Machine Matters: Choice Controls

The operators who finesse motor graders doing site prep, grading road beds, maintaining county roads and battling snow-covered highways manage one of the toughest pieces of construction equipment. Kent Stickler, grader product manager for Deere says it takes several years of training for operators to learn how to get “on grade.” Once they’ve mastered their machines, Stickler says, “They are some of the most accomplished, experienced guys on a jobsite.”

Steve Moore, product manager with Komatsu, agrees and says, “Motor graders are operator-sensitive and the people who run them are unique. Grader operators are like finish carpenters on a job and are picky about their work. They want to operate a machine that has the type of controls that work best for them.”

With that in mind, today’s grader models now fit a variety of operator preferences.

“Some operators want the traditional console industry-standard low effort control levers,” Stickler says. “Other operators like to work with armrest-mounted fingertip controls. Many say they still want a steering wheel.”

Industry-standard low-effort lever controls paired with steering wheels are available from Case, Volvo, Komatsu and Champion. Cat’s M-Series graders replace hydraulic levers and the steering wheel with two multi-function joystick controls: all machine controls are on the left joystick and implement controls are on the right joystick. In addition, a twist axis on the left joystick adds articulation control and circle rotation on the right joystick.

LeeBoy also offers joystick control of their grader functions on their 705 model. Deere’s new G-Series graders have an option of conventional controls or armrest-mounted fingertip controls, both with a steering wheel.

The new operator control configurations are also increasing operator comfort. Stickler says an operator testing armrest-mounted controls said it was the first time in 35 years his back didn’t hurt at the end of the day. Cat says their dual joystick controls reduce hand and wrist movement as much as 78 percent compared to conventional controls. High, wide and heated seats with ergonomically designed armrest consoles reduce operator fatigue throughout a long shift.

Grade control systems
Grade control systems give operators better control of the quality and accuracy of their grading. To accommodate these systems, manufacturers are building factory-ready graders outfitted with electronic and hydraulic infrastructures that allow contractors to install grade control systems of their choice, either from the dealer or later.

Since graders are complex machines to master, Volvo Construction Equipment has developed a two-person cab offering on its G900 Series. The training cab allows the trainee and instructor to sit side by side. The instructor’s seat is positioned off to the left, while the operator’s seat is in the same position as it would be in a one-person cab. “With a grader expert sitting right beside the trainee, it’s easy to explain the features and demonstrate them at the same time,” says Henry Pietens, training manager for motor graders at Volvo. The swap out between a one-person cab to a two-person cab can be accomplished in less than a day.

Champion C110 C
Champion’s new C-series mid-size production class graders bridge the gap between compact and full sized graders. The C110 C model features a six-cylinder Cummins engine that is matched to a Funk DF150 drivetrain and gear-driven NAF tandems. Champion says the gear-driven drive system withstands severe stress caused by load-shocks better than a chain-drive system, and provides less wear and longer life. According to Champion, gears give less backlash or slack in the driveline, resulting in less lag time when the operator is performing several direction changes. Champion’s C-Series will include the C116 C with all wheel drive in late 2009.

Volvo 960
Equipped with the optional HTE1160 autoshift transmission, Volvo’s 960 grader offers 11 speeds forward and 6 speeds in reverse. The 20-foot 6-inch-long wheel base on Volvo’s 960 grader places optimum weight over the blade, producing more blade down force for fast and economical one-pass finishing. The all-wheel-drive system gives operators a choice of a four-wheel tandem drive, a six-wheel drive for greater traction and high-speed snow removal plus ‘creep mode,’ a hydrostatically driven two-wheel, front-wheel-only drive system for fine grading. Industry-standard pedestal controls give precise feedback and intuitive lever placement helps the operator focus on the work area. Volvo began moving its grader activities from Ontario, Canada, to Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, last fall and estimates the move will be complete in 2010.

Caterpillar 140M
Cat’s electro-hydraulic joystick control system on its M-Series motor graders replaces as many as 15 levers and a steering wheel found on previous models. The intuitive joystick steering control technology on Cat’s 140M model grader creates a direct relationship between the lean angle of the joystick and the running angle of the steer tires. The left joystick controls direction and speed and the right joystick controls drawbar, circle and moldboard functions. The exclusive articulation return-to-center feature returns the machine to a straight frame position from any articulation angle at the touch of a button. The power management system on the 140M delivers additional horsepower in 5-horsepower increments as the transmission gear selection increases, allowing the machine to carry heavy loads while downshifting.

Case 865 VHP
The Case variable horsepower 865 grader delivers up to 205 horsepower and gives traction control while maximizing fuel economy. Ease-of-maintenance features include a one-piece, flip-up hood that provides complete access to the engine and cooling systems at ground line daily inspections. Ground-level fuel fill with lockable cap means no more climbing on the tandems to reach the fill port. The adjustable steering column and grouped low-effort controls help keep the operator comfortable and increase his control.

Komatsu GD675-3
Komatsu’s GD675-3 grader features a dual mode transmission that allows the operator to choose a lock-up torque converter drive for smooth power and speed, or direct drive for maximum productivity removing snow. Reduce wheel spin with the manual lock/unlock differential. The GD675-3 comes standard with Komtrax and an electronic machine monitoring system. The low front nose provides good visibility and the cab’s tinted, angled front and rear glass reduce heat and dust build up. Brakes are fully hydraulic. Pivoting control console and tilt steering wheel.

LeeBoy 705
LeeBoy’s new 705 grader features left and right hand joystick controls and a touch pad control console screen that displays machine diagnostics. The 10- foot sliding and tilting moldboard with 18-inch right or left side shift and 36-inch shoulder reach allows the operator to shift the blade in or out of hard to reach areas. The 705 has an infinitely variable forward travel speed that reaches 20 mph. All wheel drive is available as an option. LeeBoy’s climate-controlled cab has 10 percent more glass than previous models for increased operator visibility.