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Question DetailsAsked on 9/15/2016

How far to haul fill with loader vs using a dump truck? Is there an average cut off distance?

Will dig out a bunch of rocky fill, somewhere between 500 and 1000 yards. Will move most from backyard to front yard, but have low area further out back to drop some rocks, stumps, and remaining fill. So will have excavator here. Just trying to determine if I should just haul fill with bucket loader or load into dump truck. Distance to haul to front yard 200 feet. Might be 400 to "further outback area" on a rough cut roadway and won't be room to turn around with a dump truck, so variable lean toward large bucket loader. Perhaps best to ask: How far would you haul fill without a dump truck? BTW, dozer not feasible for either direction here. Thanks!

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3 Answers


This decision would normally be dependent on what equipment a contractor has available to him - if all he has is a 1/2CY capacity bobcat or utility tractor, that is a LOT of tramming - especially if a tracked loader or marginally stable utility tractor. So using a truck (even if it meant backing to the dump area in the back yard) might be his preferred method. If he had a true front end loader - say several cubic yard or larger - he will almost certainly tram it with the loader and not use the truck at all - or if he has a dumptruck maybe tram the backyard area, and load the truck and drive to the front yard if there is a desire to minimize front yard damage or it is a sloping or downhill (loaded direction) run which makes it unsafe for a loader to make multiple trips.

Certainly 200/400 feet is within the normal tramming distance for a normal wheel front end loader (around 400-500 feet is the normal maximum for large quantities) - for your size job normally about a 3-5CY, like a Cat 924 to 950 to maybe (though marginal because over 9 feet wide) as large as a 966 size range - probably the largest a contractor has access to and can be legally transported (on trailer or driven directly with guide car as applicable) to your site without any disassembly or major overheight or overwidth transport problems.

BTW - on the backyard run, you said dozer not feasible - but 400 feet is in the normal feasible range for a wheeled or tracked dozer with a stockpile push or universal blade, which has a deeper blade and side extensions to contain the material while pushing. But if he had a choice, contractor would almost certainly go with a front end loader, because of faster cycle times and no significant materials loss along the way, unless there is pretty steep terrain to be traversed or low powerlines. Part of the decision might be dependent on the material to be excavated - whether a front end loader or dozer would best handle the excavation portion, possibly eliminating the need for a separate excavator.

Your best bet - get bids from a half dozen or so Earthmoving contractors and let them come in with a fixed price (lump sum or per cubic yard) using whatever equipment they think best. Oh - on the per cubic yard cost - make sure it is measured in place as bank cubic yards so there is no issue on swell in handling or having to measure spread-out dumped material - measure before excavation starts, then the finish excavation to determine the amount moved.

If DIY (though unlikely you can rent a large enough dump truck or loader to do this reasonably yourself unless you have a commercial truckdrivers license and equipment operator's certificate) then from a cost standpoint I would go with a loader without truck - almost certainly cheaper since your time would be "free" so a bit slower work does not add much to the cost like it would with a contractor - cheaper to rent one piece of equipment than two. Course, tramming trips and fuel cost will go way up because most equipment rental places will not rent large equipment to you and deliver it, so likely to be in the 1 to possibly 2 CY or so size equipment like a Cat 924 loader - so a LOT of trips will be needed - a pretty bid DIY job, and rental costs may make it totally uneconomic compared to a contractor with larger equipment unless you are prepared to put in LONG days continuously till done. 500 or 1000 trips is a LOT of work. Also consider fueling - with probably a 25-50 gallon tank you are almost certainly going to have to refuel onsite - can be $50-100 additional cost to have renting place or a fuel truck come to your location to fuel it (in addition to cost of the fuel itself).

