Do your homework to achieve a high ROI on your next construction equipment purchase.

From large residential and commercial building development sites to road construction and bridge work, moving material can be one of the most costly jobs for any project. “To bid competitively while increasing profits, contractors need to do their homework to ensure they’re moving material as effectively as possible,” says Ken Emmett, Terex Construction’s product manager.

Construction business owners who need an articulated dump truck must scrutinize various details including the material type, travel distance, cycle times and the equipment loading the truck.

Articulated dump trucks flex at the joint where the cab meets the body, enabling all six wheels to maintain equal contact with the ground during operations. This adaptability to ever-changing ground conditions makes articulated trucks the preferred choice for many applications (instead of rigid-frame dump trucks). Before purchasing an articulated dump truck, consider these factors.

Evaluate Your Needs

“Equipment purchase decisions are an investment. The first step in selecting an articulating truck is evaluating your needs based on the type of work your organization does and the equipment you will be loading it with,” Emmett says.

“Start by looking back at recently completed projects and determining needs for potential future projects,” Emmett suggests. “What kind of material is being moved? How far is the material going? And because articulated trucks are always part of a system, what kind and size of loading machine is being used? The answers to these questions will help steer contractors in the right direction.”

Understand the Specs

The next step is to look at each truck’s specifications and all the options available to match job needs with machine specifications. Most distributor and manufacturer websites can be used to start the process because they offer considerable detail.

When choosing an articulated truck, seek higher production per man hour—the truck should allow the operator to move more dirt in a workday.

“Payload capacity is an important spec for contractors to focus on,” says Emmett. “There are a lot of factors that go into determining the right payload size for the job. There’s an industry consensus that you should be able to fill the truck in four to six passes.”

Consider the Speed

In addition to payload capacity, the travel speeds of articulated trucks play a key role in productivity and ROI. Since no two jobs will be the same, contractors should look at top-end speeds for long runs and the pulling power for shorter distances. Operators want to accelerate quickly under load, which means you should select a truck with a high power-to-weight ratio to ensure productivity on the job.

Look for a unit that offers an abundance of horsepower and torque that is designed with an engine and transmission combination that allows operators to go faster and haul more in one cycle. Some trucks have an all-wheel drive system with automatic limited-slip differentials in each axle to give operators superior traction and speed in different working conditions.

To go fast, your operators must have confidence their trucks can stop. “You want to make sure that braking is applied to all six wheels,” Emmett says. “Also, wet brakes can reduce the overall cost of ownership because they require less maintenance than other braking systems.”

Watch the Gas Gauge

Finally, consider fuel efficiency during the specification process. “Fuel consumption should be based more on material-per-gallon than the amount of fuel-used-per- hour,” Emmett says. “The way a truck is operated has a big impact on fuel efficiency. Planning out logical haul routes, in a circular or oval pattern; maintaining a well-graded, level and clean haul route; keeping the distance between loading and dumping sites as short as possible; reducing the machine’s rolling resistance; keeping the truck properly maintained; and following the manufacturer’s guidelines for hauling capacities can all increase the truck’s fuel economy.”

Assess Comfort Features


After determining how a truck will handle the demands of the job, evaluate the truck’s comfort. Today, most articulated trucks offer ergonomically-designed cabs that provide great visibility and comfort.

“When you’re looking at the cab, subtle design elements can make a big difference for an operator throughout the course of a day,” Emmett says. “Check to see if the controls and instrument clusters are located for operator ease. Other features such as an air-ride seat, large windows, a 45-degree steering radius, power steering, a well-equipped stereo, air conditioning and heat are not only comfort features, but they also help get the best performance from the operator day in and day out.”

Emmett also recommends selecting a model that offers sufficient front suspension to improve handling and provide operators with a smoother ride. This also results in faster cycle times.

Compare Service and Support

Before making the investment, look at the service and support provided by the distributor and the manufacturer. “Downtime is one of the most frustrating aspects of being a business owner,” says Emmett. “Contractors ask a lot of their equipment, and breakdowns are bound to happen, which is why it’s important to work with a distributor that has a trained service team and the parts needed to turn repairs around quickly.”

Because articulated trucks are not something a construction business owner has to buy every day, it is important to do as much upfront work as possible before making a decision. The effort will lead to a more productive crew and a truck that will deliver a high ROI.

Questions to Consider


Before purchasing an articulated dump truck, consider these questions:

  1. What kind of material is being moved?
  2. How far is the material going?
  3. What kind and size of loading machine is being used?
  4. How much horsepower and torque does the articulated truck have?
  5. What kind of payload capacity does it have?
  6. Is the cab ergonomically-designed?
  7. Do the distributor and manufacturer offer service and support?

Because articulated trucks are not something a construction business owner has to buy every day, it is important to do as much upfront work as possible before making a decision.


Construction Business Owner, December 2011