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.

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

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, 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.

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