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Caterpillar hits the road

Back in the early 1970s, Caterpillar began a research and development program with the aim of building an on-highway, heavy truck. That project was eventually cancelled and the truck never did hit the market. Recently, though, senior management decided to revive the on-highway truck idea, and the first model of its kind to wear the Cat brand, the CT660, finally made its public debut at the CONEXPO equipment show last January. It was released to the market in April.

The new CT660 is a Class 8 design, which puts it at the top of the on-highway truck rating scale. Of course, you wouldn’t expect Caterpillar to do anything but introduce something big, would you? And it won’t be the only truck to wear the Cat nameplate. It’s just the first of a family of on-highway trucks the company intends to introduce.

“This is an exciting, historic milestone for Caterpillar,” says Steve Gosselin, vice president of customer services support division. “The CT660 is a natural expansion of the Cat product line and a perfect complement to other Cat equipment.”

Cat claims the final design of the CT660 is based on input gained from spending hundreds of hours with owners, drivers and managers. “Our design team paid extremely close attention to all of the customer input we gathered,” says George Taylor, director and general manager of the Caterpillar Global On-Highway Group. “And we focused on turning that information into practical reality, drawing on Caterpillar’s proven power-train experience with on-highway trucks and decades of cab design experience for other Cat equipment.”

The stylish new Cat also offers some new technology, and that starts under the hood with the engines. Three CT Series Cat diesels are available in 11.1, 12.5 and 15.2 litre versions, giving the trucks a range of horsepower from 330 to 550. These engines are equipped with sequential turbochargers and use advanced exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) to meet emissions standards.

Industry watchers report that the CT Series engines were actually developed in conjunction with Navistar (International) and are similar to the diesels that company builds. In fact, the CT Series are built at Navistar’s plant in Huntsville, Alabama. To reduce weight, they use composite graphite engine blocks making them 500 pounds lighter than standard cast iron types.

Cat claims the CT diesels develop peak torque at a lower RPM than most of the competition, which allows drivers to shift gears at lower engine speeds improving fuel economy.

Coupled to those engines, Cat offers its own CX31 automatic transmission as an option. Around since 2004, the CX31 offers six forward speeds. It also has what the company calls “adaptive shift-control logic.” That allows the truck to sense the operator’s driving style and adapt to it, balancing fuel economy and performance.

If you’d rather have a more familiar gearbox, Cat also offers standard and “UltraShift Plus” Eaton transmission options.

The cab is made of an aluminum alloy, so it weighs in about 250 pounds lighter than an all-steel design. The hood uses a modular construction, so if it gets damaged, only the dented sections of it need be replaced, saving collision repair costs. The front bumper, too, is a three-piece design. Another nice feature is the heated rear-view mirrors which have large, high-visibility signal lights embedded in them.

If you need to keep track of the truck’s travel and efficiency, Cat’s Product Link telematics system transmits data wirelessly to a secure internet site. It comes as standard equipment and the company includes a three-year subscription to the service with every new-truck purchase.

“Our goal was to design and manufacture the ideal truck,” says Taylor. And he adds there’s more to come. “We’re really pleased to announce the 2013 launch date for our next model in the full line — the CT680.” †

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Scott Garvey

Scott Garvey is a freelance writer and video producer. He is also the former machinery editor at Grainews.

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