Lightweight is probably not the first word that comes to mind when most people think about anything to do with concrete. For one ready-mixed concrete company, though, lightening up has become something of an obsession — and for good reason.
Right Away Ready Mix, a California-based company specializing in ready-mixed concrete and concrete pumping services, began considering ways to lighten its mixers and over-the-road tractors around 2002, according to Mike Shragal, maintenance superintendent for Right Away. The fleet has about 80 vehicles, almost all Kenworths and Peterbilts.
“We are mainly a ready-mixed concrete producer,” says Shragal. “In the past, we always over-spec'd our trucks, chose heavier-duty components, for longevity. But in about 2002, we decided to try some lighter-weight components to see if we could increase our payload capacity.”
According to Shragal, the list of lightweight specs has grown to include smaller, lighter engines, lighter drivetrains, aluminum wheels with single-wide tires, aluminum fenders, and even a composite drum body from McNeilus made of woven fiberglass. The bottom line? A weight reduction of more than 2,000 lbs. “Our old trucks weighed in at about 27,000 lbs. empty. Our new trucks are about 24,800 to 25,000 lbs.,” he says. “Just changing the drum alone was worth almost 2,000 lbs. That means we can haul a little over one-half a yard more concrete per load. That is just huge.”
It takes some expertise to get the light specs equation right for a ready-mixed company, though, especially one that operates in a very hilly part of the country like Right Away does. The company worked with its truck dealers and made some compensating changes to make the new package work, according to Shragal.
“We took our engines down in size on the mixer trucks, for instance,” he says, “but we also increased the horsepower and torque and we've had no complaints from the drivers. In fact, some of them swear the 350 hp. Cummins ISL will outperform bigger bore engines. It has been a real good little motor.”
Shragal has no problems to report so far with any of the lighter-weight components. “We haven't experienced any downside yet,” he notes. “We are very happy with where we are now.”
Even these specs are subject to change, however, as new materials and new options become available, Shragal says. “We are looking at aluminum shoots now, too,” he says, “and I am very interested in disc brakes — but because of performance, not for weight reduction. Not everything we do is for weight. As good as it is to add payload capacity, safety is always first.”