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.

Fix It Yourself Or Turn To A Professional?

It’s a fact: At some point, your truck will need servicing or repairs. When it does, you have a decision to make—service it yourself or turn to a professional like your Cat® dealer? Most owners/operators have the technical know-how to manage routine service needs like checking fluid levels, changing oil and performing required filter maintenance. When it comes to more complex issues, though, you may not have the knowledge or tools to do the work. In addition, certain repairs should be diagnosed and performed by a technician who’s received the proper training and has access to special tooling.

So how do you make the right decision? Here are three things to “know”:

1. Know your Operation and Maintenance Manual.
It may not be the most compelling read, but take the time to familiarize yourself with your truck’s Operation and Maintenance Manual. It not only provides details on general truck operation, but it also includes specific information about scheduled maintenance services and maintaining fluid levels correctly. The manual also lets you know when a warning lamp indicates a potential problem that can be scheduled for a service visit—or if your truck needs to be taken out of service immediately for repair.

2. Know your lamps, alarms and displays.
Speaking of warnings, one of the best things about new trucks is that they can tell you when something’s wrong—you just need to pay attention. That’s why it’s important to get to know your truck’s indicator lamps, alarms and digital displays and learn what do about them. An illuminated DPF warning light, for example, may simply call for some driver interaction (although it could elevate to dealer intervention if the driver fails to heed the warning). An amber engine warning light, on the other hand, may necessitate scheduling a trip to your Cat dealer for resolution—and a stop engine lamp requires immediate attention.

3. Know your limitations.
Finally, make an honest assessment of your (and your team’s) service capabilities when it comes to various maintenance and repair needs. Do you have the tools and training to complete the work in a safe, satisfactory manner? Or would it be more time- and cost-effective to use a professional? Because uptime is a priority, many owners/operators choose to have their Cat dealer perform even routine services. They know the dealer has the parts, fluids and tooling on hand to get the job done quickly. Your dealer can also make sure your engine gets the latest calibration and complete or schedule any other needed services.

Even if you’re totally confident in your abilities to service and repair in-house, remember that your Cat dealer is there to offer expertise and advice. Dealer technicians go through many hours of required training specific to vocational trucks—and they’re backed up by a network of senior dealer service personnel and factory engineers available to help resolve any issue that may arise. Whatever the problem, you can rest assured there’s a team ready to help you get back up and running quickly!

The Right Specs Can Save You Time & Money

With all the options available these days, it’s easy to make a mistake when specing your truck. You can fix minor errors like selecting the wrong radio or seat, or overlooking a fuel heater or remote-mounted jumpstart studs, without too much effort and expense. But correcting major specing mistakes—engine, axles, height and weight—can be extremely expensive and may cause a body builder to refuse to put a body on your truck.

Communicate, communicate, communicate
So what’s the best way to avoid costly specing mistakes? In one word: communication! Talk to your Cat® dealer upfront about your application, what you’re looking for, what works well (and what doesn’t) on your current truck, and when your truck spec was last updated. Because the industry is constantly changing, what worked well 10 years ago may not be your best choice today. Your dealer can make recommendations on new advancements and the best ways to eliminate previous issues.

If you’re ordering a straight truck, let your dealer know the name of your body builder, your body builder’s requirements, and how much cab to axle tandem (CA), axle to end of frame (AF) and clear frame rail (clean CA) is needed BEFORE you order. Relocating mid-chassis components can be very costly, if not impossible. Your dealer may want to visit with your body builder to verify all the requirements.

For fleet customers, it never hurts to get your drivers’ input. It makes them feel like part of the team and gives them confidence they’ll get a truck they’ll be happy driving. And when your drivers are happy, there’s a good chance they’ll stay with your company.

Double-check these specs
• ENGINE: Know the horsepower demands of your application. You don’t want your truck to be under-powered, but you also don’t want to pay for more power than you need (unless you need a high HP rating for resale value). If you normally haul 80,000 pounds, but occasionally need to haul 120,000 pounds, spec for the worst-case scenario.
• REAR AXLE GEAR RATIO: Make sure you adjust it accordingly if you change tire sizes or transmission from your previous spec.
• DOT REQUIREMENTS & BRIDGE LAWS: Know the regulations in your state and make sure you have the correct wheel base to meet them.
• HEIGHT: If overall height is a concern, ask your body builder about the maximum allowable frame height. On tractors, know your maximum fifth-wheel height. Your Cat dealer can help you calculate both frame and fifth-wheel heights.
• AXLE WEIGHT RATINGS: You may have selected the correct axle and suspension, but a lower rated tire could limit your axle’s overall capacity. Axle weight ratings are determined by the weakest of these four components: axle, suspension, wheel and tire. Ask your Cat dealer to check the final axle weight ratings.

Don’t be afraid to experiment
Part of managing a business is trying new things to make it more profitable and productive. You may wonder if you can get by with three batteries instead of four to save money and weight. Or you may have heard that other companies are specing new wide-base, single-drive tires instead of duals to improve fuel economy. The only way you’ll know if options like these will work for you is to give them a try. Ask your Cat dealer and body builder for advice. You may be thrilled with the results—or at the very least, you’ll have learned a valuable lesson for next time.

