Weighing the pros and cons of tailgates

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From cost to capacity – calculating ROI potential

by Josh Swank, Philippi-Hagenbuch vice president of sales & marketing

Quarry managers know that hauling more with each pass, without added maintenance, leads to increased revenue. Still, some companies forgo potential profits every day because of one missing component — a tailgate. Aggregates companies should consider the pros and cons and do the math to determine what works best for their operations.

Consider capacity
Most trucks come standard without a tailgate. And while it may seem like a minor feature, the absence of a tailgate can result in loads that are 10-15% below rated capacity. Loading a unit without a tailgate typically results in less material on the truck as a means of preventing spillage. Sacrificing 15% per load each trip is simply not economical for many aggregates companies.

By increasing haul volumes to meet a truck’s rated capacity, tailgates quickly and easily boost an operation’s profitability. For example, a 70-ton-capacity truck with a tailgate hauls nearly 11 more tons per load than a 70-ton truck without a tailgate. If a fleet of six trucks adds 11 tons to each of their respective 12 loads per day, the result is similar to adding another truck to the fleet without the increase in fuel, maintenance or labor.

It’s important to keep in mind, however, that tailgates come with a significant expense upfront. Managers should consider how quickly their operation will experience returns from their tailgates before making a purchase. For some smaller fleets, it may even make sense to purchase a single tailgate for one hauler and track productivity to help determine if adding more is the best move.

Hit the target
Tailgates not only allow for maximum payload but also provide the loader-operator a larger loading target, which enhances speed and efficiency while reducing wear and stress on the truck. Tailgates optimize the loading zone so materials can be dumped in the middle of the body, rather than near the front. This improves weight distribution and overall truck stability. Always loading toward the front of a truck adds stress to front axles and hydraulic hoist cylinders of the truck, resulting in premature tire wear, body damage, and potential axle and hoist cylinder damage.

Improving payload with a tailgate doesn’t come without growing pains, however. Inexperienced or overzealous operators may be inclined to overload tailgate bodies beyond a truck’s payload rating. A 70-ton truck hauling 80 tons of material is operating outside of the OEM truck manufacturer’s guidelines; this can cause damage and safety hazards while also voiding the truck’s warranty. Squeezing an extra 10 tons per load may seem like a quick way to boost profits, however, repair costs can far exceed additional revenue if it results in a blown tire or cripples the chassis.

The pros of adding a tailgate extend beyond truck capacity. Anyone who spends their day in a quarry knows roads can be narrow, rough and littered with spillage, making them hard to navigate and posing risks for trucks and other equipment operating at the site. Closing haul roads to clear the debris results in lost productivity, not to mention the fuel and labor costs associated with clearing the roads.

Open up to options
With a variety of tailgate options on the market, it’s important to find the design that complements the specific operation. Typically, tailgates that lift, instead of drop down, provide maximum efficiency. Dropdown tailgates are often slower when opening and closing and are more susceptible to damage from dumped materials. These designs also rely on pins or hydraulic systems, and with more grease points, cylinders and joints, the risk of failure increases. Dropdown tailgates may seem like a quick, economical solution, but can end up costing more for repairs and replacement.

Lifting, scissor-style tailgates have fewer moving parts and less potential maintenance. It is important to find a tailgate that’s built with durable, high-strength steel and features strong components, including steel alloy chains and bushings that don’t require continuous lubrication. Also, make sure the tailgate lifts high and fast enough to get out of the way before unloading. The last thing anybody wants is the tailgate to hold back the load when dumping. Faster dumping leads to increased efficiency and productivity.

Choose productivity
Consider the pros and cons before adding tailgates to haul trucks in a fleet. Upfront expenses can be a deterrent and, for certain operations, payload limitations may not be restricting revenue potential. For most quarry managers however, tailgates can pay off quickly through increased payload and reduced truck maintenance.

For more information visit www.philsystems.com.