Haul truck tire drives more than three and a half times around the globe

Heavy haulers each have six of the $65,000 tires

by Jessica Kirby
Heavy haulers work 24 hours a day at Syncrude's Fort McMurray operations. Each truck uses six of the $65,000 tires. Photograph by Todd Korol

Heavy haulers work 24 hours a day at Syncrude's Fort McMurray operations. Each truck uses six of the $65,000 tires. — Todd Korol photograph

Syncrude Canada Ltd. broke a tire performance and longevity record on a heavy haul truck earlier this year when a tire lasted more than 4,000 hours past the average lifespan.

The 5,300-kilogram, four-metre-tall Michelin size 59/80R63 tire on a Caterpillar 797 heavy haul truck was replaced earlier this year after 11,158 hours and 147,426 kilometres of travel. Heavy haulers each have six of the $65,000 tires, allowing the vehicles to carry up to 400 tonnes of material.

The tire hauled oil sand and overburden at the Aurora mine, 75 kilometres north of Fort McMurray. It was installed in March 2013.

The tire was pulled at the very end of its life, travelling on a rough road with an abundance of reject rocks that can spill from other haulers and damage a tire. It wasn’t until the truck surpassed 11,100 hours, and was guaranteed to have secured the longest running tire, that operators were informed and the tire removed.

“Our operators take real pride in knowing that their actions can have notable impacts on productivity and cost,” said Gary McNeilly, Aurora’s business team leader, production and mining, in a release from Syncrude. “It’s amazing to see everyone contributing.”

Monitoring and prolonging the lifespan of the tires is a cost-saving measure introduced seven years ago when Syncrude’s Tire Focus Group was developed, with the primary objective of extending the lifespan of its $39 million tire fleet using best practices and efficiencies.

Part of the strategy has been regular inspection and monitoring of the tires by operators and specialist contractors. Managers and workers discuss tire awareness at daily production, maintenance and technical meetings, and haul roads are also regularly maintained to be free of rocks, which can easily damage tires.

Leithan Slade, public affairs specialist for Syncrude Canada Ltd., said general awareness, education and communication are also among the main factors helping Syncrude prolong the life of its heavy haul tires.

“Operators know that a small rock the size of a hard hat can damage a tire, and so they’ve become more proactive in calling in equipment to keep roads clear of debris,” he said. “Employees are also encouraged to spend time at the tire repair facility to learn more about what can damage a tire and how to prevent it.”

In 2014, four tires at Syncrude reached the 10,000-hour mark, and two more made that milestone in 2015.
“Reducing costs is a top priority for Syncrude, especially during  the current economic environment,” said Slade. “With each haul truck tire costing about $65,000, extending their life presents a significant cost-savings opportunity.”

McNeilly said the entire crew is proud of the accomplishment. “We’ve been focused on improving tire life for years,” he said. “We now have the solutions and are fully engaged.”

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