Virginia dam reconstruction: Progess monitoring

A North Carolina contractor is using new technology to monitor haul trucks’ productivity on rural Virginia dam reconstruction.

A temporary dam inplace during the works.
A temporary dam inplace during the works.


When Thalle Construction Company – based in Hillsboro, North Carolina, USA – decided to expand its use of new technology, it did so on a massive $26m/€20m earthen dam construction project.

The New Ragged Mountain Dam, located just west of Charlottesville, will replace a pair of existing structures and provide additional water capacity for the area, according to project manager Andrew Wells.

“This job started in April of 2012 and it has a fairly tight window for completion,” he said. “We will be moving more than 700,000 cubic yards (535,000 cubic meters) of material by the time we are done and, when you are moving anything of that volume, it’s critical to know where that material is going, how long it’s taking to get there, and so on.”

Marking on paper

A view of the construction site
A view of the construction site

In this day of increasingly sophisticated solutions to on-site challenges, it seems hard to comprehend that, even today, load counts are often tracked using penciled tally marks on a sheet of paper – yet that is indeed the case. And that approach, while tried, is not always true, according to Topcon software sales specialist, Evan Monroe.

“Manual tallies are pretty basic but rely upon the attentiveness of the haul truck operator,” he said. “While most are good conscientious workers, there is always that possibility of error. And with the slim margins on today’s projects, there is simply no room for that.”

Wells agrees with Monroe’s assessment. Failure to accurately monitor how many loads are moving, he said, can skew volume totals in one direction or the other. That, in turn, can prompt the addition or removal of a truck to the operation.

“The average base rental for a haul truck is about $10,000 (€8,000) a month, so it’s a significant expense,” he said. “Add in the operator’s salary, the cost of fuel, and so on, and you’re looking at a $25,000 (€20,000)-a-month ticket. Conversely, if those bogus numbers prompt you to cut a haul truck, onsite production will quickly suffer – costing big money on that end.”

One-two punch

The company has equipped two of its haul trucks – a Volvo 840D and a Volvo 835D – with a tracking and reporting system. Those trucks continually feed data (load time, time to destination, drop time, type of material, etc.) out to a web-based system.

“In the past, we would get a ‘snapshot’ of the job, by watching our trucks in action and, based on that, try to determine whether we had enough equipment – and the right type – assigned to the job,” said Wells. “The system allow us to constantly monitor the load-to-unload cycles and then create reports, in both time and volumes, which will average it over any given period.”

Based on those reports, he said, they can immediately see that – if their haul trucks have been running non-stop, but overall production is still lagging – another truck needs to be added. If the report shows an hour of idle time per haul truck per day over a two-week period, they know they have one more truck than needed.

Collecting and sharing information

Levelling off the land
Levelling off the land

At the site, information is also being collected from Thalle’s 3D-MC2-equipped dozers as well as from several data collectors. In addition to being able to generate valuable progress or volume reports, the software allows file transfers and remote support on each connected machine.

Using this system on a mobile device, Thalle’s survey personnel can connect to the same platform and see activities such as topos in real-time in the office.

“These are benefits that can really add up,” he said. “Just having the ability to send updated files to our dozers, or remotely look at the screen in one of the haul trucks without having to physically go out there is huge. And being able to have a real, verifiable sense of where we are from week-to-week is invaluable from a budgetary point of view. I even have a version of the software installed on my phone, which allows me to look in on the project when away from the site.”

Expanding the Effort

At the present time, Thalle has 3D-MC2 on two of its dozers and HT-30 on two haul trucks.

"We have some jobs in the works – including this one – that include some big cuts with tight grade requirements. For us, if we can optimise our equipment use, we know there will be a cost savings associated with it."

This is a sponsored case study provided by Topcon. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of ICE.

Topcon Europe is the European headquarters of Topcon Corporation, a Japanese multinational company which is a world leader in the manufacture of optical and electronic instruments for medical, ophthalmic, surveying, construction and machine control applications.

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