Earthmoving is one of the most important operations in road construction in terms of its great impact on overall productivity. Thus, in planning the earthmoving operations for road construction, the selection of appropriate equipment is very important.

Here, we throw light on expert system for earthmoving equipment selection in road construction...

1. Spatial factors - The elevation of the site where the task has to be performed, the level of excavation required, obstructions in excavation, side, bottom and overhead clearances, required reach and the proximity of on-site disposal area or location of hauling units are some of the primary factors that needs to considered while selecting the equipment. Particularly, hauling distance plays a vital role in selection of the equipment in road construction. Generally, equipment which are smaller in size are good when hauling distance is small. However, if the earth has to be excavated over longer distances, then bigger and stronger equipment is required as smaller vehicles may not be able to sustain the pressure for so long and there can be breakdowns. Also, the size of road construction site impacts the selection process.

2. Soil characteristics - Soils ability to support various equipment and other soil characteristics such as traction, rolling resistance etc., also play an important role while selecting the equipment. Further, changes in soil characteristics when exposed to the environment and breakout force required to loosen play an important role. Sudden weather changes can drastically alter soil conditions like exceptional heat can toughen the soil whereas too much rain can make it exceptionally smooth. Thus, such equipment should be chosen which are versatile and flexible.

3. Contract provisions - The quantity of excavation and moving required, time allotted for the completion of the project, length of the project, the legal limitations on weight and size of equipment, work restrictions such as hours, dust, noise and traffic also determine the selection of the earthmoving equipment.

4. Logistical considerations - The availability of equipment, operators with the required experience, use of equipment in preceding and in subsequent operations resource levelling, duration when the equipment has to be parked or is idle, rental costs, ownership costs, operating costs and other factors that fall under the category of logistics also impact the earthmoving equipment selection process.

Other general considerations for selecting earthmoving equipment for road construction include...

1. Technology considerations - Latest may not always be the best option. So, such equipment should be chosen which are sustainable and will not be outdated soon. Emphasis should be put on the quality of engine, hydraulics, transmission etc., as they have a huge impact on the overall maintenance.

2. Fuel efficiency - It goes without saying that fuel constitutes nearly 60 per cent of the total cost of operation. Hence, fuel-efficient earthmoving equipment should always be preferred.

3. After-sales considerations - Companies should opt for that equipment of which spare parts are easily available. Generally, quality equipment from renowned manufacturers are the best and require less maintenance too.

4. Finding the best option that fits all the need: Take the example of Backhoe Loaders BHLs which are prominent earthmoving equipment found on any road construction site. Although the basic design of Backhoe Loaders remains the same, yet the sizes differ. You need to find out the exact specifications i.e., the required horsepower, controls, dig depth, bucket capacity and operating weight that would be required based on the tasks that the BHL will be performing. Further, the decision to buy a 4-wheel or 2-wheel drive and automatic or manual transmission should also be taken at the time purchase. This is just the case of BHLs, you need to find answers to similar questions while selecting any earthmoving equipment in road construction.

So, in a nutshell, you need to consider various factors while selecting the right earthmoving equipment.