Across every mine site, regardless of location or commodity, mine truck tyre damage and failure caused by rock cuts is an ongoing challenge. The very nature of mining means sharp rocks are operational hazards that come with the territory – but the direct and indirect costs of tyre damage can quickly add up.

Because of this, many sites are working to try and reduce the incidence of damage. But a lack of visibility and awareness of hazards means they are reduced to reactive measures that manage the aftercare of damaged tyres and aim to delay ultimate failure – not prevent the damage from happening.

As tyre prices increase and concerns of a rubber shortage hit mining companies, the benefits of preventative tyre management are growing significantly. By understanding the difference between reactive and proactive hazard identification and being able to implement preventative measures on site, operators stand to actively reduce mine truck tyre damage and achieve significant long-term profit and productivity gains.

The costs of tyre damage add up quickly

Sharp rocks and tyre hazards are commonplace on load and haul circuits, and it’s always been accepted as part of the practice that tyres will be damaged by rocks. So much so that, for many mine sites, rock cuts cause over 50% of tyre failures.

The lack of visibility and awareness of hazards, as well as the belief that ‘turning is earning’ (i.e. stopping trucks to avoid rocks will damage productivity and profitability), is driving the increased rates of premature tyre damage across many sites.

This has both direct and indirect impacts on operations, as continuous and excessive mine truck tyre damage leads to:

  • Unplanned maintenance events. Tyre damage or failure leads to more unplanned maintenance, which in turn impacts productivity due to fewer trucks operating on the circuit.
  • Increased tyre costs. It’s not uncommon for sites to spend double their annual tyre budget due to unforeseen tyre damage and failure. Setting and meeting tyre budgets becomes increasingly hard when there is little visibility of risks.
  • Shortened asset life. The lifespan of most tyres is expected to be between 6 and 6.5 thousand hours. However, it’s not uncommon to see tyres only lasting between 3 and 5 thousand hours – which means more maintenance and more frequent replacements.
  • Increased safety risks. The risk of fatality increases 10 times when undertaking tyre maintenance activity compared to any other truck maintenance activity. Unplanned maintenance further heightens this risk.

The difference between reactive and proactive identification

There are a couple of existing measures some sites have implemented in an attempt to manage the risks and impacts of mine truck tyre damage, reduce failure and extend tyre life.

Some carry out routine maintenance activities specifically to identify any hotspots or signs of damage on tyres that can then be addressed or rectified.  Others are investing in AI scanning technology that automatically scans tyres to detect damage or at-risk tyres.

While these activities can help prevent early failure, they are not truly preventative fixes, as they only detect damage already done to tyres. A proactive approach involves tools that help operators avoid rocks (and the damage they cause) altogether.

But what does this look like?

Proactive hazard identification identifies rocks likely to cause mine truck tyre damage or failure, providing awareness to truck operators and dispatch crews. This enables corrective action to avoid and/or remove obstacles before they impact tyres.

This doesn’t necessarily have to mean stopping operations to wait for removal. Even if one truck makes contact with the rock, identification ensures that it can be removed before the rest of the fleet is impacted, reducing the frequency of impact.

Ultimately, it’s crucial to have all the data available when deciding on a course of action that best serves the operation based on the level of risk – rather than having to make reactive choices when faced with the aftermath of rock-impacted tyres.

Take action on mine truck tyre damage

Implementing a proactive approach to hazard identification on your mine site can be broken down into three must-haves:

  • Identification – You need to be able to identify hazards that could cause premature tyre damage and/or failure. Not only do operators need to be able to see the rocks as they’re driving the trucks, but you need to be able to coach operators to look out for them as well.
  • Communication – You need a clear method of communication and expectation with operators around the actions they’re expected to take when they see a rock.
  • Action – You need to introduce a way of acting upon the information provided through identification and communication. This could look like engaging your fleet management system to notify ancillary or your clean-up crew.

As there is currently a lack of visibility for operators and managers as to where and when rocks are impacting trucks, sites will need extra support to enable proactive identification, communication and action. As demonstrated earlier with the mention of tyre scanning technology, mine sites are embracing technology and analytical tools to help them improve onsite processes. And mine truck tyre damage prevention is no different.

Currently, there are few solutions that focus on preventative action. One that does is RockAware. Designed specifically to help sites identify and manage hazards that lead to tyre damage and failure, RockAware is a complete solution that uses AI and LiDAR scanning technology to identify hazards and alert operators. Automatic notifications can be sent to cleanup crews, and hazard data can be logged and saved to a cloud platform to help to identify trends and prioritise action for the highest-risk areas.

To learn more about proactive prevention and the RockAware solution, click here.