The Tide Waits for No Truck

Remember Win a Cat® Truck contest winner Coley Mulkern? Back in November 2011, more than 3,000 entrants competed for a brand-new Cat CT660 Vocational Truck, and Coley and his company—Lionel Plante Associates (LPA)—took home the grand prize. The folks at Milton Cat, LPA’s local dealer, recently checked in with Coley and provided this update:

“No passing, and no toll booths either. Instead, the Cat CT660 truck owned by Lionel Plante Associates spends a lot of time getting barged around from island to island, hauling drainage stone, seawall blocks, road gravel, winter sand and salt, waste-water drainage sand, topsoil and landscaping material. When it gets to its destination, off it goes to deliver its cargo, driving on rough and windy dirt roads and then back to the barge. Everything has to be perfectly planned and impeccably executed—the tide waits for no truck.

“It was four years ago, in November 2011, that LPA, one of over 3,000 contestants, won the Caterpillar ‘Win a Cat Truck’ contest, and time has not erased the smile from Coley Mulkern’s face. Actually, the very much hands-on CEO exudes the kind of energy that makes things happen and makes you want to be part of it, too. When we visited him to check on how his CT660 was doing, we were told that to see the truck in action we had to jump right then and there into one of LPA’s smaller boats to travel to another nearby island. Sorry, no time to grab a jacket; the truck could not be slowed down or it would miss high tide for its next delivery.

“Coley’s enthusiasm for his chosen way of life has spilled over to the younger generation. The pride and self-assurance with which his son Nathaniel and Coley’s nephew Matthew share their own LPA stories and plans for the company’s future is infectious.

“When we asked Coley for a summary of his CT660’s performance, he starts by telling us that the excitement generated by the contest has not completely died down. ‘We still get new customers who tell us that they heard about us because of the award; when I drive the truck in Portland, people wave at me!’

“Coley reminds us that the need for dependability, always a concern for a contractor, is increased even more when your territory is the islands of Casco Bay. ‘The simple task of delivering a load of material is a big deal for us; we have a very small window because of the tides, and failure becomes enormously expensive.’ He’s happy with the support he gets from our coworkers in Scarborough, and although he has not had any serious issues, he counts on them for scheduled maintenance. But the best compliment sure is this one—Coley has convinced a couple of his friends to buy Cat trucks, also; one of them, a Cape Elizabeth contractor, actually bought two.”

Click here for more pictures of LPA’s truck and its unique application.

Three Things To Know About The New CT680

The Cat® Vocational Truck family just added a new model—the CT680 recently joined the CT660 and CT681 in the line-up. There are plenty of detailed descriptions and specifications to review, but let us make it easy for you. Here are the top three things you need to know about this Class 8, set-forward-axle truck.

1. It works hard—and looks good doing it.
The CT680 stands up to big loads and tough applications without sacrificing comfort and appearance, thanks to a rugged exterior, attractive automotive styling and industry-leading materials, fit and finish. Its bold design will definitely set you apart from the crowd.

Plus, it comes with two exterior trim level options—L and LG—so you can choose the features that best fit your budget, style and serviceability needs. There’s also a dual external air cleaner option that lets you achieve efficient air management—and a stylish appearance—even in dirty, dusty applications.

2. It sets new standards for comfort and ride quality.
With its set-forward axle, parabolic taper leaf suspension, tuned cab air suspension system, and premium sound insulation and trim, the CT680 delivers industry-leading ride quality. And its wide, spacious interior offers all-day comfort, productivity and safety. It has all the features you’ve come to expect from Cat Truck cabs, including:
• An ergonomic dashboard and center stack
• Easy-to-read gauges
• Multiple seat options, including the Cat Comfort Seat
• Tilting, telescoping steering column with leather-wrapped steering wheel
• Plenty of storage and work-area lighting
• Excellent visibility

3. It saves you service time.
The CT680’s modular components—grille, grille surround, bumper and fender extensions—can be replaced individually and go back together looking brand new. Key service points like coolant, washer reservoirs and air filters are easy to access, too, and you can quickly replace headlight bulbs and windshield wiper blades without any tools.

