World-first autonomous triple road train for the Pilbara

Mining company Mineral Resources is conducting a pilot of 385-tonne triple trailer autonomous road trains in the Pilbara with a view to increasing capacity to 425-tonnes

World-first autonomous triple road train for the Pilbara
Autonomous triple pilot trial in the Pilbara

Mineral Resources (MRL) has announced its plan to run a fleet of 425 tonne Gross Combination Mass (GCM), triple-trailer road trains operating across multiple convoys, with each autonomous road train convoy consisting of up to five prime mover trucks, with three trailers each, hauling the ore from the mine-site to the Port of Ashburton.

MRL is forming a partnership with automation specialist, Hexagon, to develop an autonomous road train solution as part of its mining services infrastructure supply chain solution.

Mineral Resources says the autonomous road trains will form an essential part of the cost-efficient supply chain for the Ashburton hub iron ore project.

The autonomous road train solution integrates Hexagon’s drive-by-wire technology with an autonomous management system to orchestrate vehicle movement.

A pilot project is underway at MRL's Yilgarn operations using 385 tonne GCM triple-trailer road trains, which have been tailored for the specific economic constraints of iron ore and other bulk commodities.

During the next two years, the testing will continue, ramping up to 425 tonne GCM in time for the Ashburton Hub Project.

"MRL has always been at the forefront of providing innovative and low-cost mining services solutions," says Mike Grey, MRL chief executive – mining services.

"In recent years, we have implemented a number of new technologies which have enhanced the safety and operational efficiency of our long-distance road train haulage fleet, reducing the risks of driver fatigue and increasing fleet availability. The autonomous road trains will take us to the next level again. They provide a safe, cost-efficient solution for hauling ore, which is key to unlocking stranded tonnes in the Pilbara."

"Being part of the MRL Group, our Mining Services division is in a really good position to trial all of our new technologies on our own mine sites prior to offering additional services to our customers. Our autonomous road trains, combined with our other innovations, are all part of our growth strategy to expand our capability to provide full pit-to-ship, low-cost infrastructure solutions," says Grey.

While the tech is impressive, autonomisation is an issue which will greatly impact drivers in coming years so while these kinds of projects might be profitable for compaines the balance in AI and human interaction behind the wheel is probelmatic and will require critical discussion.

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