Reporter: Caterpillar, Navistar form truck, engine alliance

Caterpillar will produce with Navistar a Caterpillar-branded severe-service vocational truck, the companies announced June 12.

Also, Caterpillar will not produce an engine for North American on-highway truck makers that will meet stricter 2010 emissions standards, says George Taylor, company director for global on-highway products.

Those announcements are the first in a strategic partnership between the companies on vertically integrated global initiatives in diesel engine technology, Taylor and others said in a conference call with reporters.

“The writing’s on the wall for independent engine suppliers,” Taylor says, citing current on-highway engine market over-saturation amid tightening demand. “It will be increasingly difficult to participate in the North American market as an independent engine supplier.”

The new Cat-branded vocational truck will be designed for construction, logging and other severe-service applications, Taylor says. It will be introduced in the “2010 timeframe” and feature “a Caterpillar-branded engine produced by Navistar,” making use of Navistar’s manufacturing capabilities. Caterpillar dealers will exclusively sell the trucks, according to the two companies. “We’re not at a point to release design information, but the truck will have a Caterpillar feel to it,” says Charissa Ebbert, global on-highway truck media relations for Caterpillar.

The partnership represents a “cooperation on developing technology,” says Mark Stasell, Navistar vice president and general manager for diversified operations.

Taylor characterized the company’s decision to enter into the memorandum of understanding with Navistar, maker of International brand trucks, as a proactive response to Caterpillar’s position as an engine supplier. Caterpillar will move forward with Navistar to capitalize on the global market in medium- and heavy-duty trucks, using its global distribution network for construction vehicles and Navistar’s truck manufacturing capabilities to send both brands far into the global truck market, Taylor says.

According to Caterpillar, the medium-duty truck efforts will all be outside North America. North America represents only 22 percent of the global on-highway truck market, Taylor says. Caterpillar and Navistar, whose trucks are present only in the Americas, now will be able to pursue a bigger share of the “1.7 million trucks that are sold globally,” Taylor says.

Caterpillar officials say its dealerships will service Cat on-highway engines – which in recent years have been based on proprietary ACERT emissions control technology – for the life of the equipment.

A new plant in Huntsville, Alabama, completed in the past year, produces the on-highway big-bore variants of Navistar’s MaxxForce line of heavy- and medium-duty engines, but further plant expansion elsewhere could be expected for both companies in the coming years, representatives said.

“With nearly 90 percent of our engine business being off-highway, we’ll continue to concentrate on our substantial and growing opportunities to supply engines in the petroleum, marine, electric power generation and industrial markets, as well as produce engines for our own construction and mining equipment,” Douglas Oberhelman, Caterpillar group president, says.
– Todd Dills and Barbara Ibrahim Cox

Volvo, Deutz make hybrid announcements
Volvo Construction Equipment has upped the amount of fuel economy it expects from its L220F Hybrid wheel loader, and engine manufacturer Deutz says it will produce a hybrid power unit expected to reduce fuel economy by as much as 30 percent.

When Volvo unveiled its hybrid at ConExpo-ConAgg ’08, the company said it would result in a 10 percent reduction in fuel consumption. That number has increased significantly in the meantime: up to 50 percent. “We’re seeing a much stronger interest in hybrids – almost a pull – coming from our key customers,” says Tony Helsham, president and chief executive officer, which has encouraged the company to redouble its development efforts into hybrid technology. The company expects a late 2009 production date for the L220F Hybrid.

Designed for construction equipment, the Deutz hybrid power unit has a four-cylinder diesel engine, an electric motor, a battery and a control unit. Deutz developed the hybrid drive with Heinzmann, a manufacturer of engine control systems. As featured in prototype form on an Atlas Weyhausen AR65 wheel loader, the electric motor-generator is situated where the engine’s flywheel and flywheel housing are normally located. The hybrid AR65 has a 50-horsepower version, compared to a 68-horsepower engine on a standard AR65.

Deutz says its next focus will be to power the loader by a full hybrid drive system, delivering emission-free operation. It does not expect the hybrid power unit to be in full production until 2010.
– Marcia Gruver

Self-study program boosts hydraulics knowledge
“You need a manual … just to read the machine manual.”

