The newest kid on the block expands its range and shows it remains very serious in its intentions

The introduction of Cat Trucks into the Australian market has certainly not been without its hitches. From an initial intention to build all its stock from imported components at the Tullamarine Caterpillar facility we’ve seen all that change to full importation from the Navistar factory in Garland Texas. That scenario also changed when International Trucks and its parent company Navistar went through some well publicised restructuring that saw the Garland plant closed.

Navistar is not yet out of the financial woods, but with a new global approach under president and CEO Troy Clarke, the world according to Navistar is changing, albeit slowly, and the wolves of Wall Street appear to be retreating, or at least staying at the edge of the forest. While things are not yet anywhere near perfect on the balance sheet, the vista on the horizon is looking a lot clearer, and there’s a new and stronger purpose about the company and how it intends to stay in business.

Any company changing the source of its supply routes, in this case from Garland, Texas, to Springfield, Ohio, is going to experience supply chain disruptions, and Cat Trucks is no exception. The Australian dealer group has had to wait patiently for stock through the latter part of 2013, a distinct difference from just a year or so earlier when the output from Caterpillar’s plant at Tullamarine could be seen clearly from the freeway, sitting on grass and waiting for buyers.

Cat heavyweight, Bill Fulton, who was instrumental in establishing the NC2 Cat Trucks brand in Australia, has now headed home to Peoria, Illinois, and his place as managing director, Australia and New Zealand, has been taken by UK born Kevin Dennis.

Dennis is no stranger to the Australian truck market, or indeed to the global truck industry, having served his time in the US with Detroit Diesel, Daimler Trucks North America, and in his earlier days with Perkins Engine Company in the UK.

Having spent his career in the UK, Africa, Scandinavia and North America, he brings a solid level of experience to the Australian division of NC2 and Cat Trucks’ operations. He takes up his new role at a time when not only does the company have its product supply lines in place, it has new products to add to the existing line-up.

“The opportunities for Cat Trucks are huge,” said Mr. Dennis. “Sure, it has been a challenging start in some respects. Launching an entirely new brand of truck in a market as demanding and competitive as Australia takes time and careful planning. In some respects, it has also been a case of working in uncharted waters.

“From here on we know exactly where we want to take this business, and there’s a great ‘can do’ attitude that stretches from here to Navistar in the US. In many ways, our future starts now, and we have a totally dedicated and capable group of people committed to the success of Cat Trucks in Australia and New Zealand,” he added.

After a two-year development programme Cat Trucks is now launching its CT630S prime mover specifically targeted at the 34-pallet B-double market. The CT630S (Short) will be offered alongside Cat’s existing CT610 and CT630 range, headed by the flagship CT630LS (Luxury Sleeper) model. When fitted with a day cab, the CT630S will be suitable for 36-pallet application.

Like all CT630 derivatives, the ‘S’ is powered by the Cat C15 engine delivering up to 550 hp (410 kW) and 1850 lb-ft (2508 Nm) of torque. Transmission choices remain between the Eaton 18-speed RTLO-20918B overdrive transmission in manual, or UltraShift PLUS automated form with Meritor RT4-160 rear axles and Hendrickson Primaax air suspension. Final drive ratios are 3.9, 4.1 or 4.3:1 and traction control is standard, together with power divider and diff’ lock on the lead axle. A diff’ lock on the rear axle is optional. Hill start is standard with the UltraShift PLUS.

The company is making great store of the claim that, with its dual particulate filters, the 15-litre Cat C15 is, in its terms, “the only engine in the Australian heavy-duty sector to comply with the current ADR 80-03 emissions standard without the added complexity and cost of exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) or selective catalytic reduction (SCR) emissions systems.”

Eventually, the traditional yellow engine and its current technology will have to give way to a total replacement, either from the blue MaxxForce engine range of International Trucks in the US, or a red engine from Cummins. But, given the introduction of Euro 6 equivalent legislation in the Australian market has yet to be given a firm date for commencement, Cat Trucks may well have until 2019/2020 before it has to address this change.

So, for the traditionalists, the Cat C15 engine lives on, and it does so under a shortened bonnet that enables the CT630S to successfully provide the correct length dimensions to operate as a 34-pallet B-double while providing the driver with a comfortable and spacious full-height integral sleeper.

