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Cat rolls out set-forward-axle Class 8 work truck


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Fleet Owner / October 31, 2014

Caterpillar officially launched its CT681 Class 8 truck at a media briefing yesterday here at its Edwards Demonstration & Learning Center. The company said the new truck has entered full production-- and also revealed it will roll out another heavy-duty Class 8 next year.

The second model in Cat’s on-highway vocational truck lineup, the CT681’s set-forward-axle design is aimed at fleets that must comply with bridge law formulas where they operate seeking to maximize their loads as well as those looking for a longer-wheelbase truck to gain better ride quality on long hauls or when running over rough roads, according to Ron Schultz, sales manager— Global On-Highway Trucks.

The CT681 is offered only as a ‘daycab’ truck model with a 114-in BBC. Per Cat, that measurement “provides more room and flexibility to install bodies behind the cab.”

By comparison, Cat’s first work truck, the CT660 that was rolled out in 2011, features a set-back-axle design and is offered with 116- and 122-in BBC lengths to “provide an extra tight turning radius for enhanced maneuvering.”

Like its stablemate, the CT681 was designed and engineered by Cat and is built under contract by Navistar. Both trucks are powered by Cat CT Series vocational truck engines, which are based on Navistar’s MaxxForce SCR-equipped diesel powerplants.

The CT681 is equipped with the Cat CT13 engine in ratings from 365-430 HP and 1,250-1,550 lb/ft peak torque. Transmission choices extend from Cat’s proprietary CX31 automatic transmission with six speeds plus reverse to Eaton manual and Ultrashift Plus vocational automated (AMT) models.

Cat noted that the CX31 has been in use globally since 2004 and boasts the performance benefits of “full-power shifts and quick acceleration” as well as “ideal speed and torque combinations for improved fuel economy.” The automatic features two side PTO locations and a “Cat exclusive” rear PTO.

Of the CT-Series trucks ordered so far, Cat said over 50% have been spec’d with its CX31 transmission.

The CT13 engine was set up “specifically for vocational applications” and provides “optimum horsepower/torque combinations and the flexibility to match power and performance to specific jobs and operating conditions,” noted Cat.

Engine features include a single electronic control module (ECM) and fewer electrical connections to help reduce diagnostic and maintenance time. Also, a fluid-free head gasket eliminates the risk of coolant leaking into engine oil or exhaust gases entering the cooling system.

According to Cat, the CT681’s optional Front Frame Extension along with a front-engine PTO “makes it easy to mount attachments like snow plows, hose reels, winches and hydraulic pumps.” The company also pointed out that “mixer installation is also simple, thanks to vertical tie-in plates mounted behind the cab.”

As for the truck’s “spacious cab,” Cat stated that it “combines the best of comfort and functionality,” including such key features as an ergonomic dashboard and center stack, tuned cab air suspension system, premium-grade sound insulation, combined standard and convex mirrors and an array of driver seat options.

Safety-focused elements described by Cat include visibility by a curved, sloped, wraparound windshield (in one- or two-piece design); sealed-beam halogen headlights and LED park/turn lights; and large, heated, cowl-mounted mirrors with integrated turn signals. In addition, a “generous door opening, three-point grab irons and skid-resistant steps help ensure safe entry and exit” from the cab.

The truck comes standard with Cat’s proprietary Product Link telematics system, which collects data from on-board systems and transmits it via satellite and cellular networks to a secure Internet site. Cat said using Product Link with its web interface, VisionLink, enables fleet owners to “access accurate, timely data about how, when and where trucks are being used.”

Before the CT681 entered full production, it was put through extensive testing with North American customers as part of Caterpillar’s “field follow” program. The company said that testing amounted to the “equivalent of more than three years of heavy truck use.” Applications field-tested included snow plow, concrete mixer, dump and super dump.

“This [testing] process provides a crucial feedback loop between our customers and our vocational truck product team, identifying any required changes to design and production,” said Dave Schmitz, product manager-- Global On-Highway Trucks.

“Customers who have tested the truck tell us it drives well, it’s powerful, it’s quiet and their drivers enjoy getting behind the wheel,” he added. “Based on this feedback, we’re confident the CT681 is ready to handle whatever tough jobs our customers throw at it.”

As for that next Cat truck slated for launch next year, Ron Schultz said it will be designated the CT680 and will feature a 124-in BBC, set-forward-axle design. He pointed out that the long-nose unit will be “offered as a truck or tractor and will boast unique styling that will set it apart from both the CT660 and CT681.”

Schultz also advised that the upcoming CT680 was “designed based on extensive customer input” and is currently undergoing the same sort of filed-follow testing “throughout North America” that the CT681 did before full production ramped up.

In terms of markets, Schultz noted that Cat’s on-highway trucks are now “fully in the U.S. and Canada and we’ve recently expanded into Puerto Rico and Mexico. And we’re looking to expand further regionally.”

Regarding where else CT-Series trucks may be sold down the road, he told FleetOwner that “entering a market in a new country for us first requires understanding the laws and regulations” that impact how a truck is designed and engineered for customers there.



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