Allison equipped Zetros makes work easier for salt mining 600 metres down

Europe’s largest salt producer operates a Mercedes Zetros 1833 4x4 water transporter with an Allison 3000 Series fully-automatic transmission at depths of 600 metres in German salt mine.

BERNBURG, Germany – For over a year, an Allison-equipped Mercedes Zetros 1833 water transporter has run in esco’s Bernburg salt mine, where a rock salt deposit yields about 600 tons of salt per hour.

A total of 146 production and specialty mining vehicles are used in the mine, but the Zetros 1833 4x4 presented an interesting challenge. The water transporter would not fit through the 2.9 x 2.5 meter mine shaft and was therefore split into two and lowered 380 meters on a hook. Once in the warm, dusty labyrinth of dark tunnels, the vehicle was welded back together, the cut-off points strengthened with a batten in the esco-owned workshop. Then the 6,000 litre, stainless steel water tank with rear spray bar was mounted, and within a month, the Zetros began operating. Equipped with an Allison 3000SP fully-automatic transmission, the truck replaced an IFA W50 4x4 built in the 80s which had been used for over 30 years. Expectations were even higher for the newcomer.

“We searched for an off-the-shelf vehicle to reduce costs. The vehicle had to feature a robust chassis, all-wheel drive and a fully-automatic transmission to cope with the difficult driving surfaces. A payload of at least seven tons was necessary: a six-ton tank capacity and an additional ton to account for the bodywork.

The Mercedes Zetros with an Allison transmission was a good choice,” explains Volker Grzeschuchna, head of mechanical and electrical engineering underground at esco - european salt company. “We are entirely satisfied with the vehicle; it provides heightened driving comfort.”

While water is necessary for the drilling process, spraying roads is one of the vehicle’s primary tasks since humidity in the Bernburg salt mine is quite low – only 25 to 30 percent. This reduces rusting, but also improves driver visibility which can become difficult due to the combination of dry air and routine mining activities. Tractor shovels regularly drive blasted salt pieces to roll crushers. From the roll crushers, the salt is transported to a grinding mill to be sieved, producing salt for everything from the road to the table. This process can fill the tunnels with salt dust clouds as thick as smoke.

The Allison-equipped Zetros has a maximum speed of 50 km/h, but generally waters the roads at approximately 10 km/h, using its rear spray bar and covering about 400 kilometers per month. Additionally, it refills water containers within the entire 7.5 x 3.5 kilometre mining area, allowing removal of salt dust from vehicles and workers. Only used as required depending on dust exposure and container water levels – some days 10 hours, other days not at all – the vehicle operates in a three-shift-system.

Allison defies difficult terrain

Salt soil is hard and rough, challenging vehicles and operators with gradients of up to 20 percent. While the vehicle winds into narrow galleries and through pitch-black tunnels, absolute alertness is essential. Robust underground mining vehicles with flawless drivability and easy handling are required. “There are off-road driving conditions underground. The Allison fully-automatic transmission is paying off, especially on inclines and slopes. It allows optimal vehicle control, even at low speeds,” says Grzeschuchna.

According to Thomas Weilbeer, esco’s giant-equipment instructor, driver training is very simple. The Allison transmission is appreciated by the miners without exception. Each of esco’s 15 trained operators can fully concentrate on driving, while the transmission handles changing gears, automatically selecting optimal shift points.

Allison transmissions are designed to deliver superior performance, durability and minimal maintenance, reducing downtime and operating costs. The 326 HP Mercedes OM 926 LA engine with Allison 3000 Series fully-automatic transmission delivers excellent startability and acceleration. The torque converter multiplies engine torque at vehicle launch. Allison’s Continuous Power Technology™ with advanced electronic controls allows continuous power transfer during shifting for efficient operation and reduced driveline damage. The integral output retarder further enhances vehicle control over rough surfaces and reduces service-brake heat and wear.

Will the Zetros see daylight again? “No. At least not in one piece,” said Grzeschuchna. “In 30 years at the earliest, it will be disassembled into individual parts and transported for scrapping.”

Mercedes Zetros 1833 4x4 water transporter

Engine  In line six-cylinder diesel engine OM 926 LA, Euro 5
Cylinder capacity  7,200 cm³
Engine rating  240 kW (326 HP)
Torque  1,300 nm at 1,200-1,600 rpm
Transmission  Allison 3000SP fully-automatic transmission with integral retarder
Transfer gear-box  MB VG 1700-3W with off-road radio 1:1.69, two-stage
Length x Width x Height  7,782 x 2,497 x 2,988 mm
Wheelbase  4,800 mm
Turning radius  20.6 m
Angle of repose  34 degrees
Empty weight  8,110 kg
Gross vehicle weight  18,000 kg
Bodywork  Stainless steel water tank built by Schrader with 6,000-liter capacity  and rear spray bar

About esco - european salt company

esco, headquartered in Hannover, Germany, is the largest supplier of salt in Europe and a wholly-owned subsidiary of K+S group, one of Germany’s most important commodity companies. esco was founded in 2002 and employs about 1,300 people. The company has three rock salt mines, two brine plants and several evaporated salt facilities in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain, as well as numerous distribution sites. The annual production capacity is about 9.7 million tons of crystallized salt and salt in brine. esco’s largest rock salt mine operates in Bernburg, Saxony-Anhalt, where 450 employees produce nearly 2.5 million tons of rock salt, 1.4 million tons of brine and 280,000 tons of boiled salt annually. Two thirds of annual rock salt production relates to road salt. Additionally, special table salt, pharmaceutical, commercial and industrial salt, animal-feed salt and water softening products are manufactured.

About Allison Transmission

Allison Transmission is the world’s largest manufacturer of fully-automatic transmissions for medium- and heavy-duty commercial vehicles, medium- and heavy-tactical U.S. military vehicles and hybrid-propulsion systems for transit buses. Allison transmissions are used in a variety of applications including on-highway trucks (distribution, refuse, construction, fire and emergency), buses (primarily school and transit), motor homes, off-highway vehicles and equipment (primarily energy and mining) and military vehicles (wheeled and tracked). Founded in 1915, the Allison business is headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.A. and employs approximately 2,800 people. Allison has manufacturing facilities and customization centers located in China, The Netherlands, Brazil, India and Hungary, with a global presence, serving customers in North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, South America and Africa. Allison also has approximately 1,400 independent distributor and dealer locations worldwide. More information about Allison is available at 

Press Enquiries

Roland Moore-Colyer, Propel Technology, Bloxham Mill, Barford Road, Bloxham, Banbury, Oxfordshire, UK, OX15 4FF. +44 (0)1295 722863 / +44 (0) 7547 242674.

Miranda Jansen, Allison Transmission Europe B.V. Marketing Communications, Baanhoek 188, 3361GN Sliedrecht - The Netherlands, Tel: +31 78-6422 174.


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