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.

Don’t Be A Drowsy Driver

Blast the air conditioning. Crank the radio and sing along. Drink more coffee. It doesn’t matter which of these strategies for staying awake you employ when you get sleepy while driving—none of them is really effective. And operating any sort of vehicle, especially a large one like a vocational truck, while drowsy is dangerous. In fact, studies show it can be just as risky as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. So what are the best ways to fight fatigue behind the wheel?

Recognize when you’re tired
Sounds obvious, right? But sometimes in our hurry to get the job done, we ignore these common warning signs of fatigue:
• Yawning
• Excessive blinking
• Heavy eyelids
• Difficulty focusing
• Nodding head
• Weaving across lane lines
• No memory of driving the last few minutes or miles

If you or someone you’re riding with starts exhibiting these symptoms, the results could be fatal. You need to act quickly, and that means…

Get off the road
Unfortunately, cold air, loud music and other common remedies just don’t cut it when it comes to fighting drowsiness while driving. There are only two truly effective solutions: 1) pull over and take a nap or 2) if you’re lucky enough to have another person along for the ride, switch drivers. Convinced you’re too busy to take a break? Think about it another way. Losing a little time for a short nap is far better than losing a life—yours or someone else’s.

Fight future fatigue
To manage fatigue proactively, you have to know what causes it. That’s pretty simple: too little sleep, driving at times when you’d normally be asleep, and working or staying awake for very long hours. The good news is, there are some things you can do to keep fatigue at bay.
• Make sleep a priority. It’s the most obvious, but also most important, tip. Try to target at least seven hours of sleep a night. If your sleep gets cut short, try to catch a nap or two to make up for lost sleeping time.
• Make your health a priority, too. If you eat a balanced diet, get regular exercise and drink plenty of water, you’ll sleep better at night and stay more alert during the day.
• Check your medication. Are you taking anything that causes drowsiness as a side effect? Be sure to double check not just prescriptions, but also any over-the-counter remedies you take during cold, flu or allergy season.
• Be strategic with caffeine. While not a long-term solution, coffee, soda and other caffeinated drinks can help boost your energy for the short-term. Think about when you most need a pick-me-up. Maybe it’s not first thing in the morning—maybe it’s halfway through your work day instead.
• Add some variety. Doing the same work—like sitting behind the wheel all day, every day—can be exhausting. Is there anything you can do to change up your routine? If you’re the boss, can you rotate jobs among employees to help them stay fresh?

To learn more about Caterpillar’s fatigue risk and distraction solutions contact safetyservices@cat.com.

The Key To Fast, Easy Body Installation? The Right Specs.

When you buy a vocational truck, you’re not just buying a truck chassis—you’re also investing in a truck body specific to your application. Whether that’s a dump, roll-off, crane, mixer, hydrovac or something else entirely, you need the truck and body to fit together seamlessly, and you want the installation process to be fast and easy. The key to success, our Cat® Truck experts say, lies in the specing process. Here’s their advice for getting it done right:

Q. When in the truck buying process should I start specing for a body?
A. Right from the beginning. Many truck specs are body-driven, so you’ll get a better quote if you provide information about the type of body you need upfront. Get your dealer and body builder together and have a conversation about your application, jobsite, material, etc. as part of the quote process—and definitely before you place your truck order.

Q. What are the most important specs I should consider when adding a truck body?
A. The exact specs will vary depending on the type of body, but cab-to-axle (CA) length, weight and axle ratings, frame height, axle spread, transmission type and horsepower are critical. You’ll also need a good understanding of local bridge laws—that may dictate certain specs for you.

Q. What are some common mistakes to avoid when specing for a truck body?
A. The #1 mistake is lack of communication. The process will go much more smoothly if you, your body builder and your dealer work together from the start. Another mistake is not having all the required information during the specing process. Be vocal about what you need, and make sure your body builder provides clear direction as well.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask your dealer about special features or custom designs. On the Cat Truck, we offer options that make it easier to install certain bodies, and we have a special quoting process if you want to build a more custom truck. If we know what you want, there’s a good chance we can accommodate it. Again, it all comes back to communication.

Q. What’s my responsibility in the specing process—and what roles do my body builder and dealer play?
A. Your job is to explain your application needs and expectations as clearly and fully as possible, as soon as possible. Also, if you have a body builder you want to work with, tell your dealer. If they’re not already acquainted, put them in touch right away.

