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Rokbak articulated hauler keeps Browning Excavation groundworks project on course

An excavator fills a hauler with rock on a job site
A Rokbak RA30 articulated hauler and a Volvo CE EC350E excavator

Browning Excavation had to act quickly when groundworks on a major housing project in Locust Grove turned up acres of overspill from the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia.

As the home of a cluster of Civil War battlefields, there are many surprises waiting to be uncovered in the soil of Orange County, Virginia. For Cody Browning, owner of Browning Excavation, however, the unexpected overspill discovery made while providing groundwork services wasn't quite such a lucky strike.

One of the perils of working so close to the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains is that a job that starts out as relatively straightforward can often take a more complex turn when excavators suddenly hit a patch of unexpected granite. And, shortly after breaking ground for the installation of sewage utilities, this is exactly what happened on Browning Excavation's job site.

"We hadn't counted on there being so many rocks to move," explains Cody. "They were basically all over the entire 60 acres – our excavator operators were spending hours breaking them up with a hammer before they could dig them up. Soon they were beginning to take over the site as well as slow down progress."

The decision was quickly made to move the scattered rock piles to a holding area at the back of the site and, in a ‘when life gives you lemons, make lemonade' type of approach, some of them were also earmarked for the backfilling of some pits at the site.

All that was needed was a machine to move them all. Cody contacted a Rokbak dealer, Lawrence Equipment, and arranged to lease a Rokbak RA30 articulated hauler. The hauler arrived in December 2021.

The hauler has clocked up over 500 operating hours with the foundations of 375 houses still to dig after the completion of drainage works and remains on call for 10 hours a day, five or six days a week. 

Browning Excavation used their Rokbak dealer Lawrence Equipment to lease a Rokbak RA30 articulated hauler.

Difficult working conditions

Usually working in conjunction with Browning Excavation's Volvo EC350E crawler excavator, the RA30's heaped capacity can often be utilized up to 50 times a day. The dump body of the RA30 is more than a match for its payload.

"The RA30 has impressed us, it takes everything in its stride," says Cody. "It handles this surface really well too and is especially good in the wet. Whereas, we have an older truck from another manufacturer that we can't get tires for anymore, so we just can't operate that in the rain."

In contrast, the RA30 is capable to work in wet and muddy conditions. Effective calibration of the 370 hp (276 kW) Scania DC9 five-cylinder engine with ZF's EP320 8F/4R transmission ensures each wheel receives maximum productive drive in any working application and enables a top speed of 34 mph (55 km/h). Its three axles help provide permanent all-wheel drive.

The tilt/telescopic steering wheel requires just four turns to move from lock to lock, thanks to the efficient hydrostatic power steering design that feeds pressure from a variable-displacement / load-sensing pump to a pair of double-acting steering cylinders. With a 45-degree steering angle at either side, creating a turning radius of just 27 ft 9 in (8,470 mm), the result is ideal manoeuvrability that can be produced with the minimum of operator effort.

One reason for this manoeuvrability is the cushioned bump stops on the steering cylinders that reduce strain on the operator over a long shift. Another improvement to hauler productivity that also enhances the in-cab work environment is the independent front suspension, which combines a double-wishbone design with four hydraulic dampers and coil over springs.

The Rokbak RA30 will potentially remain on the Locust Grove site until the work is completed in two years or so, before moving on to another of the three major projects in Browning Excavation's order book. The next 30-acre housing development has no problematic patches of rock and the hauler will instead be used to transport dirt from higher ground to help meet grade. Just 15 miles to the east, this site is also within a short hop of Cody's front door.

Given that many other North American contractors are likewise enjoying a boom in demand for services, and bearing in mind the need to expect the unexpected, it may well be wise for other firms to hang onto their leased RA30s and RA40s. With around half of 2022's expected 9000 unit sales likely to be made in North America, Rokbak is now ramping up production to meet the spike in demand.

"Right now we have a very healthy order book," says Robert Franklin, director of sales, Americas at Rokbak. "The construction business in the U.S. and Canadian markets is booming thanks to some once-in-a-lifetime infrastructure bills pushing demand, and we're doing everything we can to ensure our customers can reap maximum benefit.

"Our lease returns are being sold before they even come back and we're already taking orders for 2023. Our haulers are very nearly worth their weight in gold at the moment."

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