One of the largest shire councils in Tasmania has just bought a new Komatsu wheel loader, but they declined to trade their ‘old’ one – it’s 37 years young and still going strong.
They simply put it on light duties and placed it on standby to help the new one in times of overload. Central Highlands Council, which services 12 per cent of the total landmass of Tasmania, has been through three amalgamations since the original Hamilton Shire bought the Komatsu W60-1 in 1982.
The ‘old-loader’ as the 15 strong road network workforce calls it, had been the hub of a program of self-sufficiency for the entire time, working in the council’s own quarry. The hour metre gave up working years ago, jammed north of 30,000 hours, but the loader kept on keeping on.
“Because of budgets, and the area we have to cover, we do a lot of our own work ourselves,” Barry Harback, Council’s supervisor of roads and services, said.
That means maintaining 619km of unsealed and 118km of sealed road with a pass at least once a year, using dolerite red gravel taken from the council’s own quarries. It’s an efficient operation, minimising the need for external contacting services. Council is even breaking new ground by building its own new sealed road – a 1.2km stretch replacing a gravel section into Hamilton.
The sheer size of the council’s boundary – encompassing just on 8000 square kilometres of hilly, densely wooded and largely wilderness area, means that they work their machinery hard.
More than a decade ago, the Council bought a newer wheel-loader (not a Komatsu) to work the quarry while the Dash-One moved to the adjacent landfill area requiring less mechanical stress.
But when the newer machine had transmission trouble, the ‘old loader’ simply swung back into action and took on the main task. Council staff even re-fitted the Dash-One’s long removed bucket weigh scales and it worked perfectly.
“It’s been a phenomenal run,” Barry said. “When we decided to finally buy a new Komatsu – the latest WA270-8, there was no reason, and no way, we were going to part with the ‘old loader’. The W60-1 is back on landfill duties while the WA270-8 works the quarry. Barry has been in the unusual position of being able to drive the two machines, from two eras, back-to-back.
“The Dash Eight is smooth to operate, it’s so quiet you can hardly hear it, and it’s air conditioned,” he said. “The Dash-One is a bit vintage.”
Operating controls are completely different. The Dash-One has massive forward and reverse levers sticking out of the dashboard and a bucket lever rising from the floor. The Dash-Eight operates on an intuitive joystick. Council and Komatsu’s Tasmanian branch added a bucket extension to the new machine to provide it with 0.3 cubic metres greater capacity, making filling its own trucks more efficient.
“We’re still getting better fuel use from the new machine, even with its greater workload,” Barry said. “Although that’s just my estimate, we haven’t done a formal test.” The new WA270-8 is fully covered by KOMTRAX, Komatsu’s on-board machine health, and performance monitoring system. Electronics were still in their infancy when the Dash-One was built.
“We haven’t had to call on KOMTRAX yet,” Barry said. “We have, just on 200 hours on the new machine and we’ll use Komatsu’s warranty service to maintain it.”
But when the warranty period is complete, Komatsu will continue to overview the two machines, plus the Komatsu graders, which are also on Council’s fleet.
“Service is a strong part of why I am a Komatsu man,” Barry said. “I know if anything does go wrong, we can rely on them for anything we need.”