GRADER operators across Australia will look back on 2007 as the year of a revolution – the year M-Series motor graders arrived. The revolution is represented by a number of innovations introduced with Caterpillar’s M-Series range; joystick controls, futuristic styling, increased power, reduced maintenance and lower operating costs represent only some of the benefits offered from the range. With Caterpillar’s M-Series motor graders now starting to arrive in the country, the CivEnEx expo in Sydney in May was the appropriate venue for the first public viewing in Australia of a sample from the new range. At CivEnEx, NSW Caterpillar dealer WesTrac had the honour of unveiling the machine in a lavish display where a tunnel entrance took visitors through the history of Cat graders before they reached an arena featuring a 140M motor grader floodlit at the centre. At the expo almost a thousand visitors climbed the staircase to the machine’s cabin to explore it for themselves and hear Caterpillar and WesTrac representatives explain the more technical features. Seven M-Series motor grader simulators WesTrac set up around the arena proved popular with visitors and gave them a feel for operating the new machines. According to Dave Falvey, WesTrac’s Manager for Building Construction, the low-effort controls might be the most revolutionary feature as far as the operator is concerned, but many other features of the M-Series machines are equally revolutionary. “For one thing, the styling is much more dynamic. The shape of the cabin and the redesigned drawbar, circle and mouldboard give the operator an exceptionally good view of the front wheels, mouldboard and the work ahead,” says Falvey. “Performance is enhanced with a more advanced power management system and, on all-wheel-drive machines, the torque available is 52 per cent greater than previously available. Maintenance on M-Series machines is much more straightforward too,” he adds.

The innovations introduced in the M-Series set new benchmarks in every area of motor grader technology, and organisers of CivEnEx clearly recognised the fact; presenting WesTrac with the CivEnEx Award for the Best New Product. The very first to place an order, and become officially recognised as the first NSW customer for an M-Series motor grader, was the Shire of Narromine, a regional council in central west NSW. The shire covers 5,400 km2 and has 755 km of unsealed roads that need grading every one to two years. Three crews perform this work – each crew operating with a grader, roller and water cart. One of the graders is due for replacement so the council has ordered a new 140M model. According to the shire’s general manager Paul Bennett, the council does not always buy Caterpillar equipment. “Some councils stick with Cat because that’s their routine,” Bennett explains. “If they don’t have a reason to move away from Cat they don’t. At Narromine we have a different philosophy. Each time an item of plant is due for replacement, we search out the best product on the market which suits our needs. In this instance we found the Cat 140M was by far the best,” says Bennett. In making a plant purchasing decision, the Shire compares specifications of relevant machines, prepares a shortlist, then gets input from staff who will be working with the machine. “There’s no point having a fantastic machine if it’s going to be unproductive,” Bennett notes, “so it’s important that our staff are involved in the decision.”

Source: Construction Contractor