Cat® Next Gen Wheel Loaders build on 60 years of success

Cat® Wheel Loaders are a tried-and-true workhorse, having proved their robustness and reliability over the years. WesTrac WA Construction Product Manager MARK TURKINGTON talks about the evolution and what’s to come for the Next Gen range of wheel loaders.



Caterpillar® has been delivering its robust range of wheel loaders for 60 years. And they’ve certainly evolved from the original rigid frame rear steer Cat 944 introduced back in 1959.

Some of the biggest drivers for that evolution have been efficiency and productivity. Emission reductions in other parts of the world have also played a big part in the technology that goes into the new models. And while Australia does not have the same strict emission control standards as some other countries, that technology is helping Australian companies achieve sustainability goals.

In terms of efficiency and productivity, operators and business owners are being driven harder and harder to be more cost effective. When you're tendering for jobs or competing for work, you have to be right on the dollar. This means moving dirt in the most effective way possible for the lowest possible cost.

There’s a whole range of new technology designed to help support that efficiency. The Cat Next Gen Medium Wheel Loader models recently released in Australia offer you massive fuel savings (up to 35% on the 982 XE) and up to a 12 per cent reduction in maintenance costs, depending on the model, due to extended service intervals.

When it comes to working more productively, integrated features such as Cat Payload ensure you can load the right amount of material onto a truck or into the crusher. And you can do an auto tip-off, for example if you’ve loaded two full passes and only need a partial bucket to complete the load. This feature means you don’t need to waste time tipping a bit off then reweighing, sometimes two to three times. With this technology, the machine knows what the total payload of the truck being loaded is and automatically tips off the correct amount to ensure a correct payload every time. It is far more efficient and vitally important given the current Australian chain-of-responsibility regulations.

There’s also a tyre set function that adjusts the weight on your front axle when loading the bucket, preventing the tyres from spinning but giving the rim-pull required to optimise loading the bucket. This reduces the time to load, tyre wear and excessive loads on the powertrain components.

Cat Next Gen Wheel Loader

Later this year, the Next Gen XE Wheel Loaders will hit Australian shores, offering you up to a 35 per cent reduction in fuel usage. That’s thanks to a continuous variable transmission and onboard technology that determines the most efficient use.

Compared to the previous 980M and 982M models, the equivalent sized Next Gen XE models also provide up to 25 per cent savings on maintenance costs, which figures given the reduced fuel usage and the resulting increase to engine life.

Note that only the 980XE and 982XE Medium Wheel Loader models will be available when they are released in late 2022.

There are also options to utilise the Autodig function and operate the machine in semi-autonomous mode. In this mode, you load the first full run yourself and the machine records the motions it goes through. With the motions recorded, you can then have the machine automatically preform these functions for the rest of the day (depending on the work you’re doing that day). Both the Next Gen and Next Gen XE machines have more room inside, low-effort controls, plus fully climate controlled and sealed cabs to ensure operator comfort. There’s also something known as the Caterpillar Production Management (CPM) system. Coupled with the inbuilt GPS, the CPM knows where the machine is at any time and monitors how it is performing. This is useful for improving your operator's performance. As an example, if one operator is loading the crusher in two minutes and another takes three minutes, we can analyse and compare how they are working, what the fuel burn is, where there might be any extra stress being put on the machine, and quickly determine optimum operating techniques.

The CPM can also help us determine when a machine might be sitting idle waiting for others, which helps with debottlenecking operations. With this technology, you’ll quickly gain visibility of your whole job site and where you can realise more efficiencies.

All the new wheel loaders have joystick controls, so there’s no steering wheel obscuring the view, and they all come with 360-degree cameras for added jobsite safety.

These new models are unbelievable compared to the wheel loaders a lot of us would have operated 30 or 40 years ago.

There are plenty of additional sustainability benefits too – in fact Caterpillar have always put a lot of emphasis on the sustainability strategy. It started back with the very first dozers and Caterpillar’s initial package to convert them from gasoline to diesel, and it’s been going on ever since. There has also been a long-term emphasis on rebuilding and reusing parts.

Given the emphasis, it’s no surprise that every new model Caterpillar launch seeks to be more fuel efficient than its predecessor and have an increased time between scheduled maintenance. Moving from pilot operated hydraulics to electric over hydraulic systems, as well as enhancing oils to be longer lasting, has in turn led to longer lasting components and this leads to greater overall sustainability.

It also goes without saying that health and safety have remained the number one priority in the design of the Cat Next Gen Wheel Loader range and there are several new features that enhance health and safety performance.

If you are planning to upgrade or purchase a medium wheel loader in 2022, how do you determine if the Next Gen or Next Gen XE is right for you? While the XE models come with a higher price tag, you’ll see a return on your investment thanks to fuel and maintenance savings. The more hours it is in use, the quicker you’ll get that ROI.

Added to that, Cat machines are certainly built to be rebuilt. With the XE, you can potentially reduce the number of rebuilds over the entire life of the machine or extend that life considerably. These models burn less fuel so there’s reduced stress on the engine, and they also have a variable transmission which means a longer transmission life.

If you’d like to know more about the Cat Next Gen Wheel Loader range, click below.

Author: Mark Turkington

Mark Turkington
Mark is a Construction Product Manager (GCI) based out of WesTrac WA. Mark has been in the role since 2017 and is a product specialist for the construction industry.

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