Machine intelligence drives bulldozer dry hire

A leading Western Australian machinery hire company has broken new ground by adding an intelligent GPS equipped bulldozer to its fleet, capable of being dry hired to its customers.

Bryce Abbott’s innovative Mayday Rental, with more than 200 pieces of plant in its fleet, has recognised a customer need in Perth’s demanding building market and invested in a machine-type which is seldom available on hire fleets.

According to Mr. Abbott, the advent of intelligent machine control has given Mayday the confidence to put the bulldozer into its hire mix, even recognising it will be operated by those with little specific bulldozer experience.

Mayday, formed 30 years ago this August by Mr. Abbott and his late father Ken, has increasingly taken a leading position in the Western Australian machinery market by moving to an almost exclusive dry hire protocol, using latest generation models fitted with intelligent electronic driver aids.

The company’s spectacular growth has been based on making its long-standing fleet redundant, replaced by the supply to its customers of “high-level, low hours, aesthetically pleasing machines kept in top condition.”

Mayday has worked with Komatsu to curate a fleet of earth movers equipped with intelligent Machine Control (iMC) to act as driver aids, making dry hire more feasible.

Komatsu’s onboard GPS reporting and machine health monitoring service, Komtrax, provides the hirer with the added assurance of maximising operational efficiency and minimising damage.

Mr. Abbott already had more than 30 new Komatsu motor graders, excavators, and wheel loaders in operation on sites from Busselton to Broome when the opportunity for new bulldozer hire became apparent at the end of 2021.

According to analysts, Perth’s residential construction market is growing at a rate of eight percent – almost three times the national average – and builders are struggling for materials and equipment supply.

Mr. Abbott was initially reticent – bulldozers require a comparatively high capital outlay and have traditionally been regarded as vulnerable to damage requiring expensive repair.

“But the market need was there, and we needed to stay true to our goal of going where the work is,” Mr. Abbott said.

Mayday worked with Komatsu to understand the security and protection of Komatsu’s integrated OEM Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), with all major components protected within the body of the D65PXi-18 dozer, minimizing the risk of damage.

“Semi-automatic machine control makes the D65PXi-18 versatile, so it can be used for heavy dozing and finished grading”, Mr. Abbott said.

“The 3D GNSS automatically controls blade elevation, lift layer control and tilt from any height”, Mr. Abbott said the construction industry had been challenged by operator skill shortages, opening market opportunity for his company.

“iMC technology enables our customers’ projects to continue smoothly when specialised operators are unavailable”, he said.

“Regardless of experience level, almost any operator can utilise the D65 PXi’s interface to get on grade with the least number of passes.”

According to Mr. Abbott customer feedback in the first sixteen weeks of operation had been extremely positive.

Fully automatic blade control had compensated for operator inefficiencies, minimising track slip and reducing the potential for over-excavation.

“Our feedback has revealed substantial increases in productivity and precision, allied with reduced fuel consumption and cost-per-meter of material moved”, Mr. Abbott said.

Komtrax had enabled his company to monitor customer use and to better control machine use and maintenance.

Mayday is working with Western Australian training facilities, including that at Komatsu, to assist in the development of operator skill sets, especially now that the removal of pandemic barriers has opened the potential for new employment.

With better than 90 percent utilisation of its entire machinery inventory on any day, Mayday Rental is negotiating a second iMC equipped bulldozer.

“Even as operators upskill, the use of iMC has provided us the opportunity to increase the base of our clientele and put us in front of major councils and road contractors”, Mr. Abbott said.