Putting The HS2 Puzzle Together

For the latest in our HS2 series of articles, Finning News recently visited Hawk Group following its purchase of a fleet of six Cat 730 ejector trucks, aimed at servicing the HS2 project and wider infrastructure market.

Well known as a plant hirer and contractor in its own right, we also discovered the very serious investment the business has made into training and up-skilling the industry. Delivering over 5000 courses a year to its own apprentices, customer operatives, site managers and even some of its competitors staff, Hawk has also become a specialist CITB registered training organisation.

When we spoke to Hawk director, Paul Allman at its training facility in Shropshire, we also caught up with the next generation of operators, witnessing Adam completing his test on the popular Cat 313F L GC excavator.

Paul: “HS2 and its legacy is incredibly important to plant hirers and contractors. What we do on earthworks for HS2 and other large schemes like Highways projects and Hinkley Point C, has the potential to reshape a technology driven future for our sector.

“For me HS2 in particular is like a jigsaw puzzle, with a number of pieces that have to come together to realise the full picture or potential of the project. Breaking up the puzzle, I believe you have five key pieces, which themselves can be broken up further.

“These pieces relate to people, experience, technology and equipment, with the biggest central piece being health & safety, as everything needs to support safe working.

“For example, our recent investment decision to purchase a fleet of Cat 730C Ejector Trucks was based primarily on health and safety. It was through our wide industry knowledge and previous experience of using ejectors, that we recognised the opportunity to eliminate the issue of a skip induced truck tipping, one of the most common infrastructure earthmoving incidents onsite.

“At the same time, through retraining our people, we have been able to change the way sites can operate when using these machines. In practical terms, by being able to spread evenly, ejecting at speed and on a slope, there is less need for dozers to be pushing piles dumped by ADTs. So by operating in this way, you can use smaller dozers or reduce the overall dozer fleet onsite.

“Having monitored the performance of the ejector and dozer combination against traditional methods, using telematics technology, we can also see the fuel burn, hours and idle times of the machines. In a recent test, we saw just how much more productive the ejector dozer combination was against the traditional ADT approach. So, what started as a H&S driven decision, has led to a completely new, more productive solution, that is perfect for projects like HS2.

“I would like to think that through a collaborative approach, as an industry, we could learn from numerous experiences like this to shape best practice and embrace technology.

Certainly HS2 will benefit from other technologies like machine control and factory fitted grade control options, but only if people are adequately trained, will the productivity gains be truly realised.

So in my mind, we need to attract more people into the industry and continue to develop and train the ones we have, paying attention to what is fast becoming a digital construction, BIM driven world that we operate in.

On our visit to Hawk, we met with Max Tucker, a self confessed gamer, and in his trainer’s words, a ‘hot shot’, on the Hawk excavator simulator. Max “I first got to know about Hawk through a labouring job with the business on a project in Wales. Seeing all the kit in action and talking to the operators, I was fortunate enough to find out about the apprenticeship scheme, applied and got a place. Having been a gamer since I was young, it has been really enjoyable learning on the simulator and on the job.

“I recently had the chance to try machine control and have learnt all about grading technologies, which I think will make a big difference onsite. I would definitely encourage more people to join the industry, as it is changing all the time and the career path is definitely there for you.”

For the popular Digger Man Blogger, Nick Drew, who joined us at Hawk, the simulator was also an eye opener: “I think its great, it takes a bit of getting used to, but it is very close to the real thing and really gives you a feel for what going onto site will be like. I am definitely old school when it comes to operating machines, but I can see how the next generation and even the older generation can benefit from new technologies, especially if you can learn on a simulator.”