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Tracked Machinery: The Perfect Fit for UAE Terrain

24 May, 2024
By Samar Yahia
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Tracked Machinery: The Perfect Fit for UAE Terrain

The vast landscapes of the UAE and GCC region present unique challenges for construction and industrial projects. From scorching deserts to rugged mountains, navigating these terrains requires powerful equipment. This is where tracked, or crawler, machinery comes into play. Unlike their wheeled counterparts, tracked machines boast distinct advantages for tackling the region's diverse environment.

Tracked vs. Wheeled: A Tale of Two Terrains

The primary difference between tracked and wheeled machinery lies in their method of locomotion.
Wheeled vehicles rely on pneumatic tires, offering advantages like speed and maneuverability on smooth surfaces. However, on uneven or loose terrain, wheels can struggle with traction, sinking or getting stuck.

A 834 wheel dozer - Image courtesy of Caterpillar
A 834 wheel dozer - Image courtesy of Caterpillar

Tracked machines, on the other hand, utilize continuous tracks that distribute weight evenly across a larger surface area. This translates to superior traction on challenging terrains like sand, mud, and slopes. The increased track surface area also provides superior stability, minimizing the risk of tipping over on uneven ground.

Al Marwan Machinery’s CAT D11 crawler dozer at the NEOM job site
Al Marwan Machinery’s CAT D11 crawler dozer at the NEOM job site

Why Tracks Rule the UAE's Landscape

The UAE's terrain presents several factors that make tracked machinery ideally suited for the job:

Sand: Loose sand poses a significant challenge for wheeled vehicles, as tires can easily lose traction and sink. Tracked machines, with their larger surface area, distribute weight more effectively, preventing them from getting bogged down.

Mountains and Slopes: The UAE's mountainous regions require equipment with exceptional stability. Tracked machinery's lower center of gravity and superior traction ensure safe operation on inclines and uneven surfaces.

Harsh Environments: The UAE's extreme heat can damage tires, leading to blowouts and delays. Tracks are less susceptible to such issues, ensuring project efficiency and operator safety.

A closer look at the UAE terrain - Image courtesy of The National
A closer look at the UAE terrain - Image courtesy of The National

The Powerhouses of the GCC: Tracked Machinery in Action

The advantages of tracked machinery translate into a variety of powerful workhorses that excel on GCC terrains. Here are some notable examples:

Crawler Cranes: These titans of the lifting world boast exceptional stability thanks to their tracks. When navigating uneven job sites or lifting heavy loads on slopes, brands like Kobelco crawler cranes offer unparalleled performance. Their robust designs and powerful lifting capacities make them ideal for infrastructure projects, wind farm construction, and other demanding applications.

An Al Marwan Kobelco CKE800 crawler crane on the Al Layyah Canal job site
An Al Marwan Kobelco CKE800 crawler crane on the Al Layyah Canal job site

Crawler Excavators: For digging, trenching, and demolition on challenging terrain, crawler excavators reign supreme. Their maneuverability and ability to handle uneven surfaces make them invaluable for construction and excavation projects. Leading brands like Kobelco offer crawler excavators that are a perfect blend of power, precision, and stability, ensuring efficient and safe operation on any GCC worksite.

A Kobelco SK500 long boom track excavator on an Al Marwan Abu Dhabi job site
A Kobelco SK500 long boom track excavator on an Al Marwan Abu Dhabi job site

Crawler Dozers: When it comes to pushing dirt, leveling land, and tackling tough terrain, crawler dozers are the undisputed champions. Brands like Caterpillar (CAT) crawler dozers are renowned for their unmatched power, durability, and reliability. Their superior blade control and ability to handle steep inclines make them essential tools for land development, road construction, and other earthmoving projects across the GCC region.

Multiple CAT D8T crawler dozers on an Al Marwan job site in Abu Dhabi, UAE
Multiple CAT D8T crawler dozers on an Al Marwan job site in Abu Dhabi, UAE

Beyond these examples, tracked machinery encompasses a wide range of specialized equipment:

Tracked Skid Steer Loaders: These versatile machines combine the maneuverability of a skid steer with the traction of tracks, making them ideal for confined spaces and challenging surfaces.

Tracked Trenchers: For efficient and precise trenching in all types of terrain, tracked trenchers are the go-to solution.

Tracked Pipe Laying Machines: These specialized machines ensure safe and efficient pipe installation on even the most uneven landscapes.

This is just a glimpse into the diverse range of tracked machinery that empowers progress across the GCC region. With their unmatched ability to conquer challenging terrains, these machines will continue to play a vital role in shaping the future of the region's infrastructure and development.

Anatomy of a Track: The Powerhouse Beneath

A tracked machine's mobility relies on a complex system of components working in harmony. Here's a breakdown of the key elements:

Drive Sprockets: These large gears located at the front or rear of the machine engage the tracks, providing the driving force.
Track Grousers: The cleats, or grousers, attached to the continuous tracks are intended to increase their traction and provide grip on the ground, essential for on uneven terrain and soft sand. The design of the grousers can be varied to suit specific applications (e.g., deeper grousers for soft sand).
Track Rollers: These rollers support the tracks and distribute weight evenly, reducing wear and tear. Different types of rollers exist for different terrains (e.g., top rollers for guiding the track, bottom rollers for supporting weight).
Idler Wheels: These wheels at the back of the track maintain tension and ensure smooth track movement.

A closer look at the main components of a track system demonstrated on a Kobelco SK850 excavator
A closer look at the main components of a track system demonstrated on a Kobelco SK850 excavator

Beyond the Basics: A Deeper Dive

For those interested in the technical aspects, let's explore some additional details:

Track Types: Tracks come in various configurations, including steel tracks for heavy-duty applications and rubber tracks for smoother operation and less ground disturbance.
Suspension Systems: Tracked machines utilize different suspension systems to adjust to uneven terrain, ensuring optimal traction and operator comfort.
Steering Mechanisms: Steering tracked vehicles involves maneuvering the drive sprockets or utilizing differential braking to control direction.

Conclusion: The Unsung Heroes of Construction

While at times overshadowed by their flashier wheeled counterparts, tracked machinery plays a vital role in conquering the UAE's challenging terrain. Their superior traction, stability, and durability make them essential tools for construction, mining, agriculture, and other demanding applications. As the UAE continues to develop and push boundaries, tracked machines will undoubtedly remain the silent workhorses powering progress across its diverse landscapes.

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