experienced operator. Following are some recommended practices:
- Don't allow the loader to idle for more than 10 minutes. Unnecessary idling wastes fuel.
- Allow the machine to do the shifting. Auto-shift transmissions determine the best gear for specific loads and tasks, which improves fuel efficiency and allows the loader to travel at maximum controlled speeds.
- Don't spin the tires when entering a pile. "Buckets are filled effectively by penetrating the pile and manipulating the bucket and arms," says Wolf. "When tires are spinning, you are not penetrating the pile. You are losing production and increasing tire wear."
- Check tire pressure. "Properly inflated tires have a dramatic effect on the load-carrying capacity," says Keery. Uneven tire pressure can cause the loader to lean to one side, which will cause uneven wear on the bucket's cutting edge.
- Tire selection also is important. Radial tires provide superior ride quality and traction, which improves machine handling.
- Fill the fuel tank at the end of each workday. This will help prevent condensation in the tank and eliminate the need for a fuel stop during the workday.
Onboard weighing can improve loading accuracy
Onboard weighing systems can serve as the "eyes and ears" of equipment managers seeking to track wheel loader performance. As load data is captured, it is transferred to computers where it can be used to determine whether the loaders are being used as productively and efficiently as possible.
The primary function of an onboard weighing system is to weigh and display each load as it is being lifted so that a truck can be correctly loaded the first time. Most systems have the ability to calculate how much additional material is required for the truck to meet its legal limit, giving the loader operator the ability to adjust the final load as needed.
"Operators don't like to be loading by guesswork or loading blind," notes Leo Smith, managing director of Loadrite. "They prefer knowing how much is going on as they are loading, so that they can load the truck accurately."
Truck drivers are also ensured they are loaded to legal capacity and are not a candidate for an overload fine. Correctly loaded vehicles also perform in a predictable way, allowing drivers to maintain their expected braking distance and track reliably around corners. In addition, fleet managers benefit from lower maintenance costs since their trucks are not exposed to excessive wear and tear as a result of accidental overloading.
Data captured at the time of loading can be transferred back to an office computer for ongoing analysis and review. This transfer can happen in real time via the use of a radio modem, or a data capsule can be taken from the weighing system and plugged into the computer at the end of the shift or the end of the day.
Onboard weighing systems can be integrated with dedicated printers to create dockets as soon as a load-out is complete. Load information can be captured real time and/or stored to create reports that will improve management of the loading process.