There is much more to the CT630S than just a shorter bonnet. The cab has been raised around 50 mm and moved approximately 250 mm forward along the 9.5 mm thickness chassis rails to create a bumper to back-of-cab (BBC) dimension of 2845 mm (112 inches) in non-sleeper, day-cab form.

Changes made to accommodate the cab being positioned further forwards include repositioning of the cooling system, steering shafts, front suspension, exhaust system and the revised engine mounts, plus changes to the fuel tank positioning and also battery boxes. This is the first time for a Big Bore engine to appear in a short BBC day-cab offering. For the integral sleeper option, the BBC dimension of the CT630S stretches to 3505 mm (138 inches).

For line-haul operations the premium grade sleeper on the CT 630S offers a floor to ceiling height of 1985 mm, and it’s a usable space that means the driver can stand and move from the seat to the bunk and around the cab without having to duck. The width internally is a full 2250 mm. With a BBC dimension extended to 3590 mm (141 inch), it still permits the cartage of 34 pallets within 26 metres.

The 1016 mm (40 inch) mid-rise sleeper is designed and built in Australia and is added to the prime mover chassis when it arrives in Tullamarine from Springfield, Ohio.

In standard form the sleeper comes with a 711 mm (28 inch) wide fully sprung mattress. This increases to 40 inches with an innerspring mattress in the deeper sleeper. There are toolbox lockers on both sides with internal access, a lift-up under-bunk storage compartment, and the external surface of the rear wall of the cabin has been scalloped to optimise clearances between the rear of the cab and the trailer. This is especially valuable to fridge pan operators that need suitable swing clearance for the fridge unit.

With GRA-MAG high-backed and air-suspended seats, the interior of the sleeper is well appointed and instrumentation is easy to view and reach. It’s possible to slot in a full Sat/Nav and audio system in the 2xDIN dashboard radio mount position, and this keeps everything very neat and tidy.

On the options list is a fully engineered aero roof kit, while internal accessories include a refrigerator, woodgrain trim and a TV mounting kit with aerial.

Cat’s engineering division has paid attention to airflow and engine cooling for the C15, with a radiator frontal area of 1545 sq. in. and a two-speed Horton fan clutch. One of the by-products of shortening up the overall length of the unit has been the improved airflow under the cab due to the higher mounting position. The rake of the bonnet has also steepened to 18 degrees, and this has improved forward vision, especially at road level in front of the truck, which is of special significance for those operating through high traffic-flow areas.

Other standard items include four-channel Bendix ABS with Haldex automatic slack adjusters, a Sheppard power steering unit and a FUPS system built into the front polished alloy bumper bar. Currently, there are no plans for a disc-braked alternative from the standard drum brake system or EBS (Electronic Braking Systems).

With a rating of 90 tonnes, the CT630S features a huck-bolted chassis using a 4.8 mm wheelbase with an insert over the tandem drive axle mounting points. With its three-leaf parabolic springs (up from the previous twoleaf spring set), the front axle rating is 6.5 tonnes and it is fitted with steel hubs as standard. Alloy hubs are optional. According to Chief Engineer Adrian Wright, the move to a three-leaf parabolic spring design has provided gains in braking efficiency.

In the fourth quarter of this year, the Cat Trucks range gains another addition in the form of a heavy-duty road train version with gross vehicle mass limits of 90 to 130 tonnes.

“This is a natural heartland for Cat trucks and should have been a natural for release (earlier),” said Kevin Dennis.

“With an upgraded front suspension, this heavy-duty version will feature a 11.1 mm frame rail rated to 130 tonnes with the wheelbase extended from 5700 mm out to 6850 mm.

“This segment may account for 1000 units in total, annually, mainly in WA and Far North Queensland, for those wanting to pull three trailers and that want a heavier duty truck spec.

“We are not limited by supply constraints now the supply chain from Springfield is in place and we have a timescale of 150 days from order to delivery.

“For 2104, we are aiming for national sales of 320-340 units to achieve a market share of three percent for the heavy-duty segment. Within five years our aim is for 850-1000 units,” Mr. Dennis added.

The CT630S comes with a standard four-year/800,000 km driveline coverage.

Source: PowerTorque ISSUE 58

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