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Scrapers: What You Need to Know

June 29, 2023

If earthmoving is part of what you do, using the right scraper for the job can boost your efficiency and productivity.

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What is a Scraper?

A motor scraper, also known as an earth scraper or simply a scraper, is a versatile machine designed for bulk earthmoving and material transport. It consists of a tractor unit and a scraper bowl. The scraper bowl is a large, open-top container with a vertical cutting edge at the front and a horizontal apron at the bottom.

The primary function of a motor scraper is to cut, load, and transport large volumes of earth, soil, or other loose materials over short to medium distances. It works by lowering the cutting edge into the ground and then dragging it forward, collecting material in the bowl. Once the bowl is filled, the scraper raises its apron, sealing the bowl, and moves to the desired location to dump the material.

In this article we discuss:

  • Anatomy and components
  • What a scraper is used for
  • Scraper types, sizes, and applications
  • Attachments
  • Advantages
  • Limitations

Anatomy and components

The basic components of a scraper include:

  • Tractor: The tractor provides the power and mobility for the scraper. It is equipped with an engine, transmission system, and controls for maneuvering the machine.
  • Scraper Bowl: This is the main component of the machine. It is a large, curved container located at the front of the scraper that is used to scoop up and carry the material. The shape of the bowl helps retain the material while in transit.
  • Cutting Blade: Located at the front of the scraper bowl, the cutting blade is used to slice into the ground and loosen the material. It creates a clean cut and allows the material to enter the bowl for loading.
  • Ejector or Apron: Some scrapers have an ejector or apron mechanism at the rear of the bowl. This mechanism helps push or unload the material from the bowl when it reaches the desired location. It allows for controlled unloading without the need for additional equipment.

What a scraper is used for

Scrapers are ideal for working on large projects such as road construction, mining, and land reclamation. They are designed to be highly efficient with the ability to cut, load, and transport large volumes of material quickly and with minimal manual labor. Here are some of the main uses for a scraper:

  • Excavation: It will dig into the ground, cut through soil layers, and load the material into the scraper bowl for transportation.
  • Land Grading and Leveling: It is effective where the topography of a site needs to be adjusted or prepared for construction by distributing and spreading material evenly, creating a smooth and level surface.
  • Road Construction: It moves and distributes materials such as gravel, asphalt, or soil for roadbed construction, ensuring proper compaction and grading. Scrapers are often used in combination with other road-building equipment to achieve efficient and accurate results.
  • Bulk Material Transportation: Scrapers are ideal for bulk material transportation over short to medium distances. Load a significant amount of material into the scraper bowl and transport it to the desired location, reducing the need for additional equipment or manual labor.
  • Mining Operations: Extensively used in mining, particularly in open-pit mines. Efficiently remove overburden materials, extract minerals, and transport them to designated areas for further processing or stockpiling.
  • Agriculture and Land Reclamation: Used for agricultural applications such as land preparation, leveling fields, and creating irrigation channels. Also used in land reclamation to reshape and rehabilitate areas affected by mining or other industrial activities.
  • Dam Construction and Maintenance: Used to move and place materials such as clay, gravel, or earth-fill and to help build the embankments and create the desired contours for a dam structure.
  • Environmental Remediation: In environmental remediation projects, scrapers are used to remove contaminated soil or debris from a site. They assist in excavating and transporting the contaminated material to designated disposal areas.

Scraper types, sizes, and applications

The specific size and capacity of a scraper can vary depending on the model and manufacturer. They range from smaller scrapers used for light-duty projects to larger machines capable of moving substantial amounts of material over longer distances.

