New style grading

A local Caterpillar dealer puts a grader from the 1930s alongside a new fly-by-wire M-series.

IT'S IN THE BROCHURE: The design of the M-series will need explaining to even the most experienced operator as it is different to drive
IT'S IN THE BROCHURE: The design of the M-series will need explaining to even the most experienced operator as it is different to drive

A local Caterpillar dealer puts a grader from the 1930s alongside a new fly-by-wire M-series.

Motor Graders were a relative late-comer to the PMV scene, with the machines seriously taking off in the late 1960s.

Since this time the mainstay has been Caterpillar's G and later H-range.

Introduced about forty years ago, the machines have been popular, with ancient examples still commanding tens of thousands of dollars in a machine auction.

However, it was time to replace these old hydro-mechanical models with somtheing up-to-the-minute.

So it was not before time when, last year, the firm launched an up-to-date grader.

The machine enjoyed it's Middle East launch at a party in March, but Sudhir Tripathi, Marketing manager, Al Bahar Caterpillar, showed us the some of the new vehicles features, with a vintage pre-WW2 grader alongside to compare it to.

"A traditional motor-grader from the old days had about fifteen levers with a steering wheel as well" he explained.

Although the classic grader we were looking at pre-dated any operator still working today, the view from the cab of the outgoing models was nearly as bed, due to the increased amount of equipment in the cab and position of the moldboard and blade.

"In the old model you had to stand, and while working fifteen levers. It was the crazy part of it, as the operator couldn't see the edge of the blade that does the so he sees what he needs to with no obstructions to his view" explained Tripathi.

The new cab has angled windows, so the operator gets a relatively good field of vision around him.

The new grader was parked up alongside a classic machine, believed to date back to the late 1930's.

The Al-Bahar dealership had the chance to pick up the machine at auction, which they did, whereupon they restored it back to original specification.

To be fair, it is a lovely old example, as most grading tools of this era were powered by four-legged powerplants, and right up until the 1970's it was the norm to have an open platform with no seat.

The difference between it and the newcomer are clear, though. The old model has almost no visibility you really would need to work with the door open to see the tip of the blade.

Also, levers sprout from every part of the cab, with the centre dominated by an enormous thin-rimmed steering wheel.

The seat is surprisingly well padded and springy, but it could hardly be described as ergonomic, we'd imagine even the most agile driver would have very tired limbs after a day behind the wheel of this machine.
 

In stark contrast the new machine was a palace of contours and ergonomics. However, the biggest new feature is the drive system.

As mentioned, old machines had an array of controls the layman would find mind-boggling, so it comes as a surprise to us that the newcomer is driven with just two electronic levers.

"Many other machines, such as skid-steer loaders are now driven with two joysticks, even large wheel-loaders and tractors are driven with “sticks so this is where the whole world is going."

The operators of these machines often command the highest salary, on site, because the work is so difficult. However, the new design has harvested the amount of levers down to just two, and apart from a couple of foot pedals, that is it. There isn't even a steering wheel.

Tripathi explained "There are lots of adjustments that need doing on the machines. The circle of the mouldboard means the blade can be twisted or angled, and the front wheel can lean this way or that way and all of those fifteen levers are used and literally, with the (outgoing) design, you can't sit to use it. Now the operator can sit, less time so it improves safety as well."

"And there are a lot of different changes inside the machine. From a point of view of maintenance and service there are major improvements. On the old model it was a job to go underneath it, to open this and that, and put shims in and anything that is difficult to do, won't get done."

"So Caterpillar said, 'We will make it easy, and when we make it easy it will get done.' So on this part here, there are shims that will get worn out, Now this can all be done from the top. Four bolts... I could talk about this all day." he enthused, adding;

"The G and H were basically the same. There wasn't much change in them as far as technology was concerned."

"If you have the AccuGrade and put this technology in front of you anyone could be a grader operator - I could do it!

"The grader is very difficult to drive, still, you can't take away the 'feel' needed for the final touch, obviously not."

Besides these benefits to the operators, Tripathi is quick to point out the cost implications to the famously flint-hearted site managers, particularly when coupled with a robotic total solution, in this case the firm's patented AccuGrade system.

"Measure the cost (of Accugrade) after two years and you will se that you have saved so much money. All the driver has to do is front, and reverse once you have put all the satellite readings in place."

Getting into his element, Tripathi also emphasizes other benifits of the new machine. "So the styling is quite different. Also, the decibel improvement is also vast." He added "The gearing is different, from planetary to countershaft."

"Our world is not exciting in the way that Formula One is, but this is about as exciting as it gets."

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