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Despite this brutal economy, three aggregate mining equipment manufacturers recently held events to tout their products and services. Case, Caterpillar


Despite this brutal economy, three aggregate mining equipment manufacturers recently held events to tout their products and services. Case, Caterpillar and Liebherr invited editors to tour facilities and test-drive equipment. Each manufacturer acknowledged the grim effects of this recession, but emphasized being ready when the rebound comes.

LIEBHERR OPENED ITS U.S. headquarters and manufacturing operations in Newport News, Va., to members of the press. The site has a newly completed proving grounds with pits for running digging equipment, dozers and loaders. It also has an oval track for haul truck testing. Prior to opening the Equipment Demonstration and Training Area, Liebherr used neighboring quarries for testing. The site was a year and a half in the making.

One of the tests Liebherr has been running at the site compares the fuel efficiency of its 550 wheel loader against two like-size competitor models. Each vehicle had one gallon of fuel and a pile of rock to move; the objective was to move the most rock before the tank ran dry. There was little suspense in the outcome. The 550 made 18 passes compared with 13 by the second finisher and 10 by the first to run out of fuel. The first competitor out had a 5.2-cubic-yard bucket and moved 74.5 tons and cost $15.90 per hour in fuel. The second out used a 3.7-cubic-yard bucket and moved 69.8 tons with a $12.20 per hour fuel cost. Liebherr's machine had a 4.2-cubic-yard bucket and moved 112.3 tons of rock at a per hour fuel cost of $7.60.

Liebherr had more than the 550's fuel efficiency to crow about. That loader and six more in its family are fitted with hydrostatic drive trains; three of the models are larger than the 550. One of the benefits, the company says, is that the hydrostatic drive saves on brake life. That's because the vehicle slows to a stop when the driver releases the accelerator and does not move until the accelerator is pressed. To illustrate this, they allowed editors to park the load on a 30% grade hill without the brake and shift into neutral and reverse.

CATERPILLAR HOSTED AN event at its Peoria, Ill., headquarters, where it has factories and an indoor demonstration area. The company was showing its D7E dozer, which it introduced last year at Conexpo/Con-Agg; research on the unit began in the late 1990s. Cat will begin limited production in October, with full production set to start in early 2010. Cat's Commercial Manager of Tractor Products David Nicoll says the unit will cost about 12% less than the company's D8T dozer and 20% more than the D7R; it should have a 2.5-year payback period. During testing, he says, the D7E delivers between 10% and 30% better fuel efficiency than the company's D7R2. The D7E has an electric drive system that replaces the torque converter and transmission.

Cat brought in three of its customers who are testing the new dozer. Dan Plote, president of Plote Construction, says he's been using it for reclamation in his gravel pit and for moving C&D debris that he recycles.

Something that is brand new, available now and of interest to a broader range of aggregate producers is the company's new Web site, The site has a collection of mobile-equipment safety information compiled in various forms such as white papers and single-page training sheets. The training sheets are designed to meet Mine Safety and Health Administration's requirements.

Some of the training is fee-based, though much of the site's information is free. One example of a free offering is the interactive warning label awareness course. It involves pictures and explanations of various labels on Cat equipment and an exercise where visitors drag and drop labels on the machines. The site also has industry-specific safety information. One example for the aggregates section is a startup and shutdown check list for haul trucks. In addition to the 33 check items, the sheets have room for recording the date and inspector comments. There are more than 20 paid courses, which range from $20 up to $119 for a 10-hour, Occupational Safety and Health Administration certificate class.

CASE CONSTRUCTION EQUIPMENT dealers have been hosting parties to celebrate the company's 40 years of making skid-steer loaders. Case got into the market in 1969 when it bought the Uni-Loader line from Universal Industries; it expects to sell its 250,000th unit this year.

Part of the celebration is donating money to Habitat for Humanity. During the past two years, Case has donated more than $140,000. The company has given Habitat $80,000 this year.