With all of the latest technology, should you purchase a new articulated dump truck (ADT), or does it make more sense to buy a used unit in the current market? The answer is probably different for every contractor.
Evaluating the condition of a used articulated truck is not an easy task. “An articulated truck is one of the more difficult machines to evaluate just because it is a component-rich environment,” says Keith Oelfke, used equipment inspector, Ziegler Caterpillar. “A dealer has to take a lot of things into the equation in order to come up with a comprehensive report — the repair history, oil sampling, who owned it, what it ran in.”
When you are willing to spend this much money, the price of an inspection report really becomes an insignificant cost.
Look It Over
When you first approach a used ADT, establish its serial number and the hours. “Then start the machine and let it warm up as you look for physical damage,” says Oelfke. “Look for leaks. Spend a little time on each individual component within the time that it takes to warm up. Then you can do your performance checks.”
“Visual inspection is the first important thing to do,” says Doug Olive, vice president of pricing and evaluation, Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers. “Establishing the component hours and work history is really important, but so is visually looking at the tires, box, liners, articulation joints, etc.
“What is the integrity of the cab, what does the glass look like, is everything present that should be?” he asks. “Even doing an independent oil analysis can be important for understanding where the machine has been and what life it still has left in it. Open the hood, look at the engine and filters and check the fluid levels.”
Go with your gut. “When performing a visual inspection, your first feeling is your best feeling,” says Olive. Check for obvious signs of neglect such as broken glass in the cab, broken mirrors, etc. Tilt the hood and take a careful look. “Does it look like the air filter or oil filters have been changed recently? Are there pre-determined installation or removal dates stamped on those filters?” Make sure fluids are at the proper levels.
If you can, place the truck in a high lug situation going uphill, and make sure it is still shifting properly. “With a full box, you can establish that pretty quickly,” says Oelfke. “The engine usually gives away a fuel problem by a miss, significant lug or high smoke.”
Check Components Carefully
Olive notes that customers at Ritchie Bros. public auctions are buying based on hours. “Less than 5,000 hours is considered low hours these days,” he says. “Somewhere in excess of 10,000 hours is when many components start to show some wear and tear. The remaining life of your components lessens quite a bit over 10,000 hours.”
“The higher the hours, the more chance there is for a component needing to be rebuilt or needing service,” Oelfke points out. “Most articulated trucks have a life span ranging from approximately 9,000 to 15,000 hours, depending upon the level of service. That would be component life span. The frame life span could be double or triple. Chances are you will recondition or replace some piece on the powertrain or suspension within that 9,000 to 15,000 hours.”
Try to establish the component hours on higher hour ADTs, since they are often different than the machine hours. For example, a differential may have been replaced at 8,000 hours, while the truck has accumulated 11,000 hours. “You only have 3,000 hours on that differential. It becomes a part you don’t have to worry about as much,” says Oelfke.
Focus your attention on the powertrain and suspension. “That is where most high failure rate components are located,” says Oelfke. There are three differentials, six final drives, a retarder/converter, planetary transmission with a large transfer case and a splitter box. “For any piece of heavy equipment, that is a lot of components. Then you incorporate an electronic control system and a hydraulic system. There is a lot to it.”