Mixed trenching terrain calls for a versatile machine

The terrain and geography around the village of Tavannes in the Jura Mountains in northwestern Switzerland, where Michel Devaud leads the work of utility contractor Huguelet Génie Civil SA, often poses challenges for trenching and excavating jobs. The wide variety of soil conditions on jobsites in the northern reaches of the Western Alps makes versatility an important trait in any excavation equipment. That’s why Devaud originally contacted Vermeer AG in 2017.

Devaud is no stranger to working in the area’s terrain. The 40-year excavation veteran leads a team of around 30 employees in the northern reaches of the Western Alps, working on a range of jobsites from rock quarries to utility installations. With such variety of both job types and terrain in which his company works, Devaud knew he needed a machine with the versatility to match.

“Huguelet Génie Civil SA works in different soil conditions and rock formations, installing water pipelines, and gas and power lines in uneven terrain and tunnels,” said Vermeer EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) Product Specialist Paul van Helden. “The company has worked in the area since 1950 and knew they needed a machine that can handle all of these different conditions.”

The right features

So, working with Vermeer AG in Altendorf, Switzerland, Devaud purchased a T655 Commander® 3 trencher. Besides the trencher, the machine offered Devaud two additional attachment options — rockwheel or bucket wheel — which allowed flexibility between different types of trenching jobs, ranging from narrow cut to wide cut jobs in changing conditions, including hard rock trenching.

The powertrain of the T655III was an attractive component as well; Devaud knew he’d call upon the machine to perform on jobsites for days at a time, and he’d need the trencher chain low-speed, high-torque capabilities the machine could offer. Finally, working in such varied terrain, he knew he’d need to frequently adjust the trenching chain speed and digging angle and conveyor speed and location. Once he found this combination of capabilities in the T655III, he knew it would enable him to accomplish larger goals for Huguelet Génie Civil SA.

“This machine is oriented to perform in all soil and rock types we work in here,” Devaud said. “We have found, on many jobs, the trencher has proven to be up to five times faster than equipment we operated before making the switch.”

Performance on the job

A recent job tested the machine’s durability and versatility. A large-scale polyethylene utility installation job through three Swiss regions and the city of Bienne required multiple cutting widths and depths and often found Devaud’s crews working on hillsides. The T655III was often trenching at depths of 1.8 meters (5.9 ft).

“We trenched through soft soils in farm fields and pastures, but also in hard rock and limestone in the Jura Mountains,” Devaud said of the job that took around five days to complete. “It was a long job and we worked in some steep terrain, so the dual-track tilt undercarriage (tilt angle capacity 10.5 degrees) that helped the tracks follow the contours of the field allowed us to continue working when we would have been idled in another machine.”

Another feature that proved beneficial in the days-long trenching job is the cross conveyor in the T655III. The system allows the operator to discharge trenched material on either side of the machine and at different velocities. That feature and the machine’s SmartTEC electronic control system also helped Devaud’s operators continue working quickly and efficiently when job progress would have previously been slowed down.

“The cross conveyor and variable speed help us pile rock and soil closer or farther away from the machine and on either side, and the control system communicates with multiple sensors around the machine, helping the operator maintain optimal productivity at all times,” Van Helden said.

T655III results

The result: Devaud’s crew finished the job well ahead of schedule.

“Our best one-day result was around 200 meters (656.1 ft), and most days, we could make it around 70 meters (229.7 ft), including the time and work to finish the job installing the polyethylene pipe, backfilling and restoring the ground,” Devaud said. “We trenched in a tunnel on the highway in Bienne for a total of 370 meters (1,213.9 ft) in 19 hours in very hard rock conditions and turned around and were trenching in steep forested ground. In both instances, the machine performed beyond my expectations.”

Overall, Huguelet Génie Civil SA crews have operated the T655III trencher for around 250 hours (including warming up, transport, etc.) and trenched more than 900 linear meters (2,952.8 ft) – much of that distance in heavier rock formations. Devaud has noticed definite improvements in time efficiency and productivity on the four jobsites where he’s operated the trencher.

“We save a lot of labor with the T655III working in all different types of rocky conditions,” Devaud said. “We can work faster and smarter with this machine and some of the new capabilities it brings to our jobsites.”

Future T655III use

Though much depends on the specific work available in the future, the T655III is likely to help open Huguelet Génie Civil SA to a multitude of different job types and sizes given its overall versatility. Devaud said he will continue working with his employees and Vermeer AG to continue to uncover the full capabilities of the trencher.

“The T655III has electronics that provide performance data in real time that allows us to conduct advanced troubleshooting from our mobile devices or computers remotely, and we look forward to exploring those features as we operate this machine more,” he said. “We have very good collaboration with Vermeer AG and that will continue. Nobody sells machines with this type of performance, and our proximity to the dealer and the reliability and durability of the machine are strong arguments for us using this machine.”

This article contains third-party observations, advice or experiences that do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Vermeer Corporation, its affiliates or its dealers. Testimonials and/or endorsements by contractors in specific circumstances may not be representative of normal circumstances experienced by all customers.

Vermeer Corporation reserves the right to make changes to engineering, design and specifications; add improvements; or discontinue manufacturing or distribution at any time without notice or obligation. Equipment shown is for illustrative purposes only and may display optional accessories or components specific to their global region. Please contact your local Vermeer dealer for more information on machine specifications.

Vermeer, the Vermeer logo and Commander are trademarks of Vermeer Manufacturing Company in the U.S. and/or other countries. © 2020 Vermeer Corporation. All Rights Reserved

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