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What happened to this operator when his loader started driving itself

When mining machines go AWOL it puts operators in danger and mechanics in the firing line. Here’s what this mechanic had to contend with, and how it could have been avoided.

Malfunctioning machines are just part of the order of things if you’re a diesel mechanic on a coal mining site. Any mine for that matter.

Keith, diesel mechanic at Denrobium Mine in Mt Kembla, says he could hardly believe it when one of the loaders went haywire on some poor, unsuspecting operator, and decided to drive itself.

Not many stranger things have happened

‘Yeah, just out of nowhere this 10T starts driving itself along the tunnel and is scrapping the walls,’ said Keith. ‘This operator has to ram on the breaks to stop himself having a major collision.

‘He got a bit of a fright, that’s for sure.

‘If that happened to some car we drive at home on the highway, pretty bad things could've happened,’ said Keith.

Hydraulics were gone but it took ages to figure it out

The trouble is diagnosing things you can’t see. Like one example when the engine was misfiring and its was low on power. It ended up being the incorrect fuel. The machines are tuned for low sulfur diesel to meet the emission requirements. This is not the standard diesel you get from the fuel pumps. It took hours to pinpoint the problem and flush the fuel system.

After the problem was rectified the machine required a gas test to get it back into compliance. The machine was down for a full shift.

A faster way to get things done

Keith, who has been part of the testing group for new mining equipment social media app, Torqn, says that there just might be a quicker way to get things done.

‘At times like that I reckon it might have been nice to ask someone who does my job if they’d come across that before,’ said Keith.

Others have the same problems too and it's good to reach out

‘Most of us oldies have contacts on previous sites and other people in the business.

‘I might text someone and say, hey, have you had this happen as well? Especially if it was really giving me the shits.

'But I’d probably do that sort of thing more if there was a stack of people who I knew who I could ask online, and it was easier to use than those forums.

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