Your body builder’s job is similar—to communicate needs and expectations. He should provide detailed requirements on what it takes to outfit the selected body onto your chassis.

Your dealer’s job is to facilitate and own the process—to get the necessary information from you and your body builder, place the order accurately and ensure the truck is built to the right specs.

Q. Are there any other resources I can turn to?
If you already have a body builder you’re planning to work with, be sure to send them to the new body builder page on drivecat.com. It has information on working with Caterpillar and Cat dealers, plus a link to download the Cat Truck Body Builder Manual. If you don’t have a body builder in mind, your Cat dealer can help you find one. The NTEA, the Association for the Work Truck Industry, is another good resource.

As always, the best thing you can do is work closely with your Cat dealer. Your dealer has the expertise and relationships to make sure you get the truck and body you need for the job at hand.

Product Link™ Pays Off For Cat® Truck Owners

You know Cat® Product Link™ comes standard on the Cat Truck, and you’ve probably heard about its benefits: controlling costs, improving uptime, boosting productivity, increasing security. But how can it really help you every day on the job? We asked our On-Highway Product Link expert some questions about specific ways you can use this asset and fleet management tool.

Q. Everyone’s looking for ways to reduce fuel consumption. Can Product Link help with that?

A. Definitely. Product Link’s web-based user interface (VisionLink®) not only shows you a truck’s current fuel level at any given moment, but it also lets you monitor overall fuel consumption—for one truck or a whole fleet. No more down-the-road surprises about how much fuel you’re using.

Another great feature is the working-versus-idle-time graph that appears on your VisionLink dashboard when you open up the application. You can see at a glance where fuel might be being wasted and take action right away.

Of course, the best way to keep fuel costs down is to make sure your trucks are working at peak performance. Product Link can help here, too. It’ll alert you when maintenance is due so you don’t miss any key service intervals. It can even tell you when a specific truck is losing performance and help you identify why that’s happening so you can fix it fast.

Q. We’ve heard horror stories about trucks being stolen. How can Product Link help prevent theft or misuse?
A. It’s easy to set virtual site boundaries—sometimes called “geofences”—to keep a close eye on your Cat Truck. You just use the “maps” function in VisionLink to create site boundaries, then have an alert sent whenever your truck or trucks move outside those boundaries. You can limit the hours when alerts are sent—only after hours or on weekends, for example.

Last summer, someone cut a hole in the fence at Cat Dealer Ring Power’s facility in Sarasota, Florida, rammed through a gate and fled the scene in a Cat Truck. You can bet the dealership was pretty happy that truck had Product Link, since police were able to locate and recover it right away.

Q. Some customers are even using Product Link to help with driver training—tell us about that.

A. That’s right. It’s a great way to monitor driver performance without having to be in the cab or on the jobsite yourself. You can set up what are called “driver-generated” alerts that will tell you when drivers are doing something that might hurt truck performance. Then you can follow up with the individual driver to correct the problem. Product Link will also help you spot patterns of behavior, which can indicate when it might be time for some additional training.

Product Link even GPS tags where problems occur, so you might discover it’s not the operator that’s causing a certain issue—maybe it’s something on the road or jobsite that you can fix or avoid.

Q. These are all great examples. Where else can customers learn about the specific uses of Product Link?
There’s a great overview video about how Product Link works in the Cat Truck here. And there’s a whole series of customer testimonials here—they’re machine-focused, but it’s pretty easy to see how the benefits could translate to the Cat Truck. And of course, you can always ask your Cat dealer for more details.

The Truck “Everybody” Wants To Drive

With a fleet running 10 to 12 hours a day transporting critical fuel supplies to customers throughout southern California, California Fuels and Lubricants needs trucks it can count on—and the Cat® Truck delivers.

“There really is no comparison,” says Jaime Dueñas, president of the Garden Grove, California, company, about the Cat CT660 Vocational Truck. “It’s constantly being driven and constantly doing what we expect it to do.”

That includes impressing California Fuels and Lubricants’ drivers, who average between five and nine stops per day delivering fuel to construction companies, nurseries, power companies, emergency generators and more—with loads ranging from 400 to 5,000 gallons.