Don't forget to check on required building/excavation permits (almost certainly needed for this volume of work) and any planning and zoning or environmental permits needs (erosion and sediment control plan filing at least is likely) so you don't get into trouble on this - and check on local regulations on allowable heavy equipment operating hours too - in some residential and city areas it can cut your work day down to only 8 hours or so and may cut even more or totally eliminate Sundays and Holidays depending on area, which cuts productivity - especially on DIY jobs.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD


Continue the conversation? I'm new here, hope this is appropriate!

Thank you LCD! That's a lot of nice and concise answering.

This is DIY in my own back yard. Rural setting. I'll be renting either a Komatsu PC138 or PC160 for the digging. I have lots of rocks, sometimes huge bolders. I can hire a dump truck nearby, or look into a loader (either rental, or for hire). I was thinking 3yd loader. I'm looking a cat 924 or 930. I do have a bit of a hill to go down. Guess I'll measure the slope and research the loader specs regarding that. I will try to get some first hand, on site, local opinions if I can. But I don't want to waste other's time on bids they won't get : ). Somehow, I guess I need to quess LOL time to tram 3yd a trip against the load, haul, dump, and spread the dump piles... it's a no brainer at 100 feet, and probably dump truck for sure at a couple thousand feet.

Not sure if I have any refueling options here other than lot's of 5 gal cans. Maybe I can find someone to refuel me though. The good new here is that I do have the time, as I decided any building construction won't be happening until next year. Also the dozer thing... the mess along the way is the concern. But if it's a better/cheaper enough route to go, may have to change some landscaping along the way : )

Answered 3 years ago by Digdug


Couple of follow-on thoughts to your reply:

0) are you sure you have 500-1000cy to move - that is a LOT of materials for a residential yard job, which typically run not more than a couple hundred CY. [a cubic yard is 27 cubic feet]. Double check your numbers - a LOT of people make a math error and divide the cubic feet by 9 instead of 27, for instance. makes a BIG difference in the size equipment that is feasible for your job.

1) If you want to do this as a DIY - guys do like to play in the mud, after all, and I keep looking at heavy equipment as I think "will it fit in the back yard ?" if I bought it, so I can understand that approach. After you figure the equipment rental cost, delivery cost if you cannot get away with driving the loader from the rental yard to your house on the street, fuel, etc - unless you are really going to hit it with consecutive long days, having a contractor in is commonly as cheap or cheaper. You say you have a long time to be able to do this - but every day of rental on the loader (probably about $550-650/day or $1700-2000/week) adds up - plus typically $200-300 or so total delivery and pickup charge if can't be driven, and may $10-15/hr fuel consumption can add up fast. Figuring maybe 4 minutes or so average round trip (could be more if rough but presumably you would use fill to smooth out the worst of that) at maybe 2.5- max 3CY load means about 170-400 trips - or maybe 10-30 hours of loading and tramming so at LEAST 1-3 rental days - roughly $900 - 2700 rental and fuel and delivery. That works out to about $2-3/CY - probably at the bottom end to maybe about half what a contractor would charge, so might work for you IF you put in long days - but likely not if strung out to several weeks.

2) That is not a big backhoe - only about 1/2 to 2/3CY - not knowing how large your rocks are, but it might well be that a loader alone could do the excavation as well as a backhoe AND the hauling both, eliminating the need for a truck and the backhoe. But if not, then your choices are a) backhoe to excavate/loosen up the ground and stockpile, then send that back and get a loader to haul and dump (with delivery fees on both pieces of equipment probably), or b) backhoe and dumptruck - so in that case the backhoe itself with a dumptruck sounds like the cheaper deal probably if loader cannot do it all itself. (Consider a loader with toothed bucket maybe). Quite a bit slower with backhoe but the dumptruck (assuming you can get one you can legally drive if you do not have a CDL license) certainly will make it easy to load with the backhoe, then drive to the dump point - assuming you are good with backing. Certainly your round trip with the dump truck will be probably about (assuming 2 mph travel speed and 300 foot average haul distance) 7 -10 minutes for say 5-6 CY max maybe - plus maybe 4-8 minutes load time means about 15-60 operating hours at the extremes, assuming decent backhoe digging. So 2-6 days depending on backhoe bucket and truck size and transit time, so like with loader probably talking weekly rentals.

