Blackwell take delivery of 24 new Volvo machines
New machines deployed on one of the biggest infrastructure projects currently under way in the UK
A FLEET of 24 Volvo machines, supplied by Volvo Construction Equipment dealers SMT GB, has started work on one of the biggest infrastructure projects currently under way in the UK.
CA Blackwell (Contracts) have put 20 of Volvo’s latest A45G articulated haulers, two 75-tonne EC750E crawler excavators, a 48-tonne EC480E and an EC300E into Sections 4 and 5 of Highways England’s £1.5 billion A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon Improvement scheme.
Blackwell’s machines are working on the earthworks subcontract for the A14 Integrated Delivery Team (IDT), a joint venture between Costain, Skanska, Balfour Beatty and designers Atkins/CH2M, working on behalf of Highways England.
The Volvos form part of a fleet of more than 160 earthmoving machines and tipper lorries that Blackwell have operating at the site. This includes 72 articulated trucks and a range of excavators, graders and dozers.
The new Volvo machines are being used initially on the excavation and haulage of 500,000 cubic metres of Gault Clay from a borrow pit at Dry Drayton to a link road embankment at the remodelled Girton Interchange.
This has required the use of a temporary bailey bridge across the existing A14, which separates the fill site from the borrow pit, thereby negating the need for tipper lorry journeys via the A14 and the local road network, in turn benefitting road users and the local community alike.
In Sections 4 and 5 of the scheme the A14 is being widened to four lanes on each side, between Bar Hill and Girton, and junctions at Bar Hill, Swavesey, Girton, Histon and Milton are being improved.
Construction commenced in 2016 and the road is due to open to traffic in December 2020. The work in Sections 4 and 5 calls for about 5 million cubic metres of earthworks, including the development of two large borrow pits.
The new Volvos represent part of a programme of growth for the Blackwell fleet as demand for the company’s earthmoving expertise continues to build. The Blackwell plant fleet is utilized within both Blackwell’s and parent company Hargreaves Services’ operating markets of earthmoving, surface mining, quarrying and materials’ handling.
The new Volvo machines have been specifically prepared to meet the needs and requirements of the A14 project. ‘The package was right,’ said plant manager David Lancashire. ‘It was a complete mix of haulers and excavators that we were looking for. The package price was, of course, important, but more so was availability, and SMT GB was able to meet our time scale.’
All of the Volvo excavators have been equipped with bright orange ‘boxing ring’ safety rails, audible quick-hitch alarms and 360° cameras, fitted at SMT’s machine preparation centre in Immingham before being delivered to site. The Volvos are also equipped with fast-refuelling systems, to improve safety for the refuelling operator, eliminate spillage, reduce downtime and improve fuel cleanliness.
Though Blackwell have their own extensive maintenance facilities across the UK, the number of new machines working on the A14 led the company to take out SMT GB’s Blue level Customer Support Agreement on the machines. This includes all maintenance and inspections, along with analysis and preventative maintenance tools, such as CareTrack, Volvo Oil Analysis and MATRIS analysis.
Blackwell will also be exploring the possibilities of a number of advanced Volvo productivity tools available, including Dig Assist for the excavators and Haul Assist for the fleet of trucks.
‘We’ve got telematics on all of the machines and Haul Assist is something that we will be looking at using on future projects,’ added Mr Lancashire. ‘Blackwell are always keen to try the latest technology, although there has to be a clear justification and benefit. Haul Assist will give us efficiency improvements – when the trucks speak to each other and decide which excavator to go to, you’ve got savings.’
Excavator performance is just as important as hauler efficiency and the latest Volvo EC750E is proving to be a popular choice. ‘The EC750E is a great machine. We already had two EC700s in the fleet and our guys say the EC750E is more powerful, more productive, great for the drivers and a big improvement.’
Much of the bulk earthmoving on the A14 project will be concluded this year, providing Blackwell with a fleet of new machinery for future use. ‘We’ll have machines available for the work that we can see going forwards with HS2 and other Highways England projects,’ said Mr Lancashire.