“It has great steering,” says Jose Esparza about driving the CT660. “The control, the stability of the truck—when we’re fully loaded, it handles really great.”

Fellow driver Jeff Hiscock agrees. “There’s thousands of gallons of liquid in the back. You’re taking turns, you’re hitting uneven pavement, and it handles the moving liquid amazingly.”

Because California Fuels and Lubricants provides 24/7 emergency service for its customers, truck uptime is key. The company relies on a service plan from Cat dealer Quinn to keep its CT660s operating at peak performance.

“They run these trucks six days a week, so with service issues, we have to turn the trucks as fast as we can to get them back up on the road,” says Kurt Hintz, truck service supervisor at Quinn.

And when they’re on the road, finding drivers to get behind the wheel is no problem, according to Efrain Davalos, Jr., sales manager at California Fuels and Lubricants. “Everybody wants to drive the new Cat Truck,” he says. “It stands on its own.”

Watch the video to hear more from leaders and drivers at California Fuels and Lubricants—and get an up-close look at the company’s Cat Trucks in action.

Longer Tire Life = Lower Costs

It’s a fact: longer tire life equals lower owning and operating costs. So how do you keep your truck’s tires from wearing out too fast? The key is to prevent the tread from wearing unevenly, and that means keeping your tires properly inflated and balanced and your truck properly aligned. We asked our Cat® Truck maintenance experts for more details about tire maintenance—and how a few minutes of daily maintenance can help keep your costs down and your jobsite safer.

Inflation
Keeping your tires properly inflated is easy, and it can save you big money down the road. That’s because improper inflation is the #1 reason tires fail or wear out prematurely. (It can also negatively affect your fuel use and overall truck performance.) Overinflated tires wear prematurely at the center and can lead to blowouts. Underinflated tires, which are more common, increase wear on the shoulders and can result in dangerous structural failures. Underinflated tires can also overheat during extended on-highway use, leading to blowouts.

To keep inflation at the optimum level for your application, check tire pressure regularly. Weekly inspections are good—daily inspections (preferably as part of your pre- and post-trip inspection routines) are better. While you’re checking the pressure, also look for bulges, cuts, leaks, punctures or embedded objects like nails. And remember, even normal driving can cause truck tires to lose one or two pounds of pressure a month.

Don’t just bump the tires to see if they’re aired up—use an actual tire air pressure gauge. Hitting the tires with a tire thumper doesn’t give you accurate tire pressure. It can only tell you if a tire is flat. Another tip: check air pressure when the tires are cold, like after the truck has been sitting overnight.

Alignment & Balance
Front-end component wear can also cause excessive tire wear. To keep your tires in proper alignment, make sure your preventive maintenance program includes regular inspections of these components: tie rod ends, king pin bushings, shackle bushings and drag links.

Whenever you replace a front-end component, it’s a good idea to perform a wheel alignment. An alignment check is also recommended anytime the handling feels off or you notice irregular tire wear. If you feel an unusual vibration, it could be a sign that a tire (or tires) requires balancing. As with most maintenance issues, the sooner you get the problem fixed, the more likely you’ll be able to save the tire.

Tires can be a major cost driver for most vocational truck owners. But proper inflation, alignment and balance can help you extend tire life—and save yourself time and money in the process. The American Trucking Association’s Radial Tire Conditions Analysis Guide is a great resource for more details, and your Cat dealer is always available to help you keep your tires working as hard as you do.

Protect Your Truck Investment—And Your Peace Of Mind

Your Cat® Truck is a big investment—one you want to make sure is protected. No one likes to think about breakdowns and unscheduled repairs, but they do happen, and it’s good to know your options for insurance coverage. We asked the experts at Cat Financial Insurance Services some questions about extended protection for the Cat Truck, and here’s what we learned:

Q: What type of insurance coverage is available for Cat Trucks?
A: We offer Extended Service Coverage (ESC) for Cat Vocational Trucks. It protects against defects in materials and factory workmanship, covering parts and labor charges, and is available for up to seven years.

