Every Innovation Starts With A Conversation

A soil compaction experiment by the technology group Trimble demonstrated 26 percent reduced emissions compared to manual control.  

By Mary Lou Jay 

Full 1
Full 1

The path to lower emissions in road construction might be piloted by a machine. 

That’s according to a recent white paper released by industrial technology company, Trimble. Its report, “Quantifying Productivity and Sustainability,” measured fuel savings and carbon reductions using horizontal steering control on a compactor roller. This method is an alternative to having an operator manually control the equipment.  

The results showed significant savings in time and fuel consumption. 

Measuring multiple variables 

The study involved the compaction of a 300 ft. x 30-foot area of soil using a Dynapac CA250DD compactor with a Cummins QSF# 8 Tier 4 Final engine. Two randomly chosen operators ran the roller over the same area 40 times, using manual operation for 20 runs and assisted steering technology for the other 20. 

During these runs, Trimble measured the start and stop times for fuel burns, the number of passes made to cover the area and the total time involved. Other measurements included location of the compactor drum over time and the target pass counts required to achieve the desired specifications. 

One of the research team’s goals was to determine how assisted steering impacted overlap between passes and how that impacted overall carbon dioxide emissions. While too much can lead to over-compaction and increase the equipment run time and fuel consumption, insufficient overlap results in gaps at the edge of the compacted soil. 

Moreover, Trimble found that while the assisted steering runs had a fairly consistent 15% overlap, the operator-controlled passes ranged from 30 to 50%. The latter led to undesirable inconsistencies in the soil’s mechanical properties. 

Significant improvements 

Researchers found that when the operators used manual mode, they made significantly longer paths and had significantly longer engine run times. Manual mode resulted in lower productivity and sustainability when compared to the assisted technology runs. The improvements achieved with the assisted technology included: 

  • A 29% reduction in task time 
  • A 26% reduction in fuel consumption 
  • A potential labor savings of up to 40% 
  • A potential 26% reduction in carbon (15.262 pounds) 

Trimble’s Michael Granruth, who led the study, said it was important for contractors to have this data when trying to gauge their own carbon footprint. 

“We know that horizontal steering control makes operators of all skill levels more productive, efficient and accurate, but we wanted to put our own technology to the test in the field to determine exactly what improvements were possible, especially when it comes to carbon emissions and the environmental impact of a job,” said Granruth. “We must work together as an industry to address environmental sustainability, and we are pleased that the data from this study shows we’re making small steps in the right direction through the use of technology.” 

The company said it is planning further studies to validate similar findings across other machine types, such as excavators, dozers and motor graders.