Of course, like all Cat Truck models, the CT680 features a performance-matched engine and transmission, complimentary Cat Product Link, bumper-to-bumper service at Cat dealers across North America and much more. Explore all the features here

New York Town Takes On The Snow With Cat® CT681

Like much of the northeastern United States, the town of Afton, New York, was buried—literally—with snow during the winter of 2014-2015. Good thing the community had a new Cat® CT681 Vocational Truck on the job.

“The town wanted to borrow it for the Christmas parade,” says Kirk Hoyt, the truck’s operator. “We said they couldn’t—we were using it to plow snow!”

The CT681 replaced a 1986 truck that was beginning to cost a lot in terms of maintenance. Afton Highway Superintendent Lynn Shultis reached out to dealer Milton Cat after researching Caterpillar’s vocational truck offerings and was pleased to learn the truck could be spec’d just the way he wanted it.

After successfully navigating the government buying process, Shultis and his team took delivery of their new Cat Truck in early December—and almost immediately put it to work plowing snow. (It will haul stone and gravel the rest of the year.)

Because Afton’s four-person highway department is responsible for 63 miles of town roads and 30 miles of county roads, reliability and uptime are key. For Hoyt, who can spend up to 10 hours a day sitting inside the cab, operator comfort also is essential.

“You can tell somebody did a lot of thinking about what would be best for the operator,” he says of the CT681’s interior. “All the switches are easy to reach. The mirrors are heated. The windshield wiper system is great. The lumbar support on the seat is amazing.”

Hoyt also appreciates the CT681’s visibility—an important factor when plowing a mix of winding urban, suburban and rural roads—and the 10-speed, manual transmission, which he says operated smoothly right from the beginning.
In fact, Hoyt’s opinion of the Cat Truck can be summarized in one word: “Excellent. It has so many advantages.”

Want to learn more about the CT681’s capabilities? Read more of this story on Milton Cat’s Facebook page—and talk to your local Cat dealer to set up a test drive for yourself!

Repair It Right The First Time

When your Cat® Truck needs a repair, where do you take it? If it’s still under warranty, it only makes sense to return to your Cat dealer. But after that…well, we’d argue it always makes sense to return to your Cat dealer. Why? Read what Brandon Fritz, On-Highway Truck Business Manager at Cleveland Brothers, has to say. His dealership offers bumper-to-bumper service for all makes of on-highway trucks, and he believes Cat dealers set the standard.

What sets Cat dealers apart when it comes to truck service and repairs?
First, it’s our service technicians. They’re very skilled, highly trained and up-to-date on the latest trucks and components. We also have the most sophisticated shop tooling and a significant number of service bays. Plus, parts availability at Cat dealers is second to none.

Speed of service is another differentiator. At Cleveland Brothers, most of our shops run two shifts, so we’re open from 7am to 11:30pm five days a week. Two of our shops are open 24 hours, and we also have Saturday shifts at several locations. It’s all about getting our customers the uptime they need.

Our customers also can finance parts and repairs using their Cat Financial Commercial Account, which is an option few others offer. That makes it easier to manage cash flow.

Talk more about your technicians. What kind of training do they receive?
All of our service technicians take training through the Cat Dealer Performance Center. For the Cat Truck, that involves in excess of 100 hours of online courses. They also attend week-long classroom sessions covering the engine, emissions, electrical system, etc.

If you want trucks serviced right, you need technicians who are trained to understand all the different ways customers can spec them. That’s why we make sure our technicians at Cleveland Brothers also participate in training offered by Eaton, Hendrickson, Meritor, Bendix and other component suppliers.