After hearing complaints from experienced heavy equipment mechanics that modern hydraulic equipment is becoming too complicated to work on, hydraulics expert and author Brendan Casey decided to put his 19 years of experience to good use. Casey partnered with Dr. Marian Tumarkin, the former Associate Professor of Fluid Power and Fluid Mechanics and Kharkov University of Technology in Russia, to develop an advanced level self-study course.

Casey and Tumarkin spent more than 3,000 hours developing state-of-the-art simulation software. The program contains a 254-page study guide, two simulation programs and a CD with computer models and template files for the course. The course is organized into eight main sections, each of which includes a self-assessment quiz.

Casey says the program benefits anyone who wants to avoid the expense of an advanced hydraulics training course at a vocational college, but notes advanced hydraulics training is essential. “The rapid development of microprocessors and computer technology has increased the integration of electronics with hydraulics,” he says. “‘Smart’ hydraulic systems are becoming the norm rather than the exception.”

While the program – which Casey believes is the only one of its kind – isn’t for beginners, most people with some hydraulics knowledge can benefit. “For someone who has been working on hydraulic equipment for a year or more – or at least has a basic understanding of the behavior of flow and pressure in a hydraulic system and can recognize basic hydraulic symbols such as pump, relief valve and cylinder – then this program is not beyond them,” he says. “Because the program is self-paced, everyone undertaking it progresses at a rate which is comfortable for them.”

The program is currently averaging 100 students per month. Casey and Tumarkin are also working on an entry level hydraulics program. Advanced Hydraulic Control sells for $397 at
– Amy Materson

Who benefits and how?
Brendan Casey says anyone working on modern mobile or industrial hydraulic equipment will benefit from the course, including:

Mechanics and mechanically minded equipment owners – understanding the machine’s manual.

Technicians – understanding advanced hydraulic and electro-hydraulic control systems.

Design or application engineers – provides the tools and knowledge to design, specify and model complex hydraulic and electro-hydraulic control systems.

PCA reports bleak 2008 cement and construction forecast
With the economy entering a recession, the Portland Cement Association has updated its 2008 U.S. Cement and Construction Forecast to include a major sting to the cement industry – an expected 11 percent drop in Portland cement consumption this year and an additional 5.5 percent decrease in 2009. PCA predicts total cement consumption of 101.7 million metric tons this year, compared to 2007’s 114.4 million metric tons, with peak-to-trough declines (from 2005 to 2009) reaching almost 30 million metric tons.

“This could be one of the worst industry downturns since World War II,” says Ed Sullivan, PCA’s chief economist. “We have begun the third year of a four year industry contraction that began in 2006.”

Yet, the cement industry plans to expand with the addition of more than 4 million metric tons of new clinker capacity this year and hopes to add another 10 million metric tons in 2009.

“More muted policy stimulus impacts coupled with weaker underlying economic conditions suggests much weaker third quarter growth,” he says. Real GDP growth during the third quarter could range from 1.5 to 2 percent, according to PCA’s estimates.

Although this signals a slow recovery, Sullivan says it will be tricky to get businesses to buy it – especially those exposed to the construction and cement industries.
– Barbara Ibrahim Cox

Industry Briefs
New Holland begins backhoe production in United States

New Holland Construction will begin production of backhoe loaders at its Burlington, Iowa, plant, shifting production from the company’s Imola, Italy, facility. Production will include the B90B, B95B, B95BTC, B95BLR and the B110B models.

Hyundai Construction appoints new president
Hyundai Construction Equipment USA has appointed J.K. Lim as president. Lim’s responsibilities include overseeing Hyundai’s forklift and construction business in North America.

Price increase for Continental, General Tire brands
Continental Tire North America (CTNA) will increase prices by up to 8 percent on all Continental and General Tire brand original equipment truck tires in the NAFTA region. The price increase will vary by tire size and market line. The increase will take place August 1, 2008.

Kobelco to expand Calhoun plant
Kobelco Construction Machinery America will invest approximately $10.5 million in its Calhoun, Georgia, operations. The expansion includes a new $5 million, 52,000-square-foot building and a new training center at a cost of $1.5 million. Kobelco also plans to upgrade production machinery at a cost of $4 million.