Choosing the wrong excavator bucket or earthmoving bucket can cost you time, and time is money. There is much more to selecting the most appropriate earthmoving bucket than meets the eye. Width, weight, heel depth, tip radius, ground-engaging tools (GET) like teeth and spikes, and the type of coupler all have a major impact on the progress of the excavation project. The wrong bucket can lower productivity and increase your maintenance costs, and therefore eat into your profits.
When selecting an excavator bucket, bigger isn’t always better. A bigger bucket can slow you down, increasing your cycle times and adding to your costs. It can also cause instability of the machine. The most common mistake is selecting a trenching bucket that is too large for the excavator. A bigger earthmoving bucket does not necessarily mean an increase productivity.
Choosing the correct size bucket for the excavator and for the application will help to maximise productivity. Using the minimum width bucket will ensure you are not moving excess earth, unnecessarily. If a contractor was required to dig a trench for a 20-inch diameter pipe, and they chose to use a bucket of 40+ inches wide, then the amount of material being excavated is unnecessary, which is time consuming, and costly, and also needs to be replaced after the pipe is laid. When working in hard earth, extra wear and tear on a wide bucket is unnecessary and repairs pins on the machines are expensive when a smaller bucket would have been more efficient and cheaper for maintenance.
The reverse is also true. A narrow earth moving bucket will not have enough capacity for a speedy job if a wide trench is required for a project.
No-one can afford to have machinery and equipment constantly out of action being repaired and maintained. Regular repairs or applying hard-facing and plates can end up costing more than what a brand-new heavy duty excavator bucket would have cost. When buying a new excavator bucket consider in your calculations future repairs and downtime, compared with the costs of high quality materials and heavy duty design.
General-purpose and heavy-duty buckets are commonly used in normal trenching and digging projects. When working with a highly abrasive material, the wear and tear can play havoc on a general-duty or heavy-duty bucket. In this situation, consider using a severe-duty bucket. There will be a slight trade-off in bucket capacity and extra weight in the bucket, but there will be less repairs and downtime, and the bucket will last much longer than the general purpose buckets. It will also be more productive when digging in the compact and hard materials. A severe-duty bucket costs more at the time of purchase, but it will pay for itself in a short period of time with higher productivity, less repairs and down time, and therefore save money in the long term.
While a heavy duty or severe duty bucket seems to make long-term sense, it isn’t the best choice for every application. If digging trenches in loose soil, sand and easy material, then a heavy-duty bucket is going to be overkill, adding extra weight on every scoop, adding to running costs, time and ultimately eating into your profit.
It pays to have a variety of excavator earthmoving bucket duty types, and widths to suit the project you are working on. If digging in sand and clay, then a general-purpose bucket may be sufficient. Use a heavy-duty or severe-duty excavator bucket for tough materials, and use rock ripping buckets for real tough applications such as sandstone, limestone, shale, caliche, decomposed granite, asphalt, coral or frozen ground.
Don’t forget bucket teeth, they can have a major impact on the performance of your excavator and the bucket choice. If you have fewer teeth on the bucket, they will have a higher force in penetrating the material, but they will also wear out faster, and will need repairing or replacing more often.
There are many factors to consider when choosing the right earthmoving bucket for each job. You want to be efficient, with minimal wear and tear, so you need to consider:
- The width of the trench required (don’t over dig with a bucket that is too wide, or waste time with a bucket that is too small)
- Use the right duty bucket for the material you are working with (a light duty bucket will wear out and require repairs if working in hard ground, a heavy duty bucket adds to weight if working in easy ground)
- Teeth: penetration v’s wear and tear
Whether it’s bucket teeth or extra guarding to protect the life of the bucket, there is a fine balance between longevity of the bucket and overall productivity. Consider the width of the required trench, and the material you are digging in and choose your bucket accordingly. Invest in a range of buckets, and it will pay off in the long term.