Aces for construction site traffic: Arocs dump truck and Atego sweeper
Vehicle & Technology
Converso TP relies on innovative vehicle solutions for working in Grenoble and the surrounding area. An Arocs dump truck and an Atego sweeper are in operation here.
Whilst the Petit and the Grand Brion of the Montagne d’Uriol seem to stand guard in the distance, the white Atego 1524 does its rounds on the road in front of the material depot belonging to Converso TP, a company located in Vif, 16 kilometres south of Grenoble. It is equipped with the CityFant 6000 road sweeping system manufactured by Eurovoirie, which made it the first self-driving sweeper in France to be built on the new Atego chassis. As is usual for these vehicles, it has a right-hand drive.
Thanks to the two extra-large stainless-steel tanks, one for 1900 litres of water and the other for diesel, the Atego has lots of stamina. The short wheelbase of just under 3800 millimetres and the highly sophisticated cleaning system with its six cubic metre collection tank and rotating brushes ensure that the sweeper works smoothly both on tight bends and in hard-to-reach spaces.
With its cleaning vehicle, Converso TP ensures that the entrances to building sites within the city or – as today – the entrance to the storage facility, are kept clear. From the vantage point of the rock crusher, which transforms demolition material into gravel, Benjamin Converso, one of the junior managers of the civil engineering company, has a good view of the sweeper and the dump trucks while they remove rubble from the facility. "I'm the sort of control tower," he laughs.
Of course, Benjamin Converso does not mean the panoramic view from the rock crusher: he means his function within the company. Whilst his brother deals with sales and customer relations, he takes care of the day-to-day business. This includes operational planning for the almost 100 members of staff, for the machine park and of course for the fleet. Work on 30 to 35 construction sites has to be organised each day. "I've already had to change the planning I did last night twice today," says the junior manager – and it is not even lunchtime yet.
The vehicles that have to be organised for daily operation total 28, including two-, three- and four-axle dump trucks, and tipper trailers with dual- and triple-axle tractor units, including six all-wheel-drive trucks. One by one, these are being replaced by tractor units with hydrostatic drive for the front axle. "That's an amazing product, because you only switch that drive on when you need it," says Benjamin Converso. And you normally only need it for 40 or 50 metres, when the dump trucks have to drive off the construction site or the storage facility. "We have a lot of construction sites in urban areas. Often there is no space there for setting up flattish ramps. The trucks can't get up without all-wheel drive."
That is why Benjamin Converso is looking forward to the Arocs tractor units with HAD (highly automated driving) drive. He anticipates a fuel saving of 10 to 15 litres per 100 kilometres compared with his present Mercedes-Benz all-wheel-drive tractor units. Also, the system is lighter in weight, which directly affects the payload. After all, a greater load always means more money. For the same reason, the vehicles are replaced every six years. "We always look for the best-suited material with the lowest fuel consumption. We also have a logistics section just like a transport company, although we're really just an underground construction company," says Converso.
His trucks virtually never travel empty. The company's demolition and material recycling work makes it easier to control vehicle efficiency. All these factors mean that the Vif company is often given the contract for jobs, beating 15 to 20 competitors. Also, the underground construction company can provide its own material at a reasonable cost as foundation for roads or company grounds. "In Grenoble there's a big market for demolition work. We use all the material that can possibly be used," explains Benjamin Converso.
All the same, the economic situation is difficult, as it is for most French construction firms. "Our profit margins have dropped from 10 to 13 percent down to only 3 to 5 percent," says Converso. That is why strict financial controlling is most important to company management: each truck is its own cost centre and all costs are calculated for it – from fuel to spare parts and tyres, to the mechanics' working time. "That means we can calculate the precise costs for each job," explains Converso.
It also shows him where the company can earn money and where it makes no profit. "As soon as our dump trucks and building machinery can remain on a construction site for a while, we are making a profit. For each transportation job, on the other hand, we make a loss." When driving in the mountains, where fuel consumption is particularly high, the loss is even greater.
The company has its own tanker for refuelling the construction vehicles. "It's a question of flexibility. If we were to have the oil companies deliver diesel to the construction sites, we'd have to stop the machines in the middle of the day," explains Benjamin Converso. The refuelling is done by the man who drives the sweeper – including the company's almost 30 bulldozers, road graders, wheel loaders and diggers. After he has filled all the tanks first thing in the morning, he can do his rounds again with the Atego sweeper.
Benjamin Converso, Converso TP
Tel.: +33 (0)4 76 72 52 11
Photos: Hans Müller