Southern Africa's First SDLG Wheel Loader Still Going Strong

The first SDLG wheel loader to be sold in Southern Africa – an LG958L – has surpassed 5,000 hours of demanding operations at a portside dry bulk facility in South Africa.

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Wentzel Nel SabtAn SDLG LG958L sold in February 2012 – the first SDLG wheel loader to be sold in Southern Africa – continues to front operations at a portside bulk-handling facility in Durban, South Africa.

The 16-tonne wheel loader – owned by South African Bulk Terminals (SABT) – is used to load and off-load the 2.4 million tonnes of dry bulk that passes through the Port of Durban per annum. It has recently clocked over 5,000 operating hours and has yet to encounter any significant downtime.

“Our investment in the LG958L wheel loader has proven to be a master stroke,” says Wentzel Nel, foreman at SABT’s in-house repair and maintenance operation. “In all the time we’ve run this machine, we’ve not encountered a single leaking hose or cylinder. I would say SDLG is far and away the best Chinese brand; the reliability and productivity is equal to anything else on the market.”

A cut above the rest

SABT is a major business unit within Bidvest Freight, the freight management arm of Bidvest Group. The company operates twin storage facilities that have a combined capacity of 120,000 tonnes. It handles a mixture of products including soya, maize, wheat, sunflower seeds and pellets, rice, fertilisers, sorghum malt for beer production and fluorspar – a particularly challenging material that weighs 1.4 tonnes per m3 because it has to be stored and handled while moist. 

Prior to choosing SDLG, SABT worked with South African construction equipment dealer Babcock International to find the right machine for the job. It tested various wheel loaders but the LG958L was the only one that impressed from the outset. 

“The LG958L ticked every box for us,” says Nel. “We even tested this machine in the hull of a ship and it outperformed all the other machines in the trial.”

The LG958L and two other supporting wheel loaders can load 18,000 tonnes of fluorspar onto a vessel in just three days. Similarly, when it comes to loading trucks for road transport from the port, the three machines are capable of loading 55-60 trucks in a single, 12-hour shift.

SABT was so impressed with the LG958L, that they had the confidence to buy a 6-tonne class SDLG LG918, which is now in operation at its nine-line rail yard where it is used to shunt freight wagons. 

Tailored to perfection

While the LG958L is relatively standard in specification, Wentzel and his team have made a number of modifications, with the support of Babcock. The bucket has been extended to a capacity of 4.9 m3, meaning that the single SDLG machine now matches the productivity of two alternative 9.5 tonne loaders. This makes handling even the most challenging materials much easier. Wentzel and his team also fitted LED working lights and mounted the oil cooler on swivels so that it can quickly and easily be swung out for cleaning.

“It’s an incredibly dusty environment in the storage bunkers, so regular maintenance and cleaning is crucial,” says Nel. “To this end, we clean the radiators and filters with compressed air every day, and every 250 hours we pressure-wash them and blow them out with compressed air. With fluorspar in particular, it’s essential to keep all critical components clean because if the material is left to dry, it becomes rock solid and could quickly damage a radiator.”

The key to durability

According to Wentzel, one of the keys to keeping the machine running has been SABT’s dedicated use of original SDLG parts.

“I’ve made the use of OEM parts standard practice here at SABT,” he says.“I firmly believe this policy helps us to avoid problems further down the line. The service and support provided by Babcock and SDLG have been exceptional. They’ve certainly mastered the art of looking after customers.”