Early in 2014, Construction Equipment was at the Operating Engineers Local 150 training center in Wilmington, Ill., along with Caterpillar representatives Jeff Brown and Matt Moen, to hear what a couple of the Local’s operator/instructors—Mike Evans and Kevin “Zip” Ackert—thought about the new Cat 262D skid steer loader’s features and performance. After spending the better part of the day with the machine, the pros were generally impressed with the practical technology and design enhancements that Caterpillar has built into its new D Series models, 16 in all, counting skid steers and compact-track/multi-terrain loaders.
The 262D arrived from the local Cat dealer, Patten Tractor, and was equipped with about everything in the price book, except high-flow auxiliary hydraulics, Bluetooth radio and microphone, and extra counterweight. The all-new, sealed, pressurized, air-conditioned cab housed an air-ride, heated, high-back seat; seat-mounted, electro-hydraulic joysticks; push-button pattern changer; electronic hand and foot throttles; and the Cat Advanced Display, a user interface that allows setting machine operating parameters via a full-color monitor. The monitor on our machine served also as the display for a high-resolution rearview camera. Two-speed travel and ride control completed the package.
Cat 262D design highlights
Brown, marketing professional, compact construction equipment, Caterpillar Building Construction Products Division, began the day with a detailed walk-around of the 262D and explained just how extensively D Series models have been redesigned.
For instance, when he and Moen—who’s the local contractor sales and service representative for Caterpillar’s Central region—tilted the cab after removing two bolts from its front corners, an uncommonly tidy machine interior was revealed.
Brown explained that a firewall behind the cab now seals off the engine compartment to better manage airflow. But an added benefit, he said, is that the large vertical surface on its forward side provides ample space for mounting the main hydraulic valve and piping, which resided in the chassis on previous models. The hydraulic reservoir, previously located behind the cab, is now tucked neatly into the chassis.
“The fire-wall design greatly reduces clutter in the belly of the machine,” said Brown, “and allows easy access to pumps and motors. Each of the hoses is tagged with a part number, so the owner can quickly identify it and ensure that the exact replacement is installed.”
Evans summed up the design succinctly: “Once the cab came up, it looked pretty empty.”
The airflow management that Brown noted involves using a hydraulically driven demand fan that draws air through the ventilated rear door of the machine and pushes it through the side-by-side radiator and hydraulic oil cooler on the underside of the hood. The coolers are purposely not stacked, he said, to improve cooling efficiency.
A particularly innovative feature in airflow management is the Venturi-effect design of the exhaust piping for drawing cool air from the engine compartment into the exhaust stream, thus moderating high exhaust temperatures from the diesel particulate filter when it regenerates. The exhaust-stack outlet is positioned at the left rear corner of the cab and angled to mix the exhaust with the fan blast, further reducing temperatures.
Advanced Display, throttle features
The D-Series cab is completely new and completely modular, not relying on any mechanism between the bottom of the cab and chassis (such as foam inserts) to keep the cab sealed and pressurized, nor leaving any part of the cab attached to the chassis when the cab is tilted. Ackert took note that the only links between cab and chassis, except for the hinges on which the cab tilts, are the electrical harnesses that pass through sealed openings in the bottom of the structure.
Within the cab, the standard D-Series display panel includes an anti-theft system, which accepts a single security code that is required before the engine will start. The optional Advanced Display, however, accepts and stores as many as 50 operator codes.
Having both worked for contractors, Evans and Ackert both recognized value in the Advanced Display’s security system:
“The lock-out is a good feature,” said Evans. “I’ve worked on job sites where equipment has been stolen, or has run all weekend because some kid figured out a way to start it. Having to enter a code to start the machine would be a deterrent.”
But the Advanced Display’s security-code capability, said Brown, is just the tip of its capabilities; it also allows customizing machine operation and performance for a number of different parameters.
Using buttons on the display monitor, the operator can select from three levels of response for the drive and hydraulic systems, set a return-to-dig bucket angle, set a work-tool position (such as trencher angle), and set speeds for the creep mode and for ride-control-activation. In addition, in-cab switches allow choosing between two operating patterns and activating an Intelligent Leveling System that provides parallel lift both up and down.
(Once the return-to-dig feature is set, the operator can simultaneously click a trigger switch on the joystick while pushing the joystick to its 11-o’clock—boom down/bucket rack—position, where it detents and automatically returns the linkage to the pre-set dig position, employing cylinder snubbing to cushion the boom’s descent as it nears the ground. The work-tool-positioning system works in similar fashion using the tilt cylinder.)
