Construction vehicle design | Heavy equipment | Steering systems for construction

In the City of Indaiatuba in Brazil, a Yanmar Solis 90 CV tractor was employed to carry out the spraying and disinfection of the city’s streets from April 15 to May 8. In the pre-pandemic era, we may not have seen heavy equipment repurposed in this way, but increasingly, construction vehicles are compatible with a range of innovative attachments. Here, Roger Brereton, head of sales at steering system specialist Pailton Engineering, explores the design considerations for this evolving and versatile breed of construction vehicle.

Rugged terrains, dusty atmospheres, extreme temperatures, humidity, falling rocks, shocks and vibrations. Construction vehicles must contend with harsh environments and extreme mechanical stresses. For this reason, components that are designed for heavy equipment must be more rugged than equipment destined for a standard automobile. In addition, these components typically require a longer service lifetime with minimal maintenance.

For example, construction vehicle tyres are engineered for heavy loads, to maintain solid traction. Similarly, steering systems must counter the adverse ground conditions and uneven terrain often present throughout construction sites.

The robustness of certain integral vehicle systems are being put to the test even more thanks to the increasing diversification of attachments available on the market. Contractors now have an array of flexible tools that can transform standard heavy equipment into multitasking machines capable of performing a variety of job site tasks.

Take an excavator as an example. By simply changing the attachment to a ripper, grab, rock breaker or auger attachment, the capabilities of the machine quadruples. This is an attractive proposition for contractors, who can get more out of the equipment, save on operating costs and complete jobs more efficiently.

Some heavy machinery can even automatically recognise smart attachments and convert machine controls to the settings needed to operate the attachment. This technology can be complemented by a hydraulic rotary union or swivel joint integrated into the attachment's design to improve control and manoeuvrability. Similarly, rotary unions provide 360 degrees of rotation for optimal versatility and precision.

A bespoke approach

There are many factors that must be taken into account when considering the requirements for the steering systems of vehicles used specifically by the construction industry, and as a leading manufacturer of steering and suspension ball joints, – Pailton Engineering understand that robustness, flexibility and safety are key.

Standardisation versus design flexibility is an age-old debate in vehicle design, but for these non-standard vehicles that can seemingly ‘do everything’, standard catalogue parts supply won’t suffice. A bespoke steering system, which can become compatible with a wide variety of tasks throughout the life of the vehicle becomes cost competitive in the long term.

Bespoke design can also have positive implications for maintenance. A critical part of vehicle’s whole life cost is the maintenance costs accumulated during a vehicle’s service life. Paying slightly more for low maintenance steering parts could result in significant return on investment for the end user, who doesn’t need to contend with recurring replacements or workshop visits.

While not every heavy equipment vehicle may be repurposed to help with societal problems, non-standard design fuels innovation, leading to the creation of incredibly useful and multitasking construction vehicles.

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