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It might not be pretty, but the Belaz 75710 is the strongest dump truck in the world. This monster is capable of carrying an incredible 450 tonnes (metric).
Belarus. That's one of former Soviet Union states and it borders Ukraine, Poland and Russia. If you're from the bush, there's a good chance you'll remember tractors wearing the Belarus name that were sold here in the 1980s.
This writer will never forget driving one, picking up hay bales as a teenager too young for a car licence. The brakes didn't work properly, which was unfortunate given the hilly terrain. It was rubbish. I was blamed for a damaging the clutch and my career as a tractor driver ended after just one day.
I hear the tractors from Belarus are much improved now that the country has emerged from the quagmire of communism. Belaz, full name Belarusian Autoworks, started up in 1948 as the USSR got back onto its feet after World War II, which had devastated much of the country.
Few of us Westerners have seen one, but Belaz claims that every third mining truck operating globally wears the Belaz name. It has a full range of dump trucks, but until now, the most capable has been one that can carry 360 tonnes.
Now Belaz has topped that with the 450 tonne truck and says it has already written to the Guinness World Records to make sure it gets recognition as the truck that can haul the greatest weight anywhere in the world. It's a whopper and stands just over 8 metres tall, is nearly 10 metres wide and is 20 metres long.
The truck might be built in Belarus, but for the engine, Belaz did something it would have never done in Soviet times and looked to America for help. It uses Detroit Diesel power in the form of two V16 turbo diesel engines. One is used to power the hydraulics, which assist the steering and lifts the bucket, while the other produces energy to turn the wheels.
Each engine produces a whopping 1715kW. These generate enough force to allow the big Belaz to hit a top speed of 60km/h. It can reportedly maintain 40km/h when climbing a 10 per cent gradient while fully loaded. Together, the engines add 19,200kg to the total weight of the truck. Even without a load on board, the big Belaz weighs a remarkable 360 tonnes.
The engine dedicated to moving the truck generates energy that is sent through four electric motors that turn each wheel set. This method offers the advantage of being able to slow a fully loaded truck by using the electric motors. There are also regular service brakes, but these are only used in addition to the electric motors.
The hot exhaust gases from both engines are used to heat the steel bucket. This might sound odd, but by heating the bucket, any sticky mud is dried out and is therefore easier to remove. There are two fuel tanks, which add up to a massive 5600 litres, to allow the Belaz to run a long shift.
Options include an automatic fire suppression system, external cameras to improve the field of vision, a diagnostics system and self-inflating tyres. The 450-tonne Belaz truck is seen as a symbol of national pride in Belarus and the president, Alexander Lukashenko, recently attended the plant and went for a test ride in the new model.