February 2013, TruckingInfo.com - Test Drives
The CT-660 comes with a setback steer axle. A CT-680 with a set-forward axle is due out later this year.
When reviewing a product like the Caterpillar CT-660, there is no replacement for getting the opinion of the people who have been using it day in and day out.
“The drivers love it,” said John “Dick” Jones, president of Jones Fuel Co. in Columbus, Ohio, talking about the fleet’s first in-service dump truck. So far the 16-wheeler has suffered only “teething problems” that are to be expected of a brand-new model, he said. I got a chance to drive it soon afterward.
It's one of three the fleet ordered. Jones and his vice president and partner, Jack Fink, liked Cat's vocational-only approach with the product, and appreciated the promise of good service from the local dealer.
Most trucks in the Jones’ 50-unit fleet are Sterlings, a brand that disappeared during the Great Recession.
With Sterling out of production, the recession receding and hauling activity picking up, their investigation of possible replacements led them to Cat and its local dealer, Ohio Caterpillar.
Cat does not sell over-the-road tractors, so a Jones truck will never wait in line as vehicles from ‘ big national-account fleets get priority attention — something Jones and Fink were afraid would happen with other truck brands.
When you approach a Cat truck from the front, you're visually slammed by its distinctive, big and chromey nose, and you hardly notice the aluminum cab as being from International's PayStar.
The interior is nicely appointed with east-to-use controls and legible instruments.
Inside, the steering wheel, dashboard, instrument and control panels, and everything else had an upscale look and feel. Most surfaces were padded with nice-looking materials in muted grays.
The gauges and switches were handsome and legible, and the many switches were fairly easy to identify and use.
The CT's combined speedometer-tachometer might be unique in on-highway trucks. A single circle surrounds two arcs made by the meters, which are still plenty large enough to read while leaving room in the dash for other gauges. Easy-to-comprehend rotary knobs control the heater and air conditioner.
Like other dumpers in the fleet, Number 203, Jones's first operational CT-660, is a 16-wheeler with three steerable, liftable pusher axles to comply with Ohio's bridge formula law.
Some operators here run 18-wheel super dumps with four pusher axles, but Jones sticks with three. They're enough to add capacity and stability without further stretching frame length and wheelbase, the bosses explained.
The setback steer axle suits this operation because it enables a tight wheel cut and a rather short turning circle, which I noticed while leaving the yard. (Later this year, Cat will begin offering a CT-680 model with a forward-set steer axle for users in stricter bridge-formula states, primarily in the West.)
The chassis toted a 21-foot Bibeau steel dump body installed by Jones's own shop. (Jones Fuel Co. also sells and services the Canadian-made units). The truck was washed, loaded and ready for me to try out.
The auxiliary axles stayed down for all forward movement. Adjusting pressure in their air springs results in each carrying varying portions of a load, which can go to 20 tons and more, Fink explained. Valves for them are between the seats, adjacent to the control box for the dump body.
When the truck stops and the transmission is shifted into reverse, the activated backup light circuit orders them up, which occurs amid soft popping of relief valves as air leaves the suspension bags and a second set of air bags pulls up the axles. The tandem and steer axles are built to shoulder all the load at low speeds. When taken out of reverse, the suspension bags are replenished and weight is again borne by the pushers. This happened a number of times as I maneuvered the truck in the yard.