For many years, the business of mining has been a story of more mechanisation, bigger and bigger mines, and bigger and bigger equipment. Advances in the technology of moving large amounts of material in open cut mines has driven the development of bigger and bigger trucks. But will it be like that forever?
I don't think so, because I believe a whole new set of technology developments will mean that the transport of mass materials will be done by smaller and smaller machines, each operating autonomously, making their own decisions, and at a much lower total cost than a fleet of large haul trucks.
So why are bigger and bigger haul trucks about to see the end of their run? Haul trucks are really expensive to buy and to maintain. At about $5 million for a Caterpillar 797, and a significant ongoing cost for maintenance and operating inputs, there may be a case for doing things differently. Add in the costs of all of the people and other systems that are needed to enable the management of truck fleets, such as roadways and critical parts, and the cost keeps piling up. What if there was a better way of doing things?