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Keeping Cool

Silver State Materials mixer truck fleet gets


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As appeared in Rocky Mountain Construction, July, 2003

Silver State Materials, based in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson, Nev., recently began installing ACX-10 air conditioning life extenders from Index Sensors & Controls to put a lid on soaring air conditioning maintenance costs while still keeping its mixer truck drivers cool.
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Located in one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the country, Silver State has reaped the benefits of a lengthy construction boom. But the ready-mix concrete supplier’s truck fleet must operate in harsh Nevada desert conditions, where summer temperatures regularly climb well above 100 degrees.

With the mixer trucks parked and idling for long periods on job sites, the air conditioning systems get a real workout, according to Tom Hogan, assistant maintenance manager for Silver State.
“When it’s 115 degrees ambient, who knows how hot it is under the hood,” Hogan says, adding, “We’re also dealing with a lot of dust.”
Air conditioning compressors will cycle excessively under these conditions and fail unexpectedly, according to Hogan. “When the compressor goes, you often have more problems than just a truck without air conditioning. We’ve had some of these systems seize up, and the driver’s had to cut the belts out on the road to keep moving. When you’re carrying concrete, you have to keep moving. We can’t afford to be late for a job.”
With such a busy operation – running ready-mix from three plants to housing developments and small commercial building sites – Hogan says he doesn’t have much time to protect air conditioning systems from breaking down. The best he and his mechanics can do is inspect belts and belt tension, and replace filters. This is typically done on Silver State trucks every 12 weeks during scheduled preventive maintenance intervals.
But Hogan has been at a loss to stem premature failures of air conditioning clutches and compressors. Last year, he replaced 23 compressors on the 87 trucks in the Silver State fleet (82 mixers and five dump trucks) – an average of nearly one every two to three weeks.
“It’s usually the A/C clutch that goes,” he says. “But I can’t replace the clutch only; I have to buy the complete compressor, which costs $35 a pop.
“Every time a compressor goes bad, I can count on spending at least $500 to $600 for parts and labor because I’m also replacing the accumulator, oil rings and probably adding refrigerant.”
This year, Hogan has had Index ACX-10 extenders installed on around 40 of the Silver State’s Peterbilt 357 mixer trucks and says early indications are that they are doing their job.
“We have been monitoring compressor cycle rates on trucks with and without the ACX-10,” he explains. “The cycle rate on the trucks without protection is about double of those without the ACX-10.”
Index Sensors & Controls is a Stanwood, Wash., firm that develops and manufacturers sensors and electronic controls for the trucking and food handling industries. Index started out manufacturing controls for the trucking industry.
“It was a very narrow, very focused company” that made such products as switches and fan controls for big trucks and construction equipment, explains a company spokesman. “Then it got into air conditioning controls, managing the climate controls in big 18-wheelers and other large vehicles, controls that not only controlled the climate but told the operator when something needed attention.” The ACX-10 air conditioning life extender is one of the company’s most successful products.
 
Publisher: Rocky Mountain Construction