The Advanced Display recalls selections entered for a specific code. In addition, the master-code holder can access such data as hours, fuel burn, and event codes for each operator code and can use codes to create job folders to track time and fuel against individual projects.
“Once the display was explained, I was able to go back through it by myself with no problem,” said Evans. “The system, I think, would be a quick learn for our students, and there’s value in a new operator being able to adjust performance—gives the ability to tone things down a bit for a smoother learning curve.”
Another bit of innovation in the cab of D Series skid steers equipped with an electronic foot throttle is the throttle’s capability to function as a decelerator when the hand throttle is in its maximum position.
Ackert, who trains students to run crawler dozers, is a fan of the decelerator and appreciated this feature:
“I found that the decelerator gave you an added measure of control when approaching the truck, and I could see it’s value if you have to quickly slow the machine to observe something in your path when reversing.”
Brown said also that the foot throttle typically saves fuel, because the operator can dial in perhaps a half-throttle speed, then use the foot throttle only when more engine speed is required—thus eliminating constant full-throttle operation.
The foot throttle also incorporates a “throttle-smoothing” feature, which clips the highs and lows of the accelerator’s movement when the operator can’t maintain steady pressure on the pedal in rough terrain. Moen demonstrated by blipping the throttle and causing engine speed to constantly vary, then, with the parking brake applied, pushed the joystick into its travel position. The engine instantly assumed a steady speed, even though Moen continued to vary the pedal position.
“I could tell something was working in my favor,” said Ackert, after several load-and-carry runs over ruts.
Perceptions from the 262D seat
After using the 262D to load trucks with heavy milled asphalt, experimenting with its dual-self-leveling linkage, and making a number of load-and-carry runs, we asked the Local 150 operators for their overall impressions of the machine.
Ackert: “I was impressed with its balance, especially working in those heavy asphalt grindings. When you’re approaching the truck and tilting the bucket, the center of gravity changes, and some machines get light. This one didn’t.”
Evans: “It’s a high-quality machine. I felt comfortable running with Cat controls, although I typically prefer H-pattern controls. I initially had a problem engaging the return-to-dig function with the joystick, but it’s just a matter of spending some time with the machine. Innovation is great, but it sometimes takes time to adjust.”
Evans: “The backup camera is a big plus. Usually with a skid steer you’re straining when trying to look back. And the display is in the right spot—didn’t distract. The ability to adjust the control pods was a plus, as well—most of the time when you get into a skid steer you don’t have enough adjustment.”
Ackert: “The anti-stall feature was excellent. I was sticking the machine into the pile as hard as I could, and when it didn’t stall, I decided, ‘Yes, this works.’ The machine seems to have ample power.” [Anti-stall adjusts the hydrostatic drive system to compensate for engine load.]
Ackert: “We’ve only seen the self-leveling feature work for raising the load, so the dual self-leveling is a plus, especially when using forks. For someone inexperienced, using the self-leveling feature when loading trucks would be a real help.”
Evans: “The snubbing feature when lowering the boom keeps the bucket from banging down—adds to the comfort of running the machine. The boom does drop fast, but then slows by itself.”
Ackert: “The creep control is a good feature. If you were milling asphalt, for example, you could engage creep when the mill was running, then turn off the creep function with the touch of a button to travel to the next spot, then go back to creep mode for milling.”
Evans: “The electric coupler improves visibility to the attachment points, since you don’t have all the hydraulic lines in your line of sight.” [The powered coupler for D Series models has changed from hydraulic to electric actuation—a simpler design, says Caterpillar, and easier for field retrofit.]
Ackert: “The ability to set up the machine to your liking is a valuable feature, because no two operators will run the machine the same.”
Evans: “The vertical lift gives you plenty of height to get over the side of a six-wheeler. I did notice a slight blind spot when dumping into the truck, but those are issues that you easily adjust to after running a machine for a while. Or maybe I just didn’t have the seat adjusted quite right. All-around visibility is excellent—especially with the backup camera.” [Redesigned lift arms, says Caterpillar, enhance visibility to the tires, bucket corners, and above the lift arms to the sides.]
Ackert: “Overall, I thought the machine was outstanding—operator comfort in particular.”