There have been a lot of changes made to heavy equipment over the last 50 years. At the same time, the actual work that heavy equipment does has remained very much the same. A bulldozer is still nothing more than a tractor with a large blade at the front designed to push dirt. There is a similarity to modern cars – they still take us from A to B, however, there have been big changes made to motors and to the interiors of cars. Heavy equipment is no different.
Modern heavy equipment is being made to be more environmentally friendly. Lower emissions, better fuel economy, and much improved hydraulic systems have made modern equipment easier to operate, and very efficient. There have been big changes inside the operators cab as well. Many are sealed from the outside environment and rely on airconditioning to maintain a comfortable work space. It has also meant that computer technology’s reliability has improved – there’s no dust, dirt and high humidity entering the cab to create problems.
Some of the biggest improvements can be found in the controls that now face an operator. They look very similar to those of 50 years ago, and their use is very much the same. The new technology comes in the form of electronics. This makes the controls very touch sensitive, however, in the hands of an experienced operator, able to perform fine movements. There is one regular contest held each year that tests an operator’s skills in this area – they have to pick up an egg using the bucket of a backhoe – that does take a lot of skill.
Heavy equipment operators now work in a comfortable environment with finely tuned controls. This makes the job a little more demanding in that fine motor skills are required, however, this has made working as a heavy equipment operator much more enjoyable – the operator is at one with their equipment, unlike the past where they spend all day wrestling their equipment. For equipment owners, efficiencies are much improved, as is reliability. If there is a downside, it comes in the form of more complex maintenance, and a higher cost when it comes to breakdowns – but then, good operators try to prevent breakdowns by regularly checking their equipment and undertaking basic maintenance regularly. Like all areas of industry, technology is having a big impact on heavy equipment operations.