Rock to Road

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Editorial: An evolving industry

Tires used in bridges? Electric quarries? Times are changing...


November 25, 2016
By Andrew Snook

November 25, 2016 – On a recent drive with my three-year-old daughter, I was informed that it was of vital importance that we stop at a nearby McDonald’s restaurant for lunch. After the employee working the drive-thru was unable to describe the toy cars available for the Happy Meal to my child’s satisfaction, my daughter asked me to park the car and bring her inside the restaurant so we could weigh out all of her options in selecting “the right one”.

I had not frequented a McDonald’s in years, so it came as a surprise to me when I walked inside and was greeted by a giant screen where I was instructed to input my order. As I watched people quietly punch in their orders I thought to myself, times are changing. The same can be said for the aggregates and roadbuilding sectors.

Technologies are constantly evolving to make operations more efficient. Whether that means getting better fuel efficiency from your big iron; improved water conservation from your aggregate washing plants; finer and better production from your crushers; lower emissions from your paving operations and other heavy equipment; or reduced noise and better dust control in quarry operations, manufacturers, suppliers, researchers and industry associations are working around the clock to find ways for you, the readers, to get a better bang for your buck when it comes to managing your day-to-day operations.

One interesting piece of research I recently read about was from The Canadian Press on the topic of using recycled tires in the construction of various types of infrastructure.

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The story discussed how a researcher at Dalhousie University in Halifax is currently looking into how a tire-derived aggregate, made from recycled tires, could be used to help strengthen soil used in the construction of roads, bridges and buildings. Hany El Naggar, the professor heading up the project explained that there are soft soils throughout Nova Scotia that are not strong enough to support infrastructure, and that this tire-derived aggregate has the potential to enhance the strength of the soils enough to allow for infrastructure to be built on them. If it works, it’s not a bad way to divert the tires from landfills.

Another interesting project underway is taking place in Sweden with the help of Volvo Construction Equipment (check out page 8 for the full story).

Volvo CE, along with its customer Skanska Sweden, the Swedish Energy Agency and two Swedish universities, are building a $30-million electric site research project designed to electrify certain transport stages in quarry operations, from excavation to primary crushing and transport to secondary crushing.

Volvo has predicted that the project could reduce carbon emissions in these transport stages by upwards of 95 per cent, and could offer upwards of a 25 per cent reduction in total cost of ownership.The best part of this project (for Canada, anyways) is that the technologies could be applied to quarry operations across North America, if successful.

In our new world of carbon taxes, where climate change is a global priority, this technology could definitely end up offering some serious advantages to quarry operations everywhere.

It’s great to see the industry’s technologies evolving in ways that benefit both industry and our environment.

As for my mission at McDonald’s, I ended up bypassing the order screen, walking over to the counter and asking  for all the cars to be placed on the counter so my daughter could find the shiniest, and therefore, best vehicle. Oh well, I guess technology alone can’t be expected to solve everything…