Backup camera. Blind spot detection. Electronic windows and mirrors. A charging plug for a smartphone. Comfortable seats. And a heated dump bed. All standard.
Those are just some of the improvements included on the on the Army’s newest and most modern dump truck, the M917A3. And on Feb. 23-24, Fort Stewart engineer Soldiers took charge of their new rides.
The new dump trucks are replacing older A1 and A2 models currently serving in engineer units. Developed by the U.S. Army Program Executive Office for Combat Support & Combat Service Support, at Detroit Arsenal, and built by Mack Defense, the M917A3 has several improvements over the older models.
The increased payload, up 27 tons from 22 tons from previous models, is just the smallest piece.
Pfc. Caryn Smith, a horizontal construction engineer with 92nd Engineer Battalion, will be an operator on the new dump trucks. She was impressed with the technical and comfort features, including electronic mirrors, a backup camera and new seats. Those features help Soldiers stay focused.
“I think compared to our old dump trucks, I think that this would be a lot easier to operate and for people to learn, and it’s more comfortable,” Smith said. “If you’re going on like a long convoy you’re comfortable. You’re not adjusting yourself every 10 minutes. It’s easier to pay attention to what you’re doing because you’re not worried about your comfort.”
Spc. Zachary Sedlock, horizontal construction engineer, 92nd Engineer Battalion, was impressed by the dump truck’s improvements.
“I’ve never seen anything like this (on a military vehicle),” Sedlock said. “It shocked me when I saw it.”
Sgt. Dylon Prescott, a heavy equipment operator with 92nd Engineer Battalion, said he like several of the new features on the improved dump truck.
“It’s got the MCS gates, which help you dump less material or more material, however much you want to dump,” Prescott said.
A safety feature for the gates is the ability to operate them from the outside of the dump truck’s bed, Prescott said.
“You don’t have to get in and out the dump to lower the gates,” he said. “You can do it from outside and it’s a lot safer.”
The heated bed was also a hot topic with the Soldiers.
“It can transport hot material and keep it from solidifying in the bed,” Smith said.
“The heated bed is good for transporting asphalt to keep it warm,” Prescott said.
Other safety features, like side object detection and a kill switch for the exhaust are included on the dump truck, Prescott said.
“If you can’t see in your blind spots it let us know that there’s a car or object from the side that you can’t see,” he said. “The kill switch on the side on the back of the dump (is) so whenever you’re back there ground guiding you can turn off the exhaust so you’re not getting that that exhaust heat blowing in your face.”
Maj. Stephanie Williams, assistant product manager for the heavy dump truck, U.S. Army Program Executive Office Combat Support & Combat Service Support, said the improved vehicle is an asset because it replaces the outdated dump trucks currently fielded and also improves Soldiers’ morale thanks to seemingly small changes.
“Those little things mean a lot to Soldiers on a long drive, that seat, that comfort level,” Williams said.
The new dump truck also accounts for Soldiers being different heights, Williams said. An improved ladder with better spacing between rungs was an important improvement, especially because Williams fell off of the ladder on an older dump truck.
“To be a part of the program for the heavy dump truck, that was the first thing that I wanted to assess,” she said. “Interestingly enough, that was something that the OEM was already tracking, adjustments that would be made compared to the A2 and A1 models that are currently in the field. Because there are vertically challenged soldiers, you know, shorter than others. And for me, this was a big plus.”
Having input from the Soldiers who use the equipment is the most important tool to make changes that allow for the mission to be completed safer, simpler and more comfortable. Getting that feedback excites Williams.
“That’s really what matters, we feed off of that,” she said. “The feedback that we get from the Soldiers is exactly what I take back to leadership to say, ‘these are the highlights, these are the things I know comfort.’ They’re not supposed to always be comfortable, but it goes a long way when we think about morale and being in the field and tiresome, long hours. So it makes a big difference.”
The heavy dump truck is an important vehicle that enables the Army to be successful in current and future fights. As the Army modernizes its capabilities, the Soldiers who operate the heavy dump truck will conduct supporting operations by building helicopter landing zone, paving airfields, and enhancing the force protection at forward operating bases where ever the Army operates.
U.S. Army Program Executive Office for Combat Support & Combat Service Support reports to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology. Its military and civilian acquisition professionals are responsible for the life cycle of approximately 20 percent of the Army’s total equipment programs spanning the Engineer, Ordnance, Quartermaster, and Transportation portfolios. PEO CS&CSS associates are the Army’s acquisition experts for commercial and non-developmental items, rapidly delivering capabilities that reduce Solider exposure, optimize manpower, and enable sustained mobility, lethality, and the network.