As we enter the winter season in the Northern Hemisphere, mines are already making plans to deal with the inevitable inclement weather. Mine sites constantly have to be aware of changing conditions that can affect everything from road conditions and visibility, to ore weight and bench stability. While most of us think of snow and rain when we imagine difficult weather, in many parts of the world heat, dust, and sandstorms can actually be more dangerous for machine operators.

For mines that have a fleet management system, one of the key benefits is being able to quickly connect with all of your equipment to inform them of weather conditions and what actions to take. The following video shows an instance where a haul truck has lost control due to slippery conditions on a haul road and you can hear the driver of the following support truck radioing into dispatch to have all the trucks shut down.

It’s not known whether the mine shown in the video has a fleet management system but for mines that are equipped,  that radio call could put in motion a number of actions that would have a positive effect fleet wide.

Connecting with the operators in bad weather

Using the fleet management software the dispatcher can send a message mine wide to every piece of FMS equipped machinery letting them know immediately to stop their vehicles. If the area affected is only in one part of the mine and it’s still safe to operate in the other pits the dispatcher can quickly re-assign all of the trucks using the dispatching software and each driver will be notified in cab, on their monitor, with their new shovel assignment and dump location.

Reducing speeds based on conditions

Speed limits for the entire mine can be adjusted quickly based on the current conditions. If a mine frequently encounters rain, fog, or other conditions that require reduced speed limits they can pre-program reductions in speed into the fleet management system. If it starts to rain the dispatcher can simply select the speed setting for rainy conditions and operators will immediately receive updated information on the new speed limits to observe during the inclement weather.

Using navigation software to operate in poor visibility

Navigation systems can be used to increase safety during instances where visibility is reduced. Fleet management systems have the capability to incorporate GPS navigation software (similar to your standard passenger vehicle GPS) which shows all of the mine roads on-screen so operators having to negotiate fog or clouds can easily know where they are in relation to the road and when their next turn is coming up. Going beyond standard mapping there are also solutions available that give haul trucks the ability to see each other on the GPS maps so they have awareness of what other vehicles are in their vicinity or coming around the next corner.

All of these solutions are possible with a fleet management system and can offer mines the ability to increase safety while also continuing operations even if the weather isn’t cooperating. If a mine that normally operates for 24 hours a day has to shut down for two hours due to fog, the lost production can easily cost the mine tens of thousands of dollars, yet with navigation and fleet awareness software it’s possible they could have continued to operate safely.

While it’s difficult to predict the weather, it’s easy to see how a fleet management system can improve the ability of a mine to cope with the changing conditions.