Q: Are there different levels of coverage?
A: Yes. You can choose from these four levels of protection:
• Bronze covers the engine only, plus towing
• Silver includes Bronze coverage, plus the turbocharger, water pump, injectors, air compressor and diesel particulate filter (DPF)
• Gold includes Silver coverage, plus the transmission and drive axles
• Platinum includes Gold coverage, plus selected cab and chassis components

Q: Cat Trucks are covered by warranty. Why do customers need additional protection?
A: It’s all about protecting your investment and peace of mind. If you’re faced with unscheduled repairs, ESC can help you avoid unexpected costs and downtime. It’s a great way to budget for those repairs and lock in costs up front. ESC is transferable, too, which can help protect the resale value of your Cat Truck.

Q: Why should customers choose extended protection from Cat Financial Insurance Services?
A: We provide the highest level of cost control available. With ESC, you’re assured that repairs will include genuine Cat parts and be performed by factory-trained technicians. That means your Cat Truck will be repaired right the first time, and we’ll get you back to work as quickly as possible. Plus, when you choose ESC, you can be confident knowing your investment is protected by the power of Caterpillar—you’ll get the competitive advantage and reliability you expect from us.

Q: Are there any special offers available for ESC?
A: It’s quick and easy to finance your ESC purchase using your Cat Financial Commercial Account. Your Cat dealer can provide more information, or you can learn more at catfinancial.com/commercialaccount.

A big thanks to our friends at Cat Financial Insurance Services for all the great information. Want more details? Your Cat dealer can help you figure out the right level of protection for your Cat Truck and answer any questions you may have about ESC—so you can get the coverage and confidence you need.

New Cat® Truck Model Debuts In Las Vegas

You have questions about the new Cat® CT681 Vocational Truck—we have answers. Dave Schmitz, Caterpillar’s global on-highway truck product manager, shared the details about this new set-forward-axle model that made its debut at CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2014 in Las Vegas last month.

Q: Why add a set-forward axle truck? What kinds of customers will the CT681 appeal to?

A: Many of our customers are affected by bridge law formulas in their states or on the interstate highway system, and the set-forward-axle design helps them maximize their loads. Other customers prefer a longer wheelbase truck for better ride quality on long hauls or rough haul roads. For them, a set-forward-axle model like the CT681 is ideal. We built it to haul heavy loads, work hard and last for years, even in the toughest applications.

Q: How is the CT681 different than the first Cat Truck model, the CT660?
A: The set-forward axle is obviously a big change from the set-back-axle CT660. The CT681, which is focused only on truck applications, also sports a different look—it’s still rugged, but features more industrial styling.
The biggest differences are the features available on the front of the truck—the CT681’s optional Front Frame Extension (FFE) and Front Engine PTO (FEPTO). These options make it quick and easy for customers to mount attachments like snow plows, hose reels, winches and hydraulic pumps. We also worked to maintain a short (114”) Bumper-to-Back-of-Cab (BBC) to allow more room and flexibility in installing bodies behind the cab. Mixer installation is simple, too, with vertical tie-in plates mounted behind the cab. The CT681 is all about maximizing payload and providing flexibility to set up the ideal truck for a customer’s application.

Q: Do the CT681 and CT660 share any common features?
A: Yes—quite a few, in fact. We wanted to build on what’s already proven with the CT660 wherever possible. The cab is identical, just as spacious, comfortable and ergonomic to help boost driver productivity and safety. Both trucks are powered by Cat CT Series Vocational Truck Engines and available with the Cat CX31 Automatic Transmission, which has been very popular with our CT660 owners and drivers. The many features incorporated into the CT660’s truck chassis are also available on the CT681. And of course, like all Cat products, both trucks are backed by bumper-to-bumper Cat dealer service.

Q: Has the CT681 been at work on any jobsites yet?
A: We’ve actually had it working on quite a few customer job sites across North America since the third quarter of last year. So far, it’s been used as a snow plow, concrete mixer, water truck, dump truck and super dump truck. This is what we call a “field follow program” at Caterpillar, and it’s the equivalent of more than three years of actual truck use. We’re confident the CT681 is ready to handle whatever tough jobs our customers throw at it.

Q: Can I buy a CT681 today?
A: We expect to be in full production by the middle of 2014. So talk to your local Cat dealer—the order board is open!
Thanks, Dave—we appreciate your insights! To learn more about the new CT681 Cat Vocational Truck, check out all the features on drivecat.com, including a spec video and 360° views.

Thank you for your response.


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