Heavy Equipment Blog

Monthly Archives: November 2022

Heavy Equipment Checklist

Heavy equipment operation can be dangerous, inefficient, and costly if done incorrectly. To help promote jobsite safety and avoid hazardous situations, we’ve put together a heavy equipment checklist of things operators should do before beginning work each shift, along with features your equipment should include.

Inspect machines before heavy equipment operation

The first thing on any heavy equipment checklist is to ensure your machine is ready to work before each shift. Catching small issues during an inspection will help prevent potentially dangerous and time consuming situations later in the day.

  • Brakes – Check the service brake systems, parking brakes, and emergency brake systems to make sure they are fully functional and in good condition.
  • Windshield – Make sure your windshield is free of cracks or chips, and fix any you find before they become worse. Plus, test out the wiper blades to ensure they are working well.
  • Horns and lights – Try out your horn and check the headlights, taillights, and brake lights before beginning heavy equipment operation.
  • Worn or broken parts – Damaged or defective components must be repaired or replaced before beginning work each shift.
Watch out for site hazards

The next thing operators should do on their heavy equipment checklist is make note of any hazards in the work area. Check all parts of the jobsite to ensure there aren’t any obstructions and that the ground you’ll be operating on is well built and maintained to take the weight of your heavy equipment. Pay close attention for stumps, large rocks, steep slopes, unstable ground, and avoid operating your machines under overhead wires.

Choose the right features

All pieces of heavy equipment need to have protection for falling debris and rollovers. Machines that are loaded from the top should feature cab shields or canopies that help ensure operator safety while loading and unloading. Modification of safety features or equipment capacity must receive written approval from the machine’s manufacturer.

Operator training is crucial

Every equipment operator must be trained for the specific machine they will be operating. They should be able to recognize any defective parts, abnormal operation, or unsafe jobsites.

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How to Sanitize Heavy Equipment

Ensuring your machines are clean and disinfected is critical to keeping your team healthy and productive. The interior of trucks and equipment can serve as the perfect breeding ground for viruses and other illnesses. Throughout the typical work day, cabs may be entered by multiple operators, mechanics, and supervisors. They all touch surfaces and have the potential to either become infected or transmit the virus to the next person.

To help maintain the health of your team, we put together tips and best practices to keep everything clean and protect your crew from coronaviruses, the flu, or any other pathogens that may strike.

Choose the correct disinfectant

Not all disinfectants are created equal, and you have to find one that is effective at eliminating viruses while not damaging the interior of your machine. The best products to use are ones designed for automotive interiors, as they should not damage or discolor the vinyl, plastics, leather, or other surface materials in your equipment cab.

For the majority of hard and interior surfaces an isopropyl based cleaning product should be sufficient to sanitize and eliminate pathogens. When using an alcohol based cleaning solution, the CDC recommends concentrations of 70% or above. Follow the instructions on the product for concentration, application method, and contact time. When attempting to kill a specific virus or bacteria, check the EPA-approved disinfectant list on their website for detailed descriptions.

Always wear protective gear

Once you choose the right disinfectant product and start to clean the machine’s interior, it’s important to always wear latex or synthetic rubber gloves and a mask or face covering. Wearing protective equipment will keep the person cleaning safe from harmful disinfectant chemicals and prevent them from leaving new traces of a virus after they’ve just disinfected a surface.

Where to clean in the machine interior

It’s important to clean all the interior surfaces that are likely to be touched often. Handles, joysticks, steering wheels, knobs, buttons, seat belts, seat belt latches, windows, and floor mats should be disinfected before each new person enters the machine. Like we mentioned, it’s best to use a cleaner designed for car interior surfaces and then wipe dry with a highly absorbent microfiber cloth.

For sensitive display areas, use a contactless product approved by the EPA that can be sprayed and dried without needing to wipe off.

Other surfaces to sanitize

In addition to cleaning interior surfaces and controls, it’s critical to sanitize all exterior machine touchpoints. Spray and wipe down the dipstick, gas cap, engine access points, handles, latches, and anywhere else likely to have contact. Upholstery should also be cleaned at least once a week with a product designed for automotive interiors. If using your own solution, avoid using anything that contains bleach to prevent discoloration.

Wash surfaces prior to disinfecting

Wash off all dirt and dust before applying your sanitizing solution to your equipment’s interior and exterior. Clearing dust and debris will make the sanitation process much more effective.

