Concrete crushing and recycling jobs range in size and scale from mammoth demolition and highway projects down to the smallest tasks, some of which can be accomplished with mobile material handler-mounted crushing attachments.
A percentage of applications in between major jobs on the large tonnage scale (and, of course, fixed plants) and one-day small-scale chores on the lower tonnage end can be served by crushers and screeners mounted onto tracks. These units often are designed to offer quick setup and some mobility on the job site.
The competition is significant in this machine category, as equipment manufacturers have found numerous renters and buyers for track-mounted crushing and screening units.
On the move for the on the go
Highway projects have proven to be one of the most suitable applications for track-mounted crushers and screeners. Makers of track-mounted units say their mobility lets contractors and subcontractors move the crushing and recycling operation in tandem with the overall highway repaving or expansion project.
“The majority of highway projects will use a track plant; this allows them more mobility, especially if the site has a smaller footprint,” says Chris Worley, a product sales specialist with Chattanooga, Tennessee-based Astec Industries, which makes a variety of aggregates production equipment, including a line of tracked crushers and screeners.
Thomas Jordan, a technical sales manager with Antioch, Tennessee-based Wirtgen America, maker of the Kleeman line of tracked machines, says the deployment of tracked units on highway projects has not reached its full potential. When dump truck fuel costs (and driver wages) rise, on-site crushing becomes more attractive, he says.
“Highway projects are becoming more and more prevalent for using track-mounted crushing and screening equipment,” says Jordan. “This was a segment that historically trucked material off-site for further processing or disposal, but now [many] see the benefit and the cost-savings with on-site processing, which eliminates various costs associated with double handling material and transport or disposal.”
David Stewart, director of marketing for Etna, Ohio-based Screen Machine Inc., says tracked crushers and screeners continue to evolve to serve this growing market segment and can be configured to process asphalt as well as concrete.
“They eliminate the need to haul away concrete and asphalt that has been taken up,” says Stewart of tracked units deployed on-site. “Instead, those materials can be reprocessed on-site and used to make new pavement.”
Stewart says contractors and their equipment suppliers will need to calculate whether a job is big enough to warrant the presence of an on-site recycling plant. “A full-size crusher can easily produce up to 300 tons per hour of reprocessed material, so scale definitely is a consideration,” he comments. “The project needs to be big enough to warrant bringing the crusher to the job site and making use of its capabilities.”
To serve the highway market, Screen Machine announced in early 2021 a permanent magnet option for contractors seeking optimal separation of steel reinforcing bar from crushed concrete. The company now offers a permanent magnet as an option on its Spyder 516T, Spyder 514TS and Spyder 514TS3 screening plants.
Worley says his company recently helped supply Watsonville, California-based Granite Construction Inc. when that firm engaged in a 3-year project that involved crushing 11 miles of four interstate highway lanes of concrete in North Carolina. The company used track-mounted machinery to help it crush more than 1 million yards of concrete during the project, says Worley.
Projects need not be that large-scale to merit the use of a tracked unit, say manufacturers, but doing the math in advance is an imperative. “With regard to when it makes sense to bring a tracked crusher on-site, it’s a pretty simple equation,” says Jordan. “When material trucking costs and disposal costs are more than the cost to process on-site, it makes sense.”
Renewal on demo sites
The other common application for track-mounted crushers and screeners involves their use at demolition sites. In common with highway jobs, avoiding hauling costs is one driving factor in the popularity of tracked units. Smaller tracked units also gain favor when working space is tight.
“Demolition contractors are an important, and growing, segment of the crushing and screening market,” says Stewart. “The reason is simple—efficiency. If you can process demolition materials on-site and repurpose them, you save a considerable amount of handling, time and money.”
Stewart says his company’s scalping screens, which size-classify recyclable crushed concrete and asphalt, “are heavily used in demolition in the Northeast because they are smaller and easier to move in and out of congested areas.”
Worley says demo contractors are becoming increasingly familiar and comfortable with track-mounted units and knowing when to use them. “Typically, if the demolition contractor has multiple locations where they perform contract crushing, they will use a track machine for mobility,” he remarks.
Adds Worley, “A track machine allows them to move the machine within the site as well as from site to site with ease. Typically, contractors will rent or opt for a RPO [rent purchase option] at first if it’s a shorter project or if they want to try out a machine. However, if the project is long-term or if they are replacing an old machine, they will lease or purchase.”
Jordan says, from his point of view, the demolition sector “is now gearing itself toward on-site processing, eliminating the double handling costs along with trucking and disposal costs.”
Commonly, says Jordan, “Contractors are processing the demolition material on-site and producing either a base material that can be utilized on-site for fill material or as a sellable spec product in certain instances that can be retailed for a profit.”
Like Worley, Jordan sees the demolition sector widening its presence in this equipment sector. “With regard to ownership, it’s a mixed bag of maybe smaller contractors renting to begin with, but a larger portion owning their own dedicated track-mounted equipment.”
Accepted and improving
While track-mounted machines inherently reduce the use of dump trucks and accompanying hauling costs, Jordan says manufacturers increasingly are offering options to further improve their efficiency.
Regarding the Kleeman product line, Jordan says, “With features like ‘Track & Crush’ that we offer, contractors can now have one operator in the excavator or loader feed position.” This same operator, says Jordan, can then initiate crushing and move the machine “without the need for a second ground person.”
This feature, says Jordan, eliminates the need “to constantly manually disengage the crusher and move to a new location and then re-engage the crusher. This can now all be done with the press of a button by the operator.”
Worley says contractors with access to the electrical grid can now consider that option to further reduce fuel costs and on-site emissions. “We offer dual power options on our track screens and crushers, enabling them to be powered by electric or diesel power,” he says of Astec’s tracked product line.
Stewart points to advances in screening effectiveness as a focus of research and development at Screen Machine. “Whatever they are crushing and screening—aggregates, concrete and asphalt or demolition material—customers obviously want to make use of as much of the material as possible,” he remarks.
“That has driven demand for recirculating impact crushers and triple-deck screeners, which allow the material to be processed to more refined sizing,” adds Stewart.
Gathering and interpreting data is another evolving consideration, according to Stewart. “Telematics play an increasingly important role. Customers want to be able to monitor exactly how much material they are processing on an hourly and daily basis.”
The rebound in the U.S. economy after the impacts of COVID-19 and restrictions in 2020 means most contractors have busy schedules again. For that activity to pay off, notes Jordan, equipment suppliers will need to continue to help contractors do the job efficiently.
“Today’s contractors are operating on razor thin margins on a lot of jobs, so when we can prove our tracked-mounted equipment puts more money in their pocket, it’s a safe bet they will fully appreciate these machines,” states Jordan.