Innovation in the machinery business has become the bread and butter for agriculture. Every update or new model brings the potential for added productivity, enhanced performance or new use; and in today’s competitive environment, that’s almost a given. A recent trip to Peoria, Ill., offered a look at some new tools from Caterpillar that have both on- and off-farm potential.
During its annual media event, Caterpillar launched a new compact wheel loader — the 903D, which has some potential as a skid-steer replacement for many operations. There are enhancements to the 918M compact wheel loader, which was launched in 2016. And the popular Caterpillar side-by-side utility vehicle gets a stretch version for seating up to five people.
Rethinking skid-steer jobs
Joel Grimes, wheel loader marketing and sales support manager, Cat Building Construction Products, said the 903D was developed from some long conversations with customers. “We learned that customers wanted to move more material,” he said. “So, we increased payload by 25% per pass, improved ground speed by 25% — and we’ve added a wider range of attachments for one machine.”
That payload boost, now at 5,400 pounds, means the machine can move bales, push snow or do fork work that might at one time have been done by a bigger machine. The compact size of the 903D offers maneuverability, too.
There’s some interesting engineering as well. Grimes explained that for some markets, these machines are moved over the road, where weight limits are a problem. “We kept this machine under 10,000 pounds, and you can tie it down with two straps,” he noted. “We boosted payload by pulling the front axle 6 inches farther forward.”
That longer wheelbase changes the machine’s ability to haul material. Add in that ground speed has been boosted to 12.5 mph, and the 903D is a versatile material handler around the farm. In addition, the new machine can use the full range of skid-steer attachments available from Cat. During the media demonstration, it was hooked up to a landscape product for leveling soil — but a bucket, a brush or a plow is also possible.
Updating a workhorse
The 918M wheel loader, which Cat calls a compact wheel loader, was added to the line in 2016. It has features a lot of farmers and ranchers have found useful. For 2019, there are improvements that add even more value to the machine.
Grimes noted that with some key optional equipment, the 918M can be more versatile. “We’re offering 10% more lift height and reach,” he said. “And with the 20.5 R25 tires, we’re adding 20% more tire life.”
There’s also a Fusion Coupler system that makes it easy to change bucket attachments on the machine. And Cat has a unique bucket design with has a higher capacity that’s popular for moving a range of materials, like feed from bunk to mixer truck.
Grimes noted that the with the Fusion Coupler, which is a Cat-patented interface to swap attachments, there are common attachments now for the line — from the 918M all the way to the big 980. “We’ve successfully offered a mixed fleet with the machine’s big brothers,” Grimes said.
Those bigger tires, while adding to tire life, also improve the ride of the 918M, Grimes noted.
More room to ride
It was just last year that Caterpillar got into the side-by-side utility vehicle business, and those machines just started rolling into dealerships in mid-2018. For 2019, Caterpillar is adding two new models, both designed to carry more people.
Norma Aldinger, marketing manager, Cat Utility Vehicles, explained that these new models — like their two-seat brethren —, were clean-sheet designs with Caterpillar working with Textron Off Road for their creation. “This is a clean-sheet design, and we wanted to build a vehicle that is Cat-tough. We had customer input from the very beginning,” Aldinger said. “These machines have also gone through thousands of hours of testing with customers in their applications, through all seasons.”
The two new machines include the CUV85 gasoline model and the CUV105D diesel. Both are built to seat up to five passengers for moving around the farm or jobsite. Both machines feature 2,000 pounds of towing capacity, and they can haul up to 1,000 pounds.
For the gas-powered CUV85, the top speed is 45 mph; during a test drive (at Cat’s indoor demonstration facility), the machine showed plenty of acceleration pickup, and the suspension system provided a smooth ride. In the gas machine, it’s possible to set a 25-mph top speed through the machine’s controls, limiting user speed if needed.
For the diesel-powered CUV105D, top speed is 25 mph. Some may find that speed better around the farm, depending on the operator. The diesel engine provides solid acceleration.