If you have any questions about cleaning your equipment, contact Great Southern Equipment.

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Fuel Usage

Fuel Usage
When using heavy machinery, certain practices can help reduce overall fuel consumption and costs. The following tips may help you save hundreds of dollars each year.

Inspect air filters regularly

Inspect your air filters every 50 hours to ensure maximum operating performance. If the pleats of your filter are clogged with dirt, it is time to change the filter. We do not recommend cleaning the air filter, which can damage it.

Changing your air filters regularly is the most simple and cost effective way to decrease fuel costs. When an air filter becomes clogged with dirt, the engine cannot get the air it needs and does not operate efficiently. Some machines have air flow indicators that tell you when it is time to change the filter. If you wait until you see a warning, however, you have probably been wasting fuel.

Grease fittings properly

Lubricate your machine according to manufacturers recommendations. By keeping your machine properly lubricated, fuel efficiency is increased simply because the power needed to perform operations is reduced. The more mobility the components have, the less work the hydraulic system must perform.

Check tire pressure

Check tire air pressure before and after each use. If the tire pressure is low, fill the tires as soon as possible. Low air pressure can reduce the efficiency of your machine and lower fuel efficiency. Checking tire air pressure is easy and costs nothing.

Be alert for signs of a mechanical problem

When you see signs of a mechanical problem, such as excessive black smoke, bring your machine in for repair before the problem gets worse. Mechanical problems, such as a bad fuel injector, can significantly reduce fuel efficiency. If your fuel injector is overfueling a cylinder, your machine is wasting fuel.

Run your engine at low RPM when possible

Begin by running at a low rpm during operation, then slowly raise the rpm until the engine does not strain. This level will be the most efficient and effective rpm for the job. When a job does not require maximum power, running the engine at a lower rpm can significantly reduce fuel consumption.

Service your equipment regularly

Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for servicing your equipment. Most require service at least every 500 hours. Fuel efficiency is affected by many different components. The best way to ensure that your machine is working efficiently is to service it regularly.

Heavy Equipment Tires

The Dos and Don’ts

Proper tire selection, maintenance, and usage not only improves performance, but contributes greatly to a construction fleet’s overall safety. Following good tire safety practices helps eliminate unnecessary risks to both operators and equipment and keeps worksites productive.

The Dos

Tire Tread Patterns Should Match Application

Matching the appropriate tread pattern to the application is critical to maintaining machine stability and operation while on the job. Overheating, puncturing, and tread separation can easily happen if you select the wrong tread pattern for the application and ground conditions. When choosing the right tires, pay close attention to the numbers that correspond to tire tread depth and what those numbers mean for specific applications.

Type of tread Tread depth Used for
Rib tread Standard tread depth soft surfaces
Traction tread Standard tread depth soft surfaces, 1-to-1 lug-to-void ratio
Rock tread Standard tread depth hard surfaces, rocky conditions, 2-to-1 lug-to-void ratio
Smooth tread 1.5x deeper than standard tread depth hard surfaces where traction isn’t a concern no lugs
Rock tread 2.5x deeper than standard tread depth severe working conditions 2-to-1 lug-to-void ratio
Smooth tread 2.5x deeper than standard tread depth conditions that call for wear-resistance, no lugs
Rib pattern Shallow tread depth applications that call for flotation and minimal ground disturbance
Always Inflate Tires Properly

The greatest factor on tire performance and therefore machine performance is proper inflation. The most common misconception regarding tire pressure is inflating all tires to the same pressure, regardless of manufacturer. Bias and radial tires need to be inflated to different pressures because they are constructed out of different materials. Inflating all tires to the same pressure instead of following the manufacturer’s specific guidelines can quickly cause safety issues. Be aware that tire pressure is also going to fluctuate throughout the day. The best time to check a tire’s pressure is in the morning before any work has been completed; this will give the most accurate measurement. Checking tire pressure daily is ideal, and mandatory weekly, especially if the equipment is being used on different worksites or if ground conditions have changed.

Follow a Tire Maintenance Program

A tire maintenance program is a schedule that helps protect machines throughout their lifespans. It requires coordination between operators, fleet managers, owners, and tire dealers. Develop a schedule that works best for your jobs, that operators can easily understand, and that follows guidelines specified by tire manufacturers.

