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Sudbury Mining Solutions


New personnel carrier making inroads

September 1, 2011
by Scott Haddow
In: Technology with 0 Comments

For years, licensed heavy equipment mechanics Jay Michaud and Dave St.Germain had a hunch a recreational vehicle could be modified and serve the role of a personnel/utility carrier in the underground mining industry.

In January 2007, the pair purchased a Cub Cadet 4×4 utility vehicle and went about tearing it down piece-by-piece in order to build their own company from the ground up.“We knew what we had to do,” St.Germain said. “We brought the unit to my garage and took it apart. It started from there. We had to tackle how to put a mining package on the unit. We worked on all kinds of issues and tested it for six months. In October, it was certified. We were on our way.”

In August 2008, United Personnel Carriers was incorporated and Michaud and St.Germain opened their doors. In the last three years, they have grown their sales exponentially thanks to an innovative design, competitive price and a quality product – all backed by fast service and an extensive stocked parts system.

They sold their first unit in March 2009 to Goldcorp in Timmins and now have 32 units working in mine sites around the Timmins and Greater Sudbury regions.

Sales up

“From last year, our sales are up 40 to 45 per cent,” Michaud said. “We kept our promise of building a better machine. We looked at what would be the most cost effective for us and the customer. We took the time to research and invest. Availability and parts were key. Clients wanted a machine that was meant to endure the harsh environments and also have little downtime for repairs. We did it, and back our unit up with reliable and quick service. We also keep $150,000 in stocked parts. It keeps the vehicles moving and the people working.”

The road to success for Michaud and St.Germain wasn’t a short drive. It was a long process and one filled with trial and error. The first unit was tested on the surface and didn’t have an emissions-friendly engine. It held Michaud and St.Germain back at the beginning.

In 2008, Cub Cadet came out with a better engine – the Yanmar Tier 4 diesel – allowing Michaud and St.Germain to “go underground” and spark sales after more modifying and development. According to Michaud, the Yanmar engine’s emissions are nearly three years ahead of government and mining standards.

UPC takes a stock Cub Cadet Volunteer 4×4 utility vehicle and transforms it into a mining machine. They complete the makeover by adding spring-applied hydraulic release (SAHR) brakes; a heavy-duty NEMA-certified control and instrument panel; heavy-duty LED lights; two-piece engine brake CVT system cover that extends drive belt life; fully retractable jump seats, fire-proof wiring and sealed controls, among other modifications.

They renamed it the Shifter 4x4D. It features a 854cc, three-cylinder diesel engine that pumps out 34.6 pound-feet of torque and 22 horsepower; three-inch ladder steel frame; 14.4 cubic foot cargo bed; raised radiator; and rack and pinion steering. The Shifter has a cargo capacity of 800 pounds.

“We build them easy to fix,” St.Germain said. “We’ve never had to work on one for longer than a day. Our cost-per-hour for operation is the lowest on the market. A customer doesn’t want to wait two weeks for a repair or to get parts. They call us and we’re there the next day. We focus on one product because you’re less efficient the more you have.”

The Shifter is designed for smaller mine operations, but the vehicle is at home in a mining operation of any size. The SAHR brakes have opened up opportunities with big companies such as Vale, which demands SAHR brake systems on carriers.

In late summer, UPC launched its first underground utility vehicle that is battery operated. It also features four-wheel independent SAHR brakes. The battery-powered unit was designed for mines with less than prime ventilation. UPC can build the Shifter with different configurations, including two, three or four person carriers, a two-person battery-powered unit or an emergency medical transporter.

“We knew what the market needed, but not a lot of people believed us,” St.Germain said. “It’s been a tough market to get into. Now we know our hunch was right.”

UPC’s goal is to continue to raise the bar and push the boundaries.


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