Cat machine owners know the importance of repairing before failure. Is that an important strategy for on-highway trucks, too?
Absolutely—and the equipment management solutions available on today’s trucks make it easier than ever. We activate Product LinkTM on all Cat Trucks sold at Cleveland Brothers. When we see alerts or fault codes, we notify our shop service managers so they can help customers get a jump on the issue before it turns into a failure.

What else can customers do to make sure they’re repairing before failure?
About one in five trucks in our territory operates under a maintenance contract. That means the customer brings it to us for all the preventive maintenance work. If the truck is due for state or DOT inspections when it’s in our shop, we’ll perform those, too. Being involved at that level allows us to make recommendations that can help customers avoid downtime and compliance issues.

What’s the #1 reason you think customers should bring their trucks to Cat dealers like Cleveland Brothers?
There are three: You know it’ll be worked on by expert technicians. You know it’ll be repaired with genuine Cat parts. And you know the work will be done right the first time.

Big thanks to Brandon and Cleveland Brothers for their insights! To find out about specific truck service and repair options in your area, talk to your local Cat dealer.

4 Tips To Save Fuel In 2015 (Part 2 of 2)

Want to keep fuel costs down—and your bottom line growing—in 2015? Last month, our Cat Truck experts recommended two simple solutions: coast further in gear and slow down a bit. Read on for more common-sense suggestions in part two of our fuel-saving series.

Tip #3: Limit Idle Time
An engine at idle can burn half a gallon to a gallon of fuel per hour, depending on idle rpm and the number of accessories in use. (In other words, you’ll burn more fuel if the idle’s bumped up to 1000 rpm and the air conditioner, clearance lights and engine cooling fan are all running). That means the cost of leaving your truck idling while waiting in line to load or unload—or while sitting in a restaurant eating lunch—can really add up.

During the winter, when the ambient temperature is around 10 degrees with a wind chill below zero, it may make sense to leave your truck idling. But if the ambient temp is 30-40 degrees or higher, shut off your engine and save some money. A good rule of thumb: shut down the engine anytime you’ll be out of the truck more than five minutes.

Now, drivers often say they like the comfort of climbing into a warm cab when it’s cold out, or a cool cab when temperatures spike. But ask those same drivers how often they leave their own cars or trucks idling when they’re inside a restaurant eating dinner, and the answer is always no!

Another excuse you may hear is that diesel engines are hard to start, and that’s why it’s better to leave them running. That may have been true back in the days (1970s) of pre-combustion chamber engines, which featured glow plugs activated by a switch on the dash. In cold weather, drivers had to hold that switch—sometimes multiple times—to get the engine started and firing on all cylinders. Fortunately, those days are long gone. Today’s direct-injection, high-pressure fuel system engines are as easy to start as it gets.

Two additional opportunities to minimize idle time—and save fuel—are during warm-ups and cool-downs. At the start of the day, you only need to let the water temperature begin to rise off the bottom of the coolant temperature gauge. Even on cold winter days, that means you only need to let the engine idle long enough to do your pre-trip walkaround and fill out your log book. Once you start moving, take it easy for a few miles until the coolant temperature gets closer to normal. That way, you warm up the entire truck (axles, transmission, wheel bearings, etc.) instead of just the engine before you hit the road.

To shorten cool-down time, drive the truck as easy as you can just before you know you’re going to park it. Back out of the throttle early and let the truck coast as far as you can before stopping. The engine will be as cool as it can get as soon as you set the parking brakes.

Tip #4: Minimize Jackrabbit Starts
Are you guilty of jackrabbit starts? Breaking that habit could help you save fuel. Instead, use progressive shifting techniques when starting out and shifting up through the gears. (The idea of progressive shifting is to use only enough engine rpm to get up into the next gear and still pick up speed.) Go easy on the throttle instead of flooring it between every gear.