3) The dumptruck and backhoe combined will likely run about the same or up to maybe 30% more than a loader alone - so the key considerations are probably whether the loader can do the excavation (is it very wet, hard digging, or doing a depressed cut that you do not want an open end ramp on for instance), and the hauling conditions - a small dumptruck needs a pretty decent road - not very steep, not muddy or rutting soil, gentle turns, preferably turnaround space at each end, adequate tree clearance, etc - so lacking those the loader might be the better bet - or even backhoe for excavation and stockpiling, then return that and rent a loader for the hauling/dumping.

With backhoe and dumptruck you also have to consider where you are dumping - if flat area then you can start at the back and work to the front, then use backhoe at end to level the piles out. But if end-dumping into a low spot, might need to tram the backhoe over to move the dumped piles into the hole periodically, because backing a dumptruck to the brink is generally not very safe, and the dumped material is likely to not be trafficable buy the dumptruck - excessive rutting is likely, with risk of getting stuck or the read end burying itself in the soft dumped fill, so if that is the case that also weighs in favor of the loader.

4) since you are going to the front yard with a good portion of it (presumably want neat) then yeah, push dozer is probably out, as you said - and even for the back yard 400 feet is pusing the economic limit of pushing fill - and you have to have about a 15-20' width to play with, letting the spillout build berms on each side initially so you can then slot-doze between the berms to move the material without losing a lot along the way - or get a dozer or push-loader with a materials push blade which extended side wings to prevent significant spillout, which are fairly uncommon for the small size equipment you are talking about - usually on readily availalbe for about D8 and larger dozers.

5) bottom line - you would have to check local equipment rental pricing of course, delivery charges, and whether you could drive a loader on the public roads without getting shut down by the local cops, and figure buying or renting a hand pump with filter (many equipment rental places can rent that to you) and rent a drum or two to haul fuel in because you are looking at probably 50 or more gallons/day fuel demand and that is a pretty small amount to have a field delivery fuel hauler come to fill (plus mating his schedule up with your need with only 30-50 gallon fuel tanks could be a problem).

Also consider weather - a good rainy session would probably not affect the backhoe much unless really fine soil (silt or sand or soft clay), but could make a ramp-down excavation a problem with a loader, and could certainly cause issues with a dumptruck, so weather-wise a loader has less risk than a dumptruck. Also consider that a 12-15CY dumptruck has substantial off-road ability - but a non-CDL 5-6CY range truck like an F650 is not very good off-road - so unless you have material that compacts nicely and does not mud up so you can build a good trail with some of the excavated material, a small DIY truck (assuming you do not have a CDL) may not be such a good idea and might make you lean towards the loader.

6) I would certainly be looking at a weekly rather than daily rental here ASSUMING you are sure you can take long days in the saddle - operating equipment like that when you are not used to it can REALLY get to your arms, shoulders and back. I have seen several cases where a day or few rental dragged out to weeks because it turned out that the homeowner could not handle more than a few hours in the seat in a day.

7) as you said - 2-2-1/2 or maybe max 3cy (3CY marginal for trucking - will require bucket removal almost certainly) size loader likely good size - small enough to haul on a tractor trailer (under 8-9 feet width) for delivery but large enough to cut the number of tramming trips down to size.

8) consider what you will do with material that is too large to handle - backhoe can probably only handle 1/3 to MAYBE 1/2CY rock, loader up to 1.5 to MAYBE 3CY or so (skidding or rolling larger one, not lifting), so if really rocky soil consider where you are going to maneuver large pieces for decorative use or breaking up with jackhammer or splitting, if those are possible. And of course if rocky soil, unless a talus/scree slope or glacial debris or such, bear in mind you may encounter bedrock, which that size equipment will not normally make much of a dent in.

Good Luck

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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