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Heavy Equipment - Incredible Machines, Complex Issues


In the ever changing world of technology, heavy duty vehicle manufacturers are striving to keep ahead of the evolving demands of their clients while still meeting environmental emission restrictions. These demands and restrictions have resulted in the increased complexity of heavy duty vehicles and their systems. This complexity has also increased the potential for failures.

Although heavy duty vehicles are ostensibly similar to passenger cars because they have engines, brakes and wheels, the similarities are often only superficial.  Heavy duty vehicles, as a class, covers a wide variety of machines ranging from the transport truck that hauls beer to your local liquor store to the more complex heavy duty vehicles such as the Caterpillar 797B, the largest mechanical dump truck in the world.

With advances in technology, some of these relatively basic systems have gotten significantly more complex. In some vehicles hydraulics have replaced components that used to be cable controlled, computers now control and regulate entire electrical systems that were linkage controlled and now many aspects of the performance of the vehicles are monitored and controlled by complex sensors, electrical controls and communication wiring.

In addition to changes in technology, the need to stay economically competitive in the market place has created the demand for larger, more efficient heavy duty vehicles. In response, manufacturers have changed the way they build their products by using more synthetic materials, increasing the engine size and fuel capacity as well as pushing the envelope on the structural capacity of many components. These efforts to maximize performance and minimize emissions have created a circumstance where these machines now present a higher risk of fire due to larger fuel loads and increased opportunity for mechanical, electrical and material failures.

Finally, as it relates to losses, these devices can be critical to the operations they service.  The loss of this equipment can lead to significant costs of repair and, more importantly, significant costs resulting from business interruption. The timely completion of projects can be at stake when these machines are unavailable. Consequently, there is a great urgency to correctly identify the issue and to move swiftly towards the resolution of the claim.

Adjusters, lawyers and risk managers dealing with claims on heavy duty equipment, should ensure that the people investigating this equipment are familiar with the state of the art of the technology as well as the general systems on this equipment.  Investigating the causes of failures or fires on heavy duty vehicles draws on a specialized knowledge of hydraulics, electrical and mechanical systems as well as the material properties of the various components. In addition, a clear understanding of how these heavy duty vehicles function from an operational standpoint can provide valuable insight into the potential causes of failures.


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