When starting off in the low side of the transmission, you can probably get by with upshifting at around 1200-1300 rpm, depending on the load and type of terrain. Heavier loads and uphill pulls may require more rpm to upshift. As your speed increases and you get into the high side of the transmission, you’ll need to use more rpm to upshift—the higher the road speed, the greater the rolling resistance. Try shifting at around 1400-1500 rpm.

If your truck has a Cat CX31 automatic transmission, use economy mode as often as you can. Go easy on the throttle as well, using only enough to pick up speed slowly. That’s right—you’ll be a few seconds slower getting up to speed. Will that delay really affect your production at the end of the day? That’s a decision you’ll have to make. One thing’s for sure, though—you’ll be pleasantly surprised by your end-of-year fuel savings.

Want more tips on saving fuel and money? Check out Caterpillar’s new Rethink the Tank website. It’s geared toward machine fuel savings—but there’s lot of relevant information for truck owners, too. Happy saving!

4 Tips To Save Fuel In 2015 (Part 1 of 2)

Did you resolve to use less fuel in the new year? Vocational trucks and the engines that power them are getting more fuel efficient all the time—but there are still a few common-sense steps you can take to improve your fuel economy even further. Follow the advice of our Cat® Truck experts now, and you could be seeing big dividends by the end of 2015.

Tip #1: Coast Further
Every time you take your foot off the throttle—or shut off the cruise control—and let your truck coast with the transmission in gear, the diesel engine stops consuming fuel. When you coast in gear, all the fuel pumped to the engine is returned to the fuel tank. The act of the drive train turning keeps the engine rotating. When you push in the clutch and remove the drive train connection, the engine goes to idle and starts burning idle fuel. That means whatever distance you travel coasting in gear is essentially FREE.

To use your truck’s momentum to your advantage, back off the throttle early and coast as far as you can before you stop at a stop sign or red light—or even pull off an exit ramp. When you’ve coasted as far as you can in one gear, downshift and coast a bit further in another. Sure, you use a little fuel to make the shift, but the distance traveled is well worth it. Give it a try and see just how far your truck will coast.

An added benefit to coasting in gear—your brake linings should last longer since you won’t be using the service brakes as much. It’s a win-win!

Now, to get the full benefits of coasting in gear, be sure to leave your Jake Brake OFF. While it doesn’t use any fuel per se, the Jake Brake does slow you down more quickly—minimizing the distance you can coast. Use the Jake Brake when you need to keep your speed under control while descending a grade or if you need to stop in a hurry.

Tip #2: Slow Down
The simplest thing you can do to save the most fuel? Slow down. It’s simple physics: The faster you drive, the greater the horsepower demand on your engine. The greater the horsepower demand, the more fuel your truck has to consume to generate that horsepower.

For every mile per hour decrease in speed, you can save about a tenth of a mile per gallon in fuel. Translated into real numbers, that means you can increase your fuel economy by half a mile per gallon just by slowing down 5 mph—or improve it by a full mile per gallon by decreasing your speed by 10 mph.

Over the course of a year, those small improvements can really add up—and make it worth slowing down a bit during a busy work day. Just leave a little earlier and give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination. Slow down, enjoy the ride and imagine what you’ll buy with all the money you’re saving on fuel.

Want more fuel-saving suggestions? Watch this space in February for Tips #3 and #4. In the meantime, check out this infographic for more advice. (Keep in mind it’s written for both diesel and gas engine users.)

Are You Ready For Winter?

“Be Prepared.” It’s the Scout motto—and a good one to follow when it comes to winter driving. Spending a few hours preparing your trucks for cold-weather operation now could save you lots of time, money and headaches down the road. Here are some winter-weather tips from our Cat® Truck maintenance experts:

Remember, water is your enemy…
In cold weather, excess moisture can cause brakes and valves to freeze up, and any water that makes its way into your fuel system can result in major damage. To keep that from happening:
• Inspect your water separator
• Remove any moisture from your airlines
• Drain water from your air tanks
• Change the filters in your air dryers

…and winter blend is your friend.
At low temps, diesel fuel can gel and clog filters. That’s why you want to make sure to fill up your trucks with winter-blend diesel (a mix of 1D and 2D) AND add a winter-blend antifreeze with a low pH level. Other precautions: Carry some spare fuel filters just in case and consider using anti-gel additives for even more protection.