When it comes to specing your next truck, the bottom line is this: Spending a little time upfront to make sure everything is in order can save you lots of time and money down the road. And remember, your Cat dealer is always available to help—together, you can spec a truck that’s just right for the job at hand.

New vs. Overhaul: What’s The Winner For Your Business?

Does the new year have you thinking about new trucks? Or perhaps overhauling your current trucks? The decision to buy new or overhaul is a big one—and it shouldn’t come down merely to price. We asked our on-highway truck experts for a more comprehensive list of factors to consider. Here are 10 questions they say you ought to be asking yourself:

1. What are the financial implications for your business?
Capital outlay, liquidity, operating and maintenance costs, resale value—there are financial pros and cons on both sides of the new versus overhaul debate. Talk to your accountant or financial advisor about what makes the most sense for your situation.

2. What are the tax implications?
Depreciation may be a big factor in some companies’ decisions—for others, it may not matter at all. This is another area where it makes sense to turn to your tax or financial advisor for advice specific to your business.

3. What financing options are available?
Low- or no-interest-rate programs may make buying new a more attractive and accessible option. At the same time, some financial services companies may finance the cost of an overhaul. Check out all your options.

4. How good is your PM program?
If you’re already committed to a regular, thorough preventive maintenance program, your trucks may be prime candidates for overhaul—and you may have the expertise on-hand or depend on a trusted Cat Dealer to keep overhauled trucks up and running. If not, are you willing to commit to improving PM to keep uptime high?

5. How much downtime can you absorb?
Consider the trade-off between the higher upfront cost of a new truck and the greater maintenance and shop time associated with an overhauled one as you make your decision. Additionally, during the overhaul itself, the trucks will be out of service.

6. Can you support older rebuilt trucks?
Many companies are facing a shortage of qualified service technicians. What’s your situation? Do you have the staff or a trusted Dealer to support the increased maintenance requirements of overhauled trucks?

7. Is fuel economy an issue?
As they’ve worked to meet emissions standards, engine manufacturers have also been making improvements in other areas—and many of today’s trucks offer significantly better fuel economy. Take into account how fuel costs may affect your bottom line.

8. What technical advancements are important to you?
In addition to better fuel economy, new trucks may feature a variety of other enhancements—ranging from technical updates to driver conveniences to onboard technologies—which may boost productivity and lower operating costs. Are these advancements worth the expense of buying new to you and your drivers?

9. Is driver recruitment or retention an issue?
Do you have experienced drivers who are happy and productive in your current trucks? Or are you looking to attract new, skilled drivers who may be drawn to an employer with an updated fleet?

10. Do you have the expertise to perform an overhaul?
Doing overhauls in-house requires manpower , service bays, and technical knowledge. Can your operation handle the additional work—or do you have a trusted Dealer who can supplement your efforts?

When it comes to the new versus overhaul decision, there’s no one solution that applies to every company. In fact, there are numerous options in between, such as Reman engines and purchasing pre-owned trucks. But if you carefully consider your answers to these 10 questions—and talk through them with your trusted advisors—you’ll be well on your way to making the right choice for your business in 2014.

Comply Now or Pay Later: Do You Know Your DOT & CSA Responsibilities?

Think you’re not subject to Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations because you use your truck on a jobsite, not the highway? You might need to think again. If you operate a vehicle that weighs more than 10,000 pounds on a U.S. public road—even just to fill up with gas or move to another jobsite—you must have a DOT number. And if you have a DOT number, you’re subject to Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) enforcement. What does that mean? Caterpillar’s DOT compliance manager has some answers.

Q: What’s CSA and what does it measure?

It’s a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration initiative to reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities related to commercial motor vehicles. CSA has been around for years, but a new enforcement and compliance model was rolled out in 2010 to help address safety problems before crashes occur. Now, anyone operating a vehicle with a DOT number is scored in seven basic categories:

  • Unsafe driving
  • Hours of service compliance
  • Driver fitness
  • Controlled substances/alcohol
  • Vehicle maintenance
  • Hazardous materials compliance
  • Crash indicator

You’re scored based on data from roadside inspections, safety-based violations, state-reported crashes and the federal motor carrier census. (You can find details about all seven categories here.)

Q: What happens if I get a bad CSA score?

You’ll be hearing from the DOT. It generally starts with a warning letter, but can work its way up to an offsite or onsite investigation. Fines can be astronomical if you don’t comply, and the DOT can even shut down your business.

Q: How do I make sure I’m in compliance?

Start by making sure you can answer yes to these questions:

  • Do you have a DOT number?
  • Do you have someone on staff who coordinates your DOT program?
  • Do you have policies and procedures in place to make sure you’re complying with DOT and CSA regulations?
  • Do you have a resource for training your drivers to comply with DOT and CSA regulations?
  • Are you keeping good records in case of an investigation?