Motor Scrapers
  • Types: Single engine motor scrapers, Twin engine motor scrapers.
  • Sizes: Range from smaller models with capacities around 10 cubic yards (7.6 cubic meters) to larger ones with capacities exceeding 60 cubic yards (45.7 cubic meters).
  • Applications: General earthmoving, land grading, road construction, mining, and large-scale excavation projects.
Elevating Scrapers
  • Types: Elevating scrapers with single elevator and twin-engine elevating scrapers.
  • Sizes: Varying capacities, typically ranging from 15 cubic yards (11.5 cubic meters) to 50 cubic yards (38.3 cubic meters).
  • Applications: Excavation, land leveling, and soil compaction.
Open Bowl Scrapers
  • Types: Single-engine open bowl scrapers, twin-engine open bowl scrapers.
  • Sizes: Smaller models with capacities around 8 cubic yards (6.1 cubic meters) to larger models with capacities exceeding 40 cubic yards (30.6 cubic meters).
  • Applications: General earthmoving, leveling, and spreading of materials in road construction, agricultural projects, and large-scale excavation projects.
Carryall Scrapers
  • Types: Single-engine carryall scrapers, tandem carryall scrapers.
  • Sizes: Smaller models with capacities ranging from 1 cubic yard (0.8 cubic meters) to larger models with capacities up to 16 cubic yards (12.2 cubic meters).
  • Applications: Light-duty earthmoving, landscaping, maintenance work, and smaller-scale construction projects.
Push-Pull Scrapers
  • Types: Single-engine push-pull scrapers, twin-engine push-pull scrapers.
  • Sizes: Varying capacities, typically ranging from 12 cubic yards (9.2 cubic meters) to 35 cubic yards (26.8 cubic meters).
  • Applications: Large-scale earthmoving projects, bulk material transportation over longer distances.
Apron Scrapers
  • Types: Single-engine apron scrapers, tandem apron scrapers.
  • Sizes: Smaller models with capacities around 2 cubic yards (1.5 cubic meters) to larger models with capacities exceeding 16 cubic yards (12.2 cubic meters).
  • Applications: Trenching, smaller earthmoving projects, and site preparation.
Coal Scrapers
  • Types: Dedicated coal scrapers with specialized features for coal mining operations.
  • Sizes: Varying capacities, typically ranging from 25 cubic yards (19.1 cubic meters) to 60 cubic yards (45.7 cubic meters).
  • Applications: Coal mining operations, efficient transportation of coal from extraction sites to processing facilities.

Sizes and capacities can vary among manufacturers and models, and there may be additional specialized scraper types available for specific applications. The selection of a scraper type depends on factors such as the scale of the project, material type, terrain conditions, and productivity requirements.

Attachments & Accessories

Scrapers can be equipped with attachments and accessories that enhance functionality and adapt them to specific tasks and conditions.

  1. Rippers: These attachments with pointed teeth are used to break up hard or compacted soil. They can be attached to the rear of the scraper and help loosen the material before it is loaded into the bowl.
  2. Push Blocks: These heavy-duty attachments are mounted on the rear of scrapers. They provide additional stability and pushing power, especially when working with heavier loads or on steep slopes.
  3. Water Tanks: Can be added to provide a water source for dust suppression during operation. This is particularly useful in dry and dusty environments.
  4. Hitch Systems: These can facilitate coupling and towing by other equipment, such as tractors or trucks. Common hitch systems include pintle hitches, fifth-wheel hitches, and tow bars.
  5. GPS and Telematics Systems: Scrapers can be equipped with GPS and telematics technology to enable real-time tracking, monitoring, and data collection. These systems help improve efficiency, accuracy, and project management.
  6. Safety Accessories: Backup alarms and cameras can be installed to enhance visibility and minimize the risk of accidents during reversing or maneuvering.
  7. Lighting Systems: Additional lighting systems, including floodlights or strobe lights, can be added to improve visibility and safety in low-light or nighttime working conditions.
  8. Wear Parts: Cutting edges, blade teeth, and bowl liners can be replaced or upgraded to maintain optimal performance and extend the lifespan of the scraper.
  9. Tires or Tracks: Depending on the model and application, scrapers can be equipped with either pneumatic tires or tracks to suit different terrain conditions and improve traction.

Eight Advantages of a Scraper

Scrapers offer several advantages in construction and earthmoving.

  1. High Productivity: Scrapers are designed for efficient material movement, allowing for high productivity in earthmoving operations. They can cut, load, and haul large volumes of material in a single pass, reducing the need for additional equipment or manual labor.
  2. Fast Cycle Times: Scrapers can significantly reduce cycle times compared to manual or alternative methods of material handling. With their large bowl capacities and efficient loading and unloading mechanisms, scrapers enable quick and continuous material movement, leading to faster project completion.
  3. Versatility: Scrapers are versatile machines suitable for various applications. They can handle different types of materials, including soil, gravel, sand, and other loose materials. This versatility makes them useful in a wide range of projects, such as road construction, land grading, site preparation, and mining operations.
  4. Cost Efficiency: The use of scrapers can contribute to cost savings in construction projects. Their high productivity and fast cycle times help reduce labor costs and minimize the need for additional equipment. Additionally, their ability to move large volumes of material efficiently can lead to savings in transportation costs.
  5. Precise Material Placement: Scrapers provide precise control over material placement during unloading. Whether using an ejector mechanism or other unloading methods, scrapers allow for controlled and consistent spreading of materials, resulting in accurate grading and leveling.
  6. Terrain Adaptability: Scrapers are designed to navigate various terrains, including rough or uneven surfaces. They can operate effectively in different ground conditions, such as soft soil, gravel, or uneven terrain. This adaptability makes them suitable for projects in diverse environments.
  7. Operator Comfort and Safety: Modern scrapers are equipped with comfortable operator cabins that provide good visibility and ergonomic controls. This promotes operator comfort and reduces fatigue during long working hours. Additionally, safety features such as backup alarms, cameras, and improved visibility contribute to a safer working environment.
  8. Reduced Environmental Impact: Scrapers can contribute to reducing the environmental impact of construction projects. Their efficient material movement capabilities can minimize soil disturbance and damage to the surrounding environment. Additionally, features like dust suppression systems can help control airborne particles and reduce dust pollution.

