Kelston Sparkes - the largest Bell B50E user in Europe

Published: 01 June 2022

Founded by Mr Kelston Sparkes in 1952, the Kelston Sparkes Group is a family business specialising in earthworks, crushing and screening, quarrying and training. Based in the South West of England, but working throughout the UK, the company’s five-year contract at Europe’s largest limestone quarry – Torr Works in Somerset – has led to it becoming the largest user in Europe of Bell Equipment’s flagship 50-ton Articulated Dump Truck (ADT).

Today the company owns an impressive 18 Bell B50Es, which work together at the quarry to facilitate the extraction of up to 7 million tonnes of aggregate per year.

The first Bell unit was purchased by Kelston Sparkes Group in 2014 when the company upgraded five of its existing 40-ton fleet for four B50Ds – essentially matching the existing production rate with one less machine whilst simultaneously reducing traffic. Namesake and grandson of owner, Kelston Stark, has been working at the firm for nine years and manages the machine fleet.

“It was my father, Rob, our Financial Director, who initially spotted the opportunity to increase productivity by buying larger capacity dump trucks and he negotiated the first deal for four units. As a company we immediately noticed the fuel efficiency of the Bells – the B50D’s had similar fuel consumption to the competitive brand of 40-tonners even though they were carrying more aggregates,” says Kelston.

In 2016 two more units were added to the fleet and this time the company switched to the E-series featuring the Tier 3 engine, which improved fuel consumption even further and reduced emissions. Over the next two years a further eight B50Es were added to the fleet and each time older 40-ton units were swapped out.

The 50-ton ADT, according to Kelston, is a specialist piece of kit and suitable for particular sites: “There aren’t many quarries the machine is suitable for, but it is ideal for Torr Works. Our experience with Bell was so good that we decided to consider the slightly smaller B45E for our other quarrying projects. We took the first unit in 2019 and four more the following year. We’re currently up to 10 B45Es so it’s fair to say it’s proved itself as capable as its 50-ton counterpart.”

All ADTs in the Kelston Sparkes fleet are kept for five years and turned round once they have 10 000 hours on the clock. Bell Equipment plans for this cycle and works proactively with Kelston to ensure machine availability. Full service and maintenance contracts were originally specified on the ADTs because it was a new machine and the company was learning its strengths and weaknesses. As Kelston acknowledges ‘there were few weaknesses’, but the aftercare arrangement worked so well that it continues to date. On the Torr Works site a full time Bell Equipment service engineer is in place to maintain the ADTs and respond to any issues quickly and efficiently. Each ADT specified by Kelston features a tyre pressure monitoring system which alerts the engineer via text message to check for reduced tyre pressure. This enables a swift response and eliminates the wait for a middleman to rectify any issue. The monitoring system has helped to extend tyre life by always ensuring correct working pressure.

Every Bell ADT is also specified with Fleetm@tic® Premium. Widely acknowledged as the best telematics system on the market, it is used daily by Kelston Sparkes Group to monitor their machines and make informed decisions. Kelston explains: “Our aim is to move more stone for less money and to this end we use Fleetm@tic® to analyse full load count, cost per tonne and litres per tonne; we even match what’s been blasted to what’s been moved. It’s an intuitive system that outputs usable data that helps us identify efficiencies. From the off, the safety features and technology in the Bells were superior to other manufacturers, including the inclinometer, and this remains the case today.”

One of the specialities of the Kelston Sparkes Group is its in-house accredited Training School. This came into its own when the company made the change to Bell which differed both operationally and functionally to the previous ADT brand. Bell Equipment ‘trained the CPCS trainers’ at the centre, whilst delivering familiarisation to the operators. All new ADT drivers are now trained in-house. This is just one of the benefits of dealing with Bell.

“We have a strong partnership with Bell and they are able to accommodate our needs – such as the training. The company has one core product they focus on, which makes it a class leading product. Bell really listens to its customers too and will actively incorporate ideas into the machines. It doesn’t matter who you deal with at Bell, it’s always a great response and any issues are soon acted on. Every manufacturer has issues with parts supply and engineers in today’s climate, but Bell keeps improving and that is great encouragement for us to keep growing the fleet. The product is fantastic, the people are great, and decisions are made quickly. We can’t ask for more,” concludes Kelston.

Kelston Stark, Director at Kelston Sparkes Group.