The cost of an overland conveyor system is related to the distance it needs to cover, but only in part: there are other factors involved, too. Here we’ll explain what’s included in an overland conveyor package and how application characteristics influence cost.


The purpose of an overland conveyor is to transport aggregates like sand, ore, potash, and gravel from one location to another. “Overland”, or alternatively, “surface” indicates that this conveyor follows the terrain and is not designed for enclosed spaces like mines.

In quarrying and other operations where aggregate must be moved between two fixed locations, a conveyor belt is an alternative to using trucks. Every situation is different, but an overland conveyor is often more cost-effective and has a smaller environmental impact than using a fleet of vehicles. Plus, with appropriate design, it can be deployed to a new location as the situation demands.


The conveyor belt carries the aggregate being moved but this is only one part of a complete system. Other essential elements are:

  • The drive unit — Comprising the motor(s), reducers, and fluid couplings that turn the drive pulleys, an alignment-free drive is usually what’s specified.
  • Take-up unit — This (or these, a long conveyor may need several) maintains tension and minimizes belt sag between idler rollers.
  • Tail section — This is where material is loaded onto the belt. The tail section ensures appropriate belt troughing for even weight distribution.
  • Starter — It takes a lot of power to get a loaded belt moving. The starter manages power to the motor to ensure a smooth and efficient start.
  • Structure — This is the framework that holds the idler rollers that carry the belt.


The main points to consider when specifying an overland conveyor system are:

  • Tons per hour (TPH) to move
  • Material properties — Density determines the volume to be transported and hence belt width. 
  • The nature of the material – Wet or dry, abrasive or sharp-edged, determines what type of belt cover is appropriate.
  • Elevation changes — This can add significantly to the load on the motor, especially if moving material uphill.
  • Distance/belt length — This determines total load to be moved, the quantity of belt structure needed, and the number of take-up units.
  • Belt width — Another factor that determines load and capacity, and also influences the cost of belt, structure, and all other system elements.
  • Belt speed — Determined in conjunction with belt width and capacity, this gives the reduction needed by the drive system along with torque and power.


Establishing how much work this system is to do, (TPH and belt speed) leads directly to sizing the motor, starter, and drive unit. For a representative application, consider a 1000 ft. system moving sand at 300 TPH on a belt 30” wide at 450 feet per minute.

A suitable alignment-free drive could use two 300 hp motors for a total of 600 hp. New motors could be $20k-$25k apiece, although using rebuilt motors would cut this significantly. There’s also a reducer, or two reducers, plus the starter.

There are several options for motor starters. Some users prefer a variable frequency drive (VFD) for the control it provides over motor speed and current draw, (and hence energy savings,) but these do come at a significant cost. A VFD starter for the system described could cost $50k-$60k. In the case of complex systems, (where the savings from VFDs are greatest,) a control panel is needed, at an additional $20k.

A popular alternative is an across-the-line starter. This is less expensive ($15k-$25k) but uses more energy and can cause more wear and tear at start up. In between the two, there are soft/slow start starters. These reduce wear but don’t maximize energy savings.


Structure is sized for belt width and load. West River Conveyors uses the CEMA B to E+ standard for idler rollers.


The conveyor belt must be appropriate to the material being conveyed. It needs a cover that will resist sharp or abrasive edges while troughing as needed to avoid spills. The construction must be strong enough to handle the loads, including those imposed at loading. West River Conveyors uses plied or steel cord belts as required. Overland belt runs from  $10 – $40 per foot, depending on width of the belt, PIW and whether two-ply, three-ply or four-ply is needed.


West River Conveyors manufactures in Oakwood, VA. From here everything must be transported to the quarry, port, power plant, or another facility. Shipping costs depend on the size of the equipment and how far it must be moved, but for budgeting assume $5k-$10k.


Every application is different and West River Conveyors would welcome the opportunity to propose a solution to your conveyor needs. However, to indicate what a system might cost let’s return to the sand conveying application.

In this case, the system was to carry 300 TPH of sand on a belt 30” wide moving at 450 feet per minute for a distance of 1,000 feet. For such an application, a conveyor package including alignment-free drive, take-up unit, tail section, starter, structure, and belt would cost in the region of $250k – $350k.


The team at West River Conveyors has experience that’s hard to match. Since the early 1980s we’ve engineered and built systems for conveying a wide range of materials in the most difficult and challenging environments. We are also specialists in replacement equipment and can extend the life of your existing conveyor systems with new or rebuilt components.

For us, every project starts by listening to and understanding what our clients want. Only then can we develop a proposal that provides the performance, quality, and durability needed at an affordable price.