The Don’ts

Never Under-Ply

It is important when selecting new bias tires to match the ply rating to both the application and equipment. Ply rating measures the load carrying capacity and strength of bias tires. Higher ply ratings mean higher allowable air pressure and load carrying capacity. Choosing a tire not rated for the load at hand can cause failure and lead to safety issues. It’s a good idea to select tires that carry the load at the lowest inflation pressure. Once you’ve chosen tires, make sure that operators don’t overload the machines.

Never Disregard Tire Wells

It is never a good idea to guess if something will fit correctly or to mix and match tire components. You can put operators at risk as well as damage equipment easily without using a tire’s proper wheel assembly. You should always follow the tire manufacturer’s specific guidelines for mounting and dismounting procedures and only use the correct wheel assembly and components.

Never Disregard Your Operators

Record everything that can affect a tire’s lifespan average haul distances, cycles completed, cycle times, days worked, number of shifts, peak speeds, and types of materials being moved for each piece of equipment. This will help you identify operator behavior that must be avoided. Rapid stops and starts, sharp turns, and excessive speed can lead to premature wear and tire degradation. The heavier the load, the greater the impact these bad behaviors will be on tires.

You also want to calculate operators ton-mile-per-hour (TMPH). To find the TMPH, multiply the average weight of the vehicle by the average speed of the vehicle. This will let you know how much a heat a tire generates based on how it’s being operating. You never want to exceed the TMPH rating.

Following these dos and don’ts will help you better maintain your tires. It will keep your operators safe, your equipment running smoothly, and your overall tire costs low.

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Fleet Management Strategies

Properly managing equipment is crucial to maintain your return on investment. A general guideline to follow is replace equipment once maintenances costs exceed 30% of the machine’s resale value. Below are strategies to help keep your fleet productive for as long as possible.

Proactive maintenance

Enroll equipment into preventive maintenance contracts to ensure routine maintenance is documented and conducted at suggested intervals. Proactive maintenance keeps operational costs stable and reduces downtime and associated repair expenses by identifying minor issues before they become major problems.

The 80-20 Rule

80% of maintenance costs are spent on 20% of machine problems. Identify common or repeat problems and take corrective action to resolve those issues that deplete the operating budget and cause unnecessary and costly downtime.

Use machine monitoring tools

New technology has developed tools that more accurately monitor equipment, collect data, and convert raw data into actionable information. Software is available to help fleet managers determine a machine’s resale value, calculate ownership and operating costs, and estimate repairs, parts and labor expenses.

Conduct routine fluid analysis

Analyzing fluids and comparing contaminant levels to normal wear rates helps identify potential problems with components before major failures. Routine fluid analysis is a proactive measure to avoid unnecessary downtime and costly repairs.

Keep good records

Comprehensive and exact records help managers predict machine productivity and operational costs, such as working hours, fuel consumption, maintenance expenses, and more. Sound information breeds sound decisions when choosing to replace or repair equipment. Maintain a vehicle history file jacket for every machine and document all maintenance and repair work.

Watch your age

The average total cost of owning and operating equipment follows a parabolic slope. Total cost decreases during the early years of machine ownership as capital costs are spread over a longer period of time. However, operating costs increase during the same timeframe, eventually leading to an increase in average total cost. The point at which the sum of ownership costs and operating costs reaches its minimum is the ideal age for operating equipment efficiently. It is crucial to stabilize fleet average age around this point in order to keep total cost of ownership down.

Rebuild vs Replace

When deciding between rebuilding and replacing a piece of equipment, use this simple formula to compare costs:

Cost to rebuild (new equipment price x .5)/equipment life (estimated hours x .75) = cost per hour

For example, a new piece of equipment that is $140,000 with an estimated life of 10,000 hours would cost $14 per hour to operate. To compare, calculate the cost to rebuild.

($140,000)(.5)/(10.000)(.75) = $9.33 per hour

If the cost to rebuild is $70,000 for an estimated equipment life of 7,500 hours, at $9.33 per hour, it is more cost effective to rebuild than to replace.

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Transporting Equipment on Trailers

Understand your limits

Every situation will have unique securing procedures, but it is important to know the load rating of your trailer and the weight of the load that is being secured. Load ratings are generally found on the trailer identification plate, and the weight of your load can be determined by using a certified scale.

Know the law

The legal load limit in most states is 80,000 lbs. Heavy or oversized loads will require specialized trailers and permits to transport lawfully. If you are unsure of the law in your state, or not certain of the requirements for a specific load, be sure to check with the local authorities before transport.

