Heavy hauler rolls its way to a record

Haul truck 17-100 – a shiny new Cat 797 – went into service at Syncrude’s North Mine in June 1999, about the same time that the Dallas Stars were lifting their first Stanley Cup after defeating the Buffalo Sabres.

Twenty one years later with 55,803,015 tons of material hauled over 157,051 trips, the truck continues to roll along the haul roads at Syncrude’s Aurora Mine to achieve a world-record 150,000 operating hours.

“The longevity of this truck is an incredible achievement, particularly when you consider it was designed for an operating life of 72,000 hours,” says Craig Coolen, Syncrude’s Manager – Mine Mobile Maintenance. “Along the way, there’s a lot of people who have helped this truck reach that significant milestone.”

Craig, who was working his way through school when the truck first began operating, sees the collaboration between different business units as a major contributor to the truck’s durability.

Syncrude worked closely with Finning Canada as well as Caterpillar, during the 797’s development.

– Craig Coolen

This photo was taken when the hauler passed the 100,000-hour operating milestone.

“Once the truck arrived at our site, we continued to work with those partners to improve the truck. That involved people from Research, Reliability, Maintenance and Operations as well as our partners at Finning,” Craig says.

Brent Boutilier, a Senior Project Manager with Research & Development, was a technician working on heavy equipment for Syncrude when 17-100 arrived at site. He and many other employees worked with Caterpillar on improving the truck’s reliability after some early challenges with structural issues and engine performance.

Oil sands are the ultimate proving ground and you need everyone in the chain, from the steam bay to the operators to the people who fuel them to the executive suite, to make it all work.

– Brent Boutilier

In addition to a lot of rolling, the truck – which weighs 1.14 million pounds with a full load – has a lot of technology behind. There are about 500 different sensors located throughout the vehicle that provide data to an onboard computer, which feeds notifications to a panel operator in an office. That data has helped support the truck’s availability and reliability.

“Having this information from the Operator Care Program has also helped our operators better understand how they can play a crucial role in keeping the equipment available,” says Fraser Sutherland, Business Team Leader – Aurora Mining Trucks.

We are ensuring the truck is operating within its limits. When it doesn’t, we respond appropriately.

– Fraser Sutherland

Craig, who oversees more than 500 maintenance technicians, contractors and staff, says his team is the best in the business.

“This truck has had its engine rebuilt 10 times during its time at Syncrude, which is a very complex task,” Craig says. “Their work is very ably supported by a group of Finning technicians at our sites. Finning is a great partner who has played a significant role in reaching this milestone.”

And just how long can the truck continue to run? “Like anything, 17-100 truck has a lifespan. Our job is to keep it running safely and reliably while it’s in our service.”

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