25 April 2008

Bell Has Been Around Since 1954, but the company only began to gain serious prominence in Europe in 1998, when it exhibited at Bauma for the first time.

Since then its presence and reputation have grown fast. In 2003 it opened a factory in Eisenach, Germany, and last year this facility produced 800 trucks - about 40% of European market demand, which Off-Highway Research puts at around 2000 articulated dump trucks (ADTs) per year at present.

New Trucks

Bell's D-Series trucks were launched in 2001 to coincide with the introduction of Stage II exhaust emission laws in the EU. Similarly, its new Generation 2 D-Series haulers are a slightly belated response to the introduction of the Stage IIIA laws at the start of this year.

Bell has been using the flexibility provisions within the emissions laws to sell ADTs fitted with Stage II engines so far this year, despite new requirements coming into force in January for the engine powerband it uses. This is legal under the laws - manufacturers are entitled to fit 'old Stage' engines for up to two years as long as they were built before the new laws came into force.

This provision has allowed Bell to hone its design for the Generation-2 trucks, which are already available in South Africa, but will start to appear in Europe from this month.

As with the D-Series, Mercedes - Benz engines power the Generation- 2 machines. According to Bell's marketing manager for Europe, Ian Marshall, the Stage IIIA versions retain very similar power, torque and fuel consumption characteristics to their predecessors. “We've seen from +2% better to -5% worse fuel consumption, depending on the engine size and the rev range where its used,” he said.

Outwardly, the Generation-2 trucks are identical to the 2001 D-series, but there have been a lot of significant refinements made in many areas of their design.

In terms of structures, Bell has re-visited the chassis design and made numerous minor changes to strengthen high stress 'hot spots'.

Similarly, the electrical wiring loom and hydraulic hoses have been reworked to make them more reliable. Serviceability around the trucks is also better, with items like the filters and fuses being easier to reach.

But perhaps the most noticeable improvements are evident in the cab. The updated switch panel and dashboard are both clearer and easier to use than their predecessors, and the trucks' options list now includes a much-improved sun visor as well as a rear windscreen wiper.

The theme of better durability continues with a robust and scratch resistant composite material being used for the cab interior. Bell has opted for a high-specification air suspension seat from Sears, which is also damped in the fore/aft axis to reduce the amount of whole body vibration experienced by the operator.


One feature Bell is particularly proud of is its 'I-Tip' function, a new automatic system to control and manage the dumping cycle. Rather than having to manually engage the parking brake, put the truck into neutral, rev the engine and raise the body, I-Tip does all of these functions automatically when the dump lever is activated.

The system can also be programmed, with operators able to choose the final dump angle of the body and also whether there is a 'hard' or 'soft' stop at the end of the dump cylinders' travel. A cushioned stop reduces noise and vibration, but a hard stop with something of a jolt can be useful when dumping sticky materials that might otherwise be left in the body.

I-Tip also comes into play when the body is being lowered, only allowing the operator to drive off and move up the gears as the body gets progressively lower.

This new level of automation, combined with existing Bell features such as its on-board weighing system and sophisticated Fleetm@tic remote tracking and production monitoring facility make the Generation-2 trucks highly sophisticated and productive earthmovers.

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