Avoid overloading your trailer

It is best to use a trailer with a capacity that is more than the weight of the load plus the weight of the trailer itself. If your load is close to the maximum capacity for your trailer, use a heavier capacity trailer.

Use properly rated tie downs

The Federal Motor Carrier Regulations sets forth the number of tie downs required based upon the weight of your load, as well as their capacity. The basic requirement is that tie downs must have a combined strength equal to at least 50% of the load being secured.

Inspect your chains

Inspect tie downs and chains before each use, and discard any that have visual signs of wear or damage.

Understand weight distribution

It is important to place loads so the weight is distributed evenly between the semi-tractor drive axles and the trailer axles. Too much weight on the front can make steering unresponsive, while excessive weight on the back can affect braking and decrease traction.

Avoid damage during tie down

Pay attention to securement points located on your load, and be sure to use them properly to prevent damage. 45° tie down angles offer the best protection, and will keep your load from shifting or sliding.

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About Filters

Changing filters regularly is essential for your equipment to perform its best. Recommended intervals for filter changes vary between 250 and 500 hours. It can be tempting to select a bargain filter brand, but an inferior filter can make a big difference in the long term health of your equipment. Saving a few dollars on a filter is just not worth the damage that can be caused to your equipment by an inferior filter.

Here are the basics of filters.
Why are filters used?

Filters are used to keep fuel, oil and hydraulic fluids clean as they circulate throughout your machine’s systems, lubricating the parts and dispersing heat. There are fuel filters, engine oil filters, transmission filters and hydraulic fuel filters.

Why are filters important?

Small particles from component wear and dirt are picked up by oil and hydraulic fluids as they flow through the equipment. If these contaminants are not separated from the fluids, they could cause tremendous damage to a machine. Using the correct filters will actually help maximize machine performance and extend the life of your machine.

A filter should capture contaminants and dirt effectively and perform well during the entire interval between filter changes.

What affects a filter’s performance?

There are three components of a filter that are important.

1. The filter media

The fluids pass through filter material or media where contaminants are trapped. Naturally, what the filter media is made of is important. The material must be strong enough to last through the interval between changes. So, it must be tough and not fall apart during its lifetime.

2. Filter construction

The filter must be constructed so that it traps extremely fine particles but doesn’t get clogged and become ineffective. Inadequate capacity in a filter will trigger the bypass valve to open too early, and unfiltered fluids will enter the system.

3. Filter canister

The filter canister should be strong enough to avoid collapse under high pressure. Collapsing would permit unfiltered fluids to flow through the system.

Before you buy a filter

Ask your parts representative whether the filter you plan to purchase meets the equipment manufacturer’s requirements.

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Adjusting Tension

Improper tension

Loose tracks can detrack. Overtightening can cause power loss, excessive roller and idler wear, and could tear the tracks. Refer to your operator’s manual for track inspection and tensioning procedures.

How to adjust

Track tension is controlled by a track adjuster located behind the front idler. Tension adjustments are made by pumping or draining grease through the track adjuster valve. Even small adjustments in track sag have a big impact on tension. A change in sag from 1′ to 0.5′ increases tension by about 3,000 pounds. Refer to your operator’s manual for specific information on how to adjust the track tension of your machine.

Inspect adjuster valve periodically

Make sure your adjuster valve is working properly by visually inspecting it periodically. If the valve shows signs of leakage, bring your machine in for repair as soon as possible. Leakage can lead to a loss of track tension and increased wear.

Match Tension to Operating Conditions

Adjust track tension on-site

Make tension adjustments on the jobsite rather than in the shop. Track tension may increase if the sprocket and chain are packed with mud or other materials. A track that is properly tensioned in the shop may become too tight when packed with mud.

Test packing conditions before adjusting

To match track tension with the specific packing conditions of the jobsite, run your machine for a short while on the jobsite, then make the necessary adjustments.

Make frequent adjustments

Changes in weather can alter the packing conditions of the jobsite throughout the day. Making tension adjustments in response to these changes can help reduce track wear and costs.

Do not operate your machine if the tracks are frozen

Wait for the weather to improve if your tracks become frozen. If you try to use power to force the tracks to move you might destroy them.


Avoid abrupt turns and high speeds

Do not make abrupt turns, because they place unnecessary stress on the track and undercarriage. Continuous turning to the same side can cause asymmetrical wear. Higher speeds cause more wear on the undercarriage. Use the slowest possible operating speed for the job.

