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AUSROAD™ Managing Director, Toni Dunlop talks about the future of safety, mine productivity and what makes AUSROAD™ the Global Stemming Truck Specialist ahead of their 30th year in business.

What makes AUSROAD™ the Stemming Truck Specialist?

Toni Dunlop: AUSROAD™  is innovative, hands-on and experienced. We’re on the site, understanding what is needed for maximum efficiency. It’s also about maintaining long term relationships with our clients – investing in partnerships to drive productivity and offer mutual benefit to each other.

Underpinning our speciality is our customisation and quality. AUSROAD STEMMING TRUCKS® are custom-built on Volvo chassis’s in Brisbane, the team knows exactly what we need even down to the hole pattern. Having this type of partnership means we can easily customise our truck bodies to suit our client’s needs. When we head out on-site to see what terrain, conditions and requirements we’re working with, we can then commission a Stemming Truck or Loader to suit that unique site. Right down to the details like the tank volumes, lighting and beacon requirements and technical integration.

But there are also those features you’ll be guaranteed to find on every AUSROAD™ Stemming truck like an industry-leading capacity, Tier One hydraulics and dust suppression systems to reduce manual handling, maximise safety and efficiency and minimise downtime.

30 years is a huge milestone – how do you maintain your place as an industry leader?

TD: AUSROAD™’s longevity isn’t a secret. We’ve always been ahead of the game by looking for ways to automate the process, reduce human error and increase safety. Adapting and innovating in the mining technology space has been pivotal for us. We move with the industry and keep our finger on the pulse.

For example, our Contour Loader is the first of its kind in the world. When we first commissioned it in 2015, it had been in development for many years. It’s an example of our commitment to always find new ways to increase safety, productivity and accuracy on the shot.

How have you seen your clients increase their productivity, safety and accuracy with AUSROAD STEMMING TRUCKS® and Stemming Contour Loaders?

TD: AUSROAD™ vehicles bring these three components – productivity, safety and accuracy – to work in synergy. A lot of this comes down to innovation and optimisation, especially automation to reduce human error and increase productivity.

Tools like a travelled side conveyor allow around 26-tonnes of stemming to be delivered in under 15 minutes, reducing double handling vehicle movements. The whole drill and blast process moves that bit faster and over time this makes a huge improvement to BCMs.

We offer our clients a short-term trial hire to experience our vehicles do just that, we often see them extend that period or just commission a vehicle on the spot.

OHS is a huge priority for most mining companies. What specific measures are you taking to help your clients achieve optimum safety?

TD: Managing worker safety and fatigue is a priority. Comfortable operation in the air-conditioned cabins makes the difference – especially when the shot can exceed temperatures of 40°C. This means it’s also important for ground staff to be protected from the heat and dust exposure. Mist or dust sprayers on the storage tanks make a big difference to ground staff dust exposure. We also supply water trucks, using them to wet down the shot and reduce fill-up time.

Automation also plays a big part in mining OHS since human error is the cause of a lot of preventable mistakes on-site. To address this we’ve developed an overload limit lockout – essentially it prevents the driver from selecting drive if their stemming load exceeds capacity. Another is an alarm on our hose connections for filling water trucks. It alerts the driver when they’re still connected to a fill hose so they don’t drive away while connected.

How do we address productivity challenges in drill and blast?

TD: There’s a lot of research and development ongoing in this area – and rightly so with sustainability, safety and automation at the forefront of our industry. System innovation that automates the stemming process, AUSROAD™ already addresses this in our specialist Stemming vehicles. Additional productivity boosters like safety sensors and proactive maintenance are easy ways to improve productivity.

There’s a catchphrase in the industry, “continuous improvement”. Looking for continuous improvement in everything you’re doing is key to addressing these issues on a site-level. Sitting on our laurels is not an option for AUSROAD™.

And finally, as a leader of innovation in stemming, where do you see the industry going?

TD: It’s going to automation. Not just stemming, but mining in general.

We also need to centre discussions on the “future” of relationships. We hear from a lot of our clients that their strategy for the next five years is all about partnerships with suppliers, rather than purely transactional relationships. It lets both companies get on the same path and work as a team rather than focusing on the idea that, “we just want the cheapest price”. Being in strategic partnerships, rather than giving out the cheapest service you can is the future of all mining, and particularly AUSROAD™.

It’s simple really – it’ll lead to longevity and stronger investments. If we continue a long-term partnership, then we’ve got more confidence to invest in improvement. For AUSROAD™ it’s about looking at long-term goals and aligning with people and companies with the same objective.