Cat autonomous trucks set new record
Safely and efficiently hauling 1.2 billion metric tons in 2021 Metal Tech News – March 23, 2022
Last updated 7/12/2022 at 1:58pm
Caterpillar Inc.'s enormous autonomous mining trucks hauled 1.2 billion metric tons of ore, waste, and other materials during 2021, a world record that will likely only stand for a year as more mining companies turn to the safety and efficiency Cat autonomous haulage has to offer.
Autonomous trucks equipped with Cat MineStar Command for hauling, a solution developed by Caterpillar for fully integrated autonomous mining systems, are hauling iron ore, oil sands, copper, coal, and gold at 18 mines across three continents.
Since 2013, trucks equipped with Caterpillar's autonomous haulage system have delivered over 4 billion tons of material and traveled more than 91.3 million miles (147 million kilometers), roughly the distance from Earth to the Sun.
While the record-breaking pace that autonomous Cat trucks are delivering rock is impressive, the fact that these driverless trucks have hauled this material over solar system comparable distances without a single lost-time injury is truly astounding.
"Safety and sustainability continue to be top values in the mining industry," said Caterpillar Resource Industries Vice President Marc Cameron. "We are now entering our ninth year with zero loss-time injuries with Command for hauling, a testament to its safety record."
Without concerns about jostling a driver around in the cab, these autonomous trucks can travel faster while also being more efficient than their human-operated counterparts.
"A recent five-year study by one of our customers autonomously hauling iron ore reported an 11% reduction in fuel usage – resulting in a 4,300-tonne-per-year (4,740 TPY) CO2 emissions reduction – 11% increase in hourly production, 50% higher maximum truck travel speed, and 35% improved tire life," Cameron added.
In addition to 190- to 360-metric-ton trucks factory equipped with MineStar Command, regular trucks and loading equipment built by Caterpillar and other companies can be retrofitted with the autonomous technology.
Cat Mining General Manager Sean McGinnis says there are now more than 500 trucks operating worldwide with the company's autonomous technology, and that count is growing.
This includes Newmont, the world's largest gold mining company, which ordered 16 autonomous Cat haul trucks to operate at its Cripple Creek and Victor mine in Colorado.
"We have also expanded our Command system to Cat water trucks for haul road dust control at the mine," McGinnis added.
Caterpillar Chief Technology Officer Karl Weiss said the decision to automate Cat water trucks and their delivery systems is in direct response to mining customers that needed these important dust-control vehicles to work seamlessly and not interrupt the productivity of the other equipment at an operation.
The company introduced its first such water truck at the MINExpo 2021 in Las Vegas last September.
Equipped with MineStar Command for hauling, this truck features the first autonomous water delivery system that integrates truck, tank, and sprayer and knows where and when to water haul roads.
One such truck is in operation at Rio Tinto's Gudai-Darri iron ore mine in Western Australia.
Not only does this driverless water truck avoid slowing the production of its ore-hauling mates, but its delivery system automatically varies the water flow based on truck speed, preventing overwatering and poor traction at intersections.
Given the success of autonomous haulage, and now dust control, it is expected that this self-operating technology will make its way into other Cat equipment at surface mines around the world. In the meantime, Cat trucks are working toward setting a new record for the amount of material autonomously hauled in a single year.