Avoid excessive reverse operation

Do not operate in reverse unless necessary. Reverse operation wears tracks up to three times as quickly as forward operation. High speed reverse is particularly destructive to tracks and undercarriage components.


Have your undercarriage inspected annually by a trained technician to catch problems early before they lead to unnecessary damage.

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Excavator Safety Tips

Earthmoving projects pose a variety of dangers to excavator operators and anyone else on the jobsite. Follow our best practices to avoid problems.

Preliminary Checkpoints

Check fuel levels

It sounds simple, but make sure the machine has enough fuel before putting it to work. Your excavator should be able to operate at all times, allowing the user to dump unstable loads in case of an emergency. Low fuel levels can shut an excavator down unexpectedly, causing a potentially dangerous and unstable situation.

Attachment selection

Select an attachment that is approved by the manufacturer of the machine in use. Adhere to the machine’s operators manual for safe operating ratios. Understand that the swing motor is the weakest part of the excavator, and can be compromised by the weight of an attachment in variable conditions.

Assess the ground

Inspect the jobsite for debris, loose soil, holes/ditches, inclines, and other obstacles. Even if you know your machine, a rock, stump, or other hidden obstacle can cause it to slide. If the machine catches an edge near any sort of incline or decline, tipping over becomes a real possibility.

Know your articulated truck

If you will be loading an articulated truck, match the truck size to the excavator you are using, or vice versa. It should take three to five bucket loads to fill the truck bed. Any more than five, and you are wasting time.

In Operation

Never undercut

An undercut occurs when an operator digs the ground beneath the excavator tracks. Always be aware of the location of the lip of the hole that is being created to avoid a cave-in.

Don’t overload the bucket

Know your machine’s load limits, and never exceed them, as overloading can cause loss in stability and potential tip-overs.

Monitor your track position

When working on a hill, or any incline or decline, make sure your tracks are pointing up and down the slope. Your tracks should never be parallel to the slope, as this distributes the weight of the machine unevenly and can cause a roll over. Maintain a stable center of gravity at all times.

Position the truck correctly

Position the truck on the left side of the excavator so the truck and excavator are facing cab-to-cab. The truck should be stopped with the truck bed headboard in line with the rear of the excavator cab. This allows the excavator operator clear visibility, since the boom is out of the way. This technique gives the operator about a 25′ swing into the truck, which is the most efficient position for loading.

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Safety Tips on the Road

  • Never wear loose jackets, shirts, or pants. Loose clothing can get caught in moving parts.
  • Always wear work boots with non-skid soles and steel toes. Keep the soles free of tack.
  • Safety glasses should be worn when there is any possibility of damaging the eyes.
  • Gloves should be worn to protect hands when climbing on equipment.
  • Ear protection is required whenever jackhammers or other loud noises are present.
Safety Precautions
  • Operators should complete a safety check with a daily walk around to identify potential hazards.
  • Never position yourself between the paver and a hauling truck backing into the hopper.
  • Stay back a safe distance while the truck dump bed is in motion and when the paver hopper wings are in operation.
  • When collecting weigh tickets from the driver’s side, remember that fast moving traffic is only a step away.
  • When climbing onto a truck, use the steps and handholds when they are available.
  • Do not climb onto truck running boards, unless it is absolutely necessary.
  • Inform the driver before climbing onto the truck bed.
  • Don’t distract the driver or other individuals by talking unnecessarily.
  • Be alert to changes in conditions that affect safety hazards. As an example, there are fewer safety risks with one-way traffic than two-way traffic.
  • Park the vehicles that are not in use out of the way of the traffic.
  • When you are on a road or paving job, keep hydrated by drinking water continuously. Heat exhaustion can set in quickly.
  • Always follow good, common sense safety practices.
Use Appropriate Safety Equipment
  • Fluorescent vests, t-shirts, and bright colored caps should be worn at all times while engaged in operations in or near a highway open to traffic. Vests should be properly adjusted to minimize snagging.
  • Always wear hard hats when you may be exposed to falling or flying objects that could result in head injuries. Such conditions include the presence of overhead equipment, such as cranes, backhoes, loaders, or other large equipment.
  • Operators and occupants of any type of vehicle should always wear the complete seat belt assembly.
  • ANSI approved safety glasses should be worn at all times to avoid eye injuries. Approved glasses are marked on the frame, lens or both. This approval indicates that the glasses have passed specified tests for strength and durability.

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