At the risk of looking like I have an unnatural affinity for excavator undercarriages (there’s a 12-step program no one’s thought of), I wanted to showcase yet another innovation. For maximum effect, cue up some Creedence music.
Earlier this year, John Deere gave me an opportunity to watch a Sunland-Kori amphibious undercarriage in action on a pipeline job in Grand Bayou, Louisiana.
Picture a pair of pontoons with aluminum grousers attached as a simple track system, taking the place of a conventional undercarriage and allowing an excavator to work in a mucky, watery, shallow environment where only airboats could “tread.”
It crawls. It floats. It leaps tall alligators in a single bound! I’m half kidding about that last part, but take a look at this video.
Unless you work in swamps or marshes like pipeline contractor Sunland Construction does, you probably won’t need this. But its very existence illustrates the imagination – and entrepreneurship – that makes construction great.
The Kori amphibious undercarriage was invented by Huey J. Rivet, a contractor from Harvey, Louisiana, who was simply looking for a more effective tool to work in the swamps. It was first attached to a 25-ton excavator in the 1970s.
Previous “marsh crafts” couldn’t deal with stump-studded swamps, haul, or excavate heavy loads. Huge, cumbersome timber mats had to be moved from location to location just to support earthmovers clearing areas prior to actual work. Machinery would often slip off the mats and get damaged – or chomped by God knows what in the black water.
Flash-forward to now, the company manufactures amphibious undercarriages to match excavators from six to 50 metric tons. They’re shipped all over the world.
With the excavator mounted, their ground pressure is an astonishing 1.5 pounds per square inch (the counterweight is removed, as it’s redundant when the unit is on pontoons). That’s less pressure than you and I create walking.
Thanks to the pontoon undercarriage, Sunland Construction is able to get to, cut, clear, and eventually refill underwater ditches in a precise manner, with little impact on the environment (imagine larger-scale dredging).
Sunland was so impressed it acquired the company.
And that’s how our industry is going to persevere, sustain itself, and grow: with entrepreneurs, manufacturers and fleet owners coming together to meet challenges. On land or swamp.