On-Site Magazine

On solid ground: What’s new in soil compaction machines



Soil compaction is a crucial part of the site preparation process. Most construction sites across Canada incorporate some form of soil compaction into a project to increase load-bearing capacity, prevent soil settlement and frost, and reduce water seepage, swelling and contraction. If done incorrectly the soil may not settle properly, leading to extra maintenance costs or even worse: structural failure.

When choosing soil compaction equipment for your project, many readers will be familiar with the different options available, such as vibration, impact, kneading and pressure, depending on what type of soil you are working with.

Looking to meet all your on-site needs, equipment manufacturers rigorously test new technology and apply industry insight into improving their soil compacting equipment. To find out how recent upgrades in compacting equipment will help make your life easier on your site prep jobs, we reached out to product experts from Bomag, Caterpillar, Case, Volvo and Wirtgen America. Here’s what they had to say:



Bomag’s latest soil compactor is the BW 177 DH-5 single drum vibratory roller. A new feature is the Terrameter, which is a quality control tool that displays Evib soil stiffness value (Higher Evib values signify higher soil stiffness and a better state of compaction). This tool reduces unnecessary rolling passes, quickly identifies weak material areas through proof rolling, and allows operators to evaluate 100 per cent of the rolled surface. In addition, an eco-mode feature lowers fuel consumption and an optional eco-stop function reduces emissions and operating costs.

Cat recently introduced its CS74B vibratory soil compactor featuring Machine Drive Power (MDP). MDP provides operators with indicators of soil stiffness by measuring the energy required for the machine to overcome rolling resistance. The stiffer the material, the less energy needed to propel over it. MDP technology also fills in the gaps of accelerometer-based systems and provides a compaction measurement technology for all soil types and a range of applications.

Case’s SV212 vibratory compaction rollers equipped with compaction indicators let operators see travel speeds, compaction levels, how many passes they made, and if there was an area within the jobsite that did not compact. The indicator tells the operator if they were 80, 90 or 100 per cent compacted and it helps them understand which areas have met compaction levels, which ones have not, and where they need to focus.

Another important component of all compaction machines is what’s under the hood. That’s why Volvo Construction Equipment offers the SD115 soil compactor in two Tier 4i engine configurations: Volvo D4 or Volvo D6. Both incorporate a new engine power management system designed to reduce engine revolutions per minute while in working mode. For extra operator comfort, an optional redesigned enclosed cabin features improved visibility and an upgraded heating and cooling system.

Aiming to meet contractors’ needs for projects of any size, Wirtgen America has added a range of machines to its Hamm H i-series soil compactors to include 11-, 13-, 16-, 18-, 20- and 25-ton models.

Deutz tier IVi engine technology reduces emissions and noise. A Hammtronic drive monitors all engine and drive functions for improved fuel savings. These machines also include automatic traction control drive (no manual input required) and high gradeability through automatic, self-locking differential.


When it comes to evolving their soil compactors, Bomag implements continuous improvements and innovations—such as the Terrameter and eco-mode on the BW 177 DH-5—in its product range. For Bomag, key ingredients to success are strong partnerships with its dealer network and customers in order to deliver cost effective and productive solutions.

A perennial leader in innovation, many of the new features on Cat’s CS74B enhance performance, durability and ease of use. There is also a big push to include sustainability options in their newer models. As contractors become more comfortable with soil compaction measurement technology, Cat is providing them with more options to access the level of technology they are comfortable with, such as MDP and other GPS positioning and mapping functions.

Case prides itself on offering machines that meet customer needs. When looking at incorporating new features, the electronics and the intelligence behind them are the biggest driving forces. In terms of compaction meters, Case’s compactors have evolved and are more than a rebound metric. The SV212 now tells operators information about optimum travel speed, ideal operating frequency and their location on a jobsite.

As for Volvo, it plans to continue adding to the many popular innovations found on its SD115, such as multiple frequency drum technology, automatic vibration control and enhanced traction systems.

Building on the success of introducing a three-point articulation joint (which offers a smoother ride for safer operation and reduced maintenance) on its former 3000 series, Wirtgen America has added the feature to all its Hamm soil and asphalt compactors. All recent upgrades offer operators improved visibility and a swiveling seat for access on both sides of the machine. In addition to the recent additions to the Hamm H i-series, Wirtgen America plans to launch five- and seven-ton soil compactors in the fourth quarter of 2014.


Choosing the appropriate soil compaction equipment depends on a number of factors. First, you will need to identify the type of soil you are working with—such as cohesive, granular or organic—since different soil types have different densities and moisture levels. While cohesive soil (clay) has particles that will stick together, granular soil (sand) will easily crumble and organic soil will not compact. Second, you will need to figure out the soil’s moisture content beforehand: too little moisture results in poor compaction and too much will weaken stability.

There is no one size fits all answer for soil compaction equipment, but as a general guideline experts agree that pad-foot rollers work well for cohesive soil and vibratory rollers are best suited for granular soil. As you begin site preparation, knowing the terrain beforehand will help you make an informed decision about what kind of equipment the jobsite calls for.


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