Overall, scrapers offer advantages in terms of productivity, efficiency, versatility, and cost-effectiveness in earthmoving and construction projects. Their ability to move large volumes of material quickly and accurately makes them a valuable piece of equipment.

Eight Limitations of a Scraper

While scrapers offer many advantages, they also have limitations which include:

  1. Terrain Suitability: Scrapers are most effective in flat or gently sloping terrain. Steep or rugged terrains may pose challenges for scrapers due to limited traction and stability. In such conditions, alternative earthmoving equipment may be more suitable.
  2. Soil Conditions: Scrapers perform best in loose or semi-compact materials like soil, gravel, and sand. They may encounter difficulties in cohesive or rocky soils, as these materials can stick to the bowl or damage the cutting edges. Preparing the site or using other equipment to loosen the material may be necessary in such cases.
  3. Limited Hauling Distance: Scrapers are designed for relatively short to medium hauling distances. If the project requires long-distance material transportation, additional equipment such as trucks or conveyor systems may be more efficient.
  4. Load Restrictions: The capacity of a scraper's bowl limits the maximum amount of material it can carry in one pass. Exceeding the load capacity can lead to reduced efficiency, increased wear on components, and potential safety risks. Large-scale projects may require multiple scrapers or additional equipment to handle high volumes of material effectively.
  5. Speed: While scrapers offer high productivity, their speed of operation is generally lower compared to other equipment like trucks or dozers. This can impact overall project timelines, especially when dealing with large-scale operations or time-sensitive projects.
  6. Limited Functionality: Scrapers are primarily designed for cutting, loading, and hauling materials, and may not have the same versatility as some other equipment types. Specialized tasks such as fine grading, precision excavation, or material compaction may require additional equipment or attachments.
  7. Maintenance Requirements: Like any heavy machinery, scrapers require regular maintenance and inspections to ensure optimal performance and longevity. Components such as cutting edges, bowl liners, tires or tracks, and hydraulic systems need to be monitored and replaced as necessary.
  8. Noise and Environmental Impact: Scrapers can generate noise and vibrations during operation, which may have an impact on nearby residential or sensitive areas. Additionally, the use of scrapers can result in soil disturbance and dust emissions, requiring appropriate mitigation measures to minimize environmental impact.

Assess specific requirements and conditions of the project when considering the use of a scraper. Understanding their limitations can help determine whether they are the most suitable equipment choice or if alternative methods should be considered to overcome these limitations effectively.

Buy a Used Scraper with Black Star

Used scrapers often retain their functionality and reliability, especially if they have been well-maintained. By opting for a used machine, one of the benefits is that you may have access to older models that are no longer manufactured but still possess the necessary capabilities for your specific needs. Another benefit is that a used scraper can provide a practical financial solution without compromising on performance.

View the used scrapers we have available for you to buy now. If you don’t see one here that fits your needs, contact us, or there might be one listed in an upcoming auction that could work well for you.

If you don’t find the type of scraper you’re looking for, we may know someone who is selling. With our extended network of contacts, it won’t be difficult for us to find any type of equipment for you.

This article is our representation of useful information and is not intended to be a complete guide for making the right decision for your company. Ask our experts - or your own - for specific advice based on your unique circumstances.

Scrapers: What You Need to Know
Jim LeMaster

Jim is a customer experience guy! He's out there - boots on the ground - developing new business relationships, signing up, and inspecting equipment for both auction and private sale.

When you decide to sell your equipment,
we will personalize a way forward that benefits you.
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