Rigid vs. articulated dump trucks: Choosing the right fit for the job and conditions

By Riley SimpsonAugust 03, 2021

Volvo Construction Equipment’s A40G articulated hauler “really shines” on rough terrain with loose soil, according to product manager Rob Palermo

Dump trucks are not necessarily the star of the show on construction job sites, but these hauling machines could be considered unsung heroes as the work they perform is crucial to getting the project done.  

CONEXPO-CON/AGG 365 talked with Rob Palermo, product manager with Volvo CE, who has a background in sales and managing excavators before he started working with dump trucks.

Palermo said that despite the options available when it comes to choosing the right dump truck, the machines get the job done and “carry what needs to be carried.”

But deciding on the best fit for your job site can be tricky, especially when you’re choosing between rigid and articulated dump trucks.

Let’s find out more about this type of hauling equipment and how it fits in today’s construction landscape.

CONEXPO-CON/AGG 365: Which roles does a dump truck play on construction job sites? Which materials are they built to carry?

Palermo: In a lot of ways, haulers [are like] Volvo Group’s mission statement: Driving prosperity through transport and infrastructure solutions. They move anything someone wants to move. They can have different bed and sideboard options, covers, etc. They carry what needs to be carried.

Articulated haulers have grown. Because of the machines’ traction, people can go where they need to go with it. Articulated haulers have been expanded across all roles across job sites. Rigid haulers (such as Volvo CE’s R100 model) have been around longer but have some limitations.

On crazy terrains and on many construction infrastructure sites, articulated haulers (such as Volvo CE’s A40G model) are easy to move around and load, and they go where most trucks can’t go.

CONEXPO-CON/AGG 365: What are the differences in maneuverability and transportation for the two types of dump trucks?

Palermo: The biggest thing is six wheels (articulated) compared to four (rigid). All six tires of an articulated hauler stay touching the ground in all terrains. If you go through the same terrain as the articulated, the rigid might lift one tire off the ground. You can only take those trucks where they can handle.

Articulated haulers have all-wheel drive, and rigid haulers will lose rear-wheel traction. Wet or muddy ground and loose soil will challenge the rigid hauler’s ability to climb terrain. That’s where the articulated machine really shines. It articulates and oscillates to keep its tires on the ground.

CONEXPO-CON/AGG 365: What are the pricing differences when comparing articulated and rigid dump trucks?

Palermo: It’s not strictly price; it’s about total cost of ownership. If it’s a 40-ton rigid vs. a 40-ton articulated, the articulated hauler is higher in price. But with the ability you gain to go where no other truck goes, you can’t just look at price alone. On a job site with long stretches of hard-packed terrain, rigid haulers will perform well. You need to judge based off job site and application.

I would say the first things to consider are the job site terrain, total production, what kind of infrastructure you need to build for your site, type of job, application of material, time frame.

Some questions to ask yourself are: Do we want ability to move around quickly? Are you on the job site permanently (in a mine or a quarry)? Can we

Volvo Construction Equipment’s R100 rigid hauler

use something smaller?

CONEXPO-CON/AGG 365: How have the popularities of rigid and articulated dump trucks changed recently?

Palermo: Across the board, many manufacturers have discontinued hauling trucks in the 40-70-ton range. Now, with 100-ton (and larger) haulers, articulated haulers have taken over that size class.

CONEXPO-CON/AGG 365: How have the design and use of articulated dump trucks changed over time? How about the trends for rigid haulers?

Palermo: Volvo is always trying to advance to next generation of technology. As you watch trucks transform over the years, we’ve gone from farm tractors, advanced into more operator comfort 10 years ago and moved toward operator comfort and visibility. Capacity has increased across the board. Trucks have grown bigger, safer and more comfortable.

In the future, we’re growing into soft products such as copilot and AI features (including wheelers and excavators). Productivity software will give data to superintendents. The future is in those types of technologies.

CONEXPO-CON/AGG 365: Any advice for customers looking to rent or buy dump trucks?

Palermo: Volvo and other manufacturers conduct job studies and work with customers beforehand to direct them to what mix would be best. Customers should engage dealers and salespeople for those job studies. That way, you’re making intelligent choices before you put that dollar value out there.

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