Then, do some regular monitoring throughout the year to make sure you stay in compliance:

  • Check your CSA scores online once a week.
  • Check your drivers’ motor vehicle records at least once a year.
  • Make sure your drivers’ DOT medical cards and driver qualification files are in order at least once a year.
  • If you operate any vehicles over 26,000 pounds, make sure your drivers are enrolled in a DOT-approved drug and alcohol testing program.

Q: Where do I go for more information?

As always, you can turn to your Cat dealer for advice on what regulations apply to your business. The CSA website is a great resource, too—you can get all the details on the program, learn about your role as a truck owner or driver, view FAQs and even link directly to your CSA scores. (Truck owners in Canada, be sure to check out the Transport Canada website as regulations may differ.)

Compliance can be a scary word, but it doesn’t need to be. Just make sure you know your responsibilities and put some basic checkpoints in place. It’s better to spend a little time now making sure you’re in compliance than to deal with potentially large fines and lost uptime down the road.

Driving In A Winter Wonderland

For most of us, there’s no getting around it: winter is coming. (For some of us, it’s already been here. How about the blizzard that hit the Great Plains in early October?) That means the time is now to make sure your truck is ready for the chilly temperatures, snow and ice that are sure to come over the next few months. We asked one of our Cat® Truck maintenance experts for advice on how to keep your truck operating as safely and productively as possible this winter. Here are his top five winterization tips:

1. Do it now.

There’s no hard and fast rule on exactly when to winterize, since conditions vary so much from region to region (and year to year). That said, the best approach is to do it BEFORE temperatures in your area begin to drop below freezing on a regular basis. Something else you should do right now: Confirm the chain laws for your area (or any area you might be passing through) and make sure you have what’s required.

2. Begin with a good once-over.

To get started, give your truck a thorough walkaround. Check all the major systems and components and replace any damaged or worn parts. Then, make sure you:

  • Inspect your water separator
  • Remove any moisture from your air lines
  • Drain any water from your air tanks
  • Change the filters in your air dryers
  • Inflate your tires to the proper pressure rating

Now, completing this walkaround doesn’t give you an excuse to skip your regular pre-trip inpsections! It only takes a couple minutes each day to check your tire pressure, inspect airline hoses for cracking and make sure your lights are working and free of snow, dirt or film.

3. Fill up with winter blend.

Diesel fuel can gel and clog filters at low temperatures. Even worse, any water that makes its way into your fuel system can freeze and cause major damage. To avoid these problems, fill up your trucks with winter-blend diesel, which is a mix of 1D and 2D—and carry some spare fuel filters just to be safe. (You might consider anti-gel additives for even more protection.) You’ll also want to add a winter-blend antifreeze with a low pH level.

4. Get your wipers ready.

Is there anything more annoying than driving with a salt- and snow-smeared windshield only to discover you’re out of windshield wiper fluid? Don’t let that happen. Fill up your tank with winter-blend wiper fluid now. You might also want to install winter wiper blades, which do a good job of keeping snow and ice from catching between the blade and your windshield.

5. Prepare for the unexpected.

No matter how well you winterize your truck, you still need to be ready for the season’s nasty surprises. So pack an emergency kit for your truck that includes cold-weather gear, blankets, food, water and other survival items. You’ll be glad you did if you end up stranded.

Following these simple tips can help you reduce unplanned downtime, keep productivity high, and stay safe on the roads and jobsite this winter. Want more advice on winterizing? Just ask the experts at your Cat dealer. And stay warm out there!

Make Your Truck Shine

We get a lot of compliments on the look of the Cat Truck. And we’ve noticed through our Facebook and Twitter posts that people love to see how other customers are customizing their CT660s—whether it’s the paint colors they choose, the body styles they select or the accessories they add. So we’re excited to share a new option for Cat Truck owners looking to add some shine to their trucks: a full line of chrome accessories from Dieter’s. Andrew Hotle, one of our aftermarket truck parts specialists, has the details on products that can help you enhance the look and increase the value of your Cat Truck.

What can Cat Truck customers buy from Dieter’s?

Dieter’s offers a full product line of high-quality stainless steel truck accessories for all makes and models—nearly every decorative and functional truck exterior accessory you might want. Some of the options available include:

  • Sun visors
  • Bug and grille deflectors
  • Door handle accents & trim
  • Hood emblem accents
  • Door kick panels, sill plates & window shades
  • Fresh air intake covers
  • Step covers
  • Cab panels

What are some of the most popular options?

We’ve seen a lot of interest in sun visors, door and step panels, air tank and step covers, bug shields and light bars.

Why did Caterpillar decide to work with Dieter’s?

Dieter’s strives for the highest quality and durability in stainless steel truck accessories. One of the biggest benefits of ordering through Dieter’s is that you can buy parts for every brand of truck—you’re not limited to one make or model. Plus, Dieter’s is always flexible to work with you on new part designs and custom fittings.

How can a customer see what’s available and place an order?

Just visit Dieter’s website or check with your Cat dealer. Some have custom parts displays set up in their dealerships.

Thanks, Andrew! If you’re looking to add some personality and value to your Cat Truck, chrome accessories from Dieter’s are a great option—they’ll make your truck shine in more ways than one.

Thank you for your response.


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