Article by: Bhushan Mhapralkar

The Indian-made BharatBenz 3143 deep mining tipper is set to change the way the deep mining tipper segment will be looked upon.

From behind the wheel of the new BharatBenz 3143 deep mining tipper, the view ahead is almost uninterrupted. It is a far cry from the trucks of yesteryear where the cabin was cramped and the driving position uncomfortable. Displayed at the AAI show at Hannover last year as a ‘Made-in-India’ product along with the left-hand-drive Fuso truck, the 3143 has begun rolling out of the Daimler India Commercial Vehicles (DICV) facility at Oragadam, Tamil Nadu. A commercial launch is scheduled later this year. Impressive is the attention to design and ergonomics. The day cabin flaunts good built, presents a good service of space. The large, sweeping dashboard may look a touch bland, it does not feel like it was built to a price. The modern instrument panel has two large dials. At the centre is a digital readout which indicates the gear the vehicle is currently in. If it is in the manual mode or the auto mode or if the differential-lock is engaged, and more.

Equipped with a 12-forward, 4-reverse G330 ‘Powershift’ constant mesh Automated Manual Transmission (AMT) that is operated by means of a multi-function stalk (paddle shift) on the steering column, the 3143 deep mining tipper that I am at the helm of, is filled with 28-tonnes of cargo. Enough to make me realise that this truck, referred to as Thunderbolt internally, is rated at 31-tonnes and equipped with a 29 cu. m. rock body from Satrac. The hydraulics are from Hydromass India.

Gearshift is activated by moving the multi-function stalk vertically. Moving it laterally activates or releases the exhaust brake. Pushing the ring on the stalk gets the transmission into neutral. A button at the end of the stalk also facilitates a similar function. It marks a world of change from manual transmission. With the gears positioned such that the first gear amounts to first-low, and the second gear amounts to first-high, highlighting the G330 transmission’s splitter arrangement, a switch on the centre console and part of a three-switch bank, enables the move to manual mode. Conversely, it also facilitates a move back to auto from manual. In the auto-mode, the transmission is sensitive to the push of the accelerator pedal and brake, thus shifting up or down. One of the three-switch bank is a switch for the air-conditioner. Not far from it and closer to the steering column, is the parking brake lever. On the other side are the HVAC controls.
If the cabin of the 3143 deep mining tipper reflects the amount of comfort an European driver has come to expect (most trucks in Europe are fitted with air-suspension), it is the quality perception that is carried over to the outside.

Subjected to extremely strenuous conditions and expected to operate for 22 hours in two shifts everyday, with the sole break for refilling fuel, deep mining trucks typically ferry overburden in a mine. Since three deep mining tippers come at a price of one dump truck, they are a preferred lot. Capable of ferrying 48-tonnes in-line with the Directorate General of Mines Safety (DGMS) regulations, and 31-tonnes according to CMVR rules, overloading of deep mining tippers is always a possibility. The need therefore is to withstand such conditions. Replacing Mercedes-Benz Actros, and with 90 localisation at the chassis level (powertrain is sourced from Germany), the 3143, according to Erich Nesselhauf, CEO, DICV, will be a game changer with its low acquisition cost and strong technological prowess.

To facilitate the nature of its application, the cabin of 3143 is situated 180 mm higher. Riding on 24-inch diameter wheels and off-road tyres the truck looks intimidating. A ‘Make-in-India’ ambassador according to Nesselhauf, it looks slightly different from the one that was displayed at the 2014 IAA show at Hannover, Germany. The 3143 thus has been treated to a facelift. The grille, in matt black is now more pronounced and wider. The BharatBenz logo is at the centre. It does not take long to find out that the cabin of the 3143 has been inspired by that of the Axor C. Contributing to an impression where even when standing still, the 3143 looks brutish, a dandy looking bumper includes the head lights (with daytime LEDs in them). At the bottom of the bumper is a scrub plate.

Walk over, and thick wheel arches painted in the same shade of grey as the bumper draw attention. Just aft of the cabin, and ahead of the superstructure is the hydraulics hardware. Structured on a chassis that is made from high-strength E500TM material, the 3143 deep mining tipper, ironically is easy to drive. There is no clutch pedal to deal with. All it takes is to step on the accelerator. In auto, it does not take long for the transmission to shift into 4th gear. Speedo needle shows 25 kmph. With speeds in mines for such trucks topping out at 40 kmph, the 3143, employing a 400 series engine in comparison to the 500 series engine found in the Actros, produces less power but more torque than that of the Actros’ engine. A mere touch of the brake pedal retards the machine, and leads to the transmission downshifting itself.

If a torture track leads to considerable axle articulation, which is easily accomplished, the 3143 was subjected to many ‘torture’ tests in Indian mines and at Daimler’s testing facility in Germany to ensure that a robust, reliable and efficient solution was arrived at. Development on the product started two years ago, and as part of a strategy to offer a highly diverse range. Also meant for export under the BharatBenz and Fuso brand, the 3143 gives the impression of being refined. Not much noise is filters in. Outside, I am sure, it is noisy owing to the viscous clutch fan, which creates quite a din. Powered by a 430 hp, 12-litre OM457 six-cylinder motor, this 8×4 truck, with a wheelbase of 4380 mm, has two front steered axles. The rear bogie arrangement contains Meritor axles with hub reduction.

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