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Innovative vehicle design revolutionises dangerous goods transport


A Toll Mining Services BA triple combination with state-of-the-art belly tipper trailers, designed for the safe and efficient transport of ammonium nitrate (AN).

To reduce the risk of manual handling injuries and improve the way we deliver ammonium nitrate (AN) to remote mine sites, we redesigned our fleet to make our vehicles safer and more efficient.

The Challenge

Toll's mining services provide dangerous goods freight services to key customers in northern Western Australia, transporting ammonium nitrate (AN) from its depot in Kewdale, Perth to remote mine sites in the Pilbara region.

Toll has a fleet of BA triples with a combination of end-tipper and belly-dumper trailers to transport shipments of ammonium nitrate (AN) – a chemical compound used as an explosive in the mining industry – along a 2,500 kilometre round trip that takes three days and two nights to complete.

During a routine audit of its fleet, the team identified several areas for improvement in the design of the belly dumpers to reduce the risk of manual handling injuries to operators delivering AN:

  • Spare tyres for the trailer were stored on a rack above the rear wheels, at shoulder height – not only did operators find it difficult to access the tyres to change them, there was also risk of manual handling injuries when removing and replacing the tyres on the transport rack.
  • Releasing the trailer’s tarpaulin required the operator to twist a manual handle to wind the tarp back – a movement with the potential to cause back and arm injuries.
  • Safety bars were positioned horizontally across the doors at the base of the trailer to prevent them from opening while in transit – these needed to be manually removed by an operator before the material inside could be discharged. Over time, the bars had become increasingly difficult to remove because the weight of the product put extra pressure on the doors, increasing the risk of arm and back injuries.
  • Travelling through Western Australia in high temperature and high humidity areas on route to site was causing some solidification of AN in the bottom of the trailer.  This caused a build-up of product which adhered to the inside of the belly dumper and blocked the discharge opening. Attempts by operators to dislodge the product by striking the external walls of the belly dumper had the potential to cause damage to the vehicle, and also raised the risk of potential shoulder and back injuries.

The Toll team strives to provide the safest, most efficient services possible to its customers, particularly when it comes to dangerous goods handling and transport. With this as a driving force, they decided to address the identified challenges and upgrade the belly dumpers to make each vehicle safer and more efficient.

The Solution

Toll engaged engineers and manufacturers of specialised transport equipment, and worked collaboratively with key customers to refine the design of its belly dumpers.

Spare tyre storage

The new design still houses spare tyres above the rear wheels to maximise space, but now a simple crane system allows the operator to lift the tyres from the storage area to the ground with a winch and jib – significantly reducing the amount of manual handling required to change a tyre when required.

Tarpaulin release

The manual handle was replaced by an electronic system – which the operator simply pushes a button on a control panel to wind back the tarpaulin when ready to unload.

Safety bars

All new vehicles are fitted with a safety handle which replaces the removable safety bars.  An automated system controls the opening and closing of the doors on the underside of the trailer, which is programmed not to open unless the safety handle is correctly engaged. 

Ammonium Nitrate Discharge

The belly dumpers were redesigned to include a wider exit chute with a steeper angle to aid the discharge of AN. The interior walls of the trailer are now lined with a specialised non-stick coating to prevent the product from adhering to the sides. Finally, each belly dumper is fitted with a vibrating hammer action unit, which an operator can control as required. When discharging the product, the operator switches on the vibrations to loosen any product stuck to the inside walls, ensuring the entire shipment is discharged at the delivery site.

Additional safety technology

In addition to the new features designed to reduce the risk of manual handling injuries and maximise efficiency, the new belly dumpers are fitted with state-of-the-art safety equipment (all of which come standard in all Toll mining service vehicles):

  • Seeing Machines – Driver State Sensor (DSS) technology uses cameras to follow eye tracking algorithms, detecting operator drowsiness and distraction. Since the roll out of this technology at Toll, fatigue incidents have been reduced by 80 per cent.
  • Disc Brakes – EBS/ABS systems improve both braking performance and vehicle/trailer combination stability.
  • MTData GPS systems fitted in each prime mover – enables reporting on harsh braking, speed events and excessive idling. Toll uses these features to track our vehicles as well as to communicate with the drivers.  The reports produced within these systems assist to identify instances where additional Safe Driver training is needed for our operators.
  • Duress Alarm – this is used in the event that drivers require immediate attention at which point they can activate the duress switch located on the dash.

The Results

Toll has invested significant time, money and resources to redesign its fleet of belly dumpers in Western Australia to ensure that our drivers and the product that they transport are safe.

The new design minimises requirements for manual handling to unload the product, which has led to a noted reduction in manual handling injuries since the vehicles were introduced to the TMS fleet. The new design has also reduced unload times, which has improved productivity.

The new changes have been well received by Toll’s key customers in Western Australia and receival sites. Thanks to the safety and productivity benefits of the new belly dumpers, Toll has successfully extended contracts with two of its key customers for the transport of bulk dangerous goods to various mine sites in the Pilbara.