There are few construction projects that can efficiently function without a dumper truck, as they are often required to carry heavy bulk materials around a site efficiently and safely.
Despite their single, simple purpose, dumper trucks are a type of construction vehicle that is exceptionally versatile, uniquely complex and with a fascinating history of their development, particularly with the divergence from huge road-going tipper lorries to compact Mecalac dumpers.
The very first type of vehicle with a tipping mechanism was the Thornycroft Steam Dust-Cart, invented in 1896 as a way for Chiswick council’s early rubbish collection service to become more efficient.
It was powered by steam and functioned thanks to its high-pressure steam engine, as opposed to using an early petrol motor. It also managed to establish, largely by accident, the dumper truck convention of having front-wheel steering, as opposed to turning with the rear wheels.
However, the first construction dumper designed with site use in mind rather than to be used on the road was over three decades later by the company Muir-Hill.
Based on a Fordson Tractor, the Muir-Hill dumper had a two cubic-yard bucket and reversed the conventional control system of a modern dumper by being steered from the back and driven from the front, something that was a necessity given the larger and lower tipping framework before pivot steering became the standard.
However, the benefits were immediate. Seeing the load from the front allowed for far more
precise placement of materials and the vehicle became popular when it went on sale in 1931.
Two years later, its one weakness at a time was resolved with the invention of pneumatic low-pressure tyres designed for tractors by Dunlop.
Prior to this, the dumper itself had to have dedicated wheels for on-road and off-road use, necessitating a lengthy and complex switching process, but with the new tyres it could be driven on and off-site without any issues.
Whilst dumpers are made in various sizes, shapes and with a myriad of different functionalities, the initial front-loading design from Old Trafford was so influential that to this day, many dumpers of a similar type are still called Muir-Hill dumpers.
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