Check your tires.
Make sure your tires are inflated to the proper pressure rating and inspect your chains and cables. You’ll also want to double-check the chain laws for your area or any area you’ll be driving through to confirm you meet requirements. (Laws can change from year to year and location to location.)

Keep things clean.
Visibility is key to safety—yours and others on the road or jobsite. So don’t overlook simple things like keeping your windshield wiper fluid tank topped off with a winter-blend fluid to prevent freezing. You might also want to consider installing special winter wiper blades to keep snow and ice from catching between the blades and windshield. Also, washing your trucks regularly during the winter months will help prevent corrosive material from building up and causing rust.

Don’t skimp on inspections.
It may be tempting to skip a pre-trip walkaround in cold weather, but you’ll end up paying the price. Before you head out, check tire pressure, inspect airline hoses for cracking and make sure all lights are working and free of snow, dirt or film—it only takes a few minutes.

These simple tips should keep you working safely and productively during cold weather—but just in case, be sure to have an emergency kit on board filled with winter gear, blankets, food, water and other survival items. And ask your Cat dealer about additional winterizing tips for your specific trucks and applications. We’re here to keep you up and running all winter long!

Set-Back or Set-Forward?

Which configuration do you need for your business: set-back or set-forward? That’s likely the first question you’ll be asked when you get ready to spec your new vocational truck. And your answer will be determined largely by bridge laws. We asked our Caterpillar Truck Experts to provide a quick refresher on these requirements and explain some key differences between trucks with set-back and set-forward axles.

Bridge Laws 101
Bridge laws were first developed in the 1950s to protect bridges and road surfaces of the interstate highway system from early wear and catastrophic failure. These laws specify how much weight any single axle or group of axles can carry based on the number of axles and overall wheel base of the truck. The maximum allowable weight is determined by a mathematical formula, along with specific exceptions and restrictions. Bridge laws can vary from country to country, state to state, and even locally.

Typically, the farther apart you can spread a truck’s axles, the more payload you can carry and still meet bridge law requirements. By moving the front axle forward, the overall wheel base is increased, and in many areas that allows for more payload. That’s the #1 benefit of set-forward-axle trucks. On the other hand, set-back-axle models let you get more of the payload on the front axle, which can be useful in areas with bridge laws that don’t favor lift axles. Here are some other key differences between the two:

Set-Back Axles Offer:
• A tighter turning radius. With the front axle set further back, you can make tighter turns. That kind of maneuverability is especially important in confined spaces and on busy jobsites. (FYI, the axle on the Cat CT660 is set back further than any other manufacturer’s truck, resulting in the industry’s best turning radius.)
• Better visibility. With the axle set back, truck manufacturers can lower the radiator and slope the hood. These design elements result in dramatically improved visibility, allowing your drivers to see more of the road or jobsite—a big safety benefit. A sloped hood is also more aerodynamic, which should help you improve fuel economy.

Set-Forward Axles Offer:
• The highest payload capacity. Bridge laws favor longer wheel bases, which in some cases make the set-forward axle the clear choice.
• More mounting/attachment possibilities. With the axle set forward, you have more flexibility in the front for attachments. On the Cat CT681, we took advantage of that space by offering optional Front Frame Extensions (FFE) and a Front Engine Power Take-Off (FEPTO)—which make it easy to mount and power snow plows, hose reels, winches, hydraulic pumps and other attachments.

Ultimately, the set-back/set-forward axle decision comes down to what’s most important for your particular application—and what will enable you to achieve the maximum allowable payload. Your Cat dealer can help you weigh all the benefits and trade-offs and make the right choice for your business.

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