Giving Equipment A Second Life

By Aram Kalousdian, Editor | September 28, 2010

Michigan CAT's Powertrain Rebuild program assists customers with the cost of upgrading off-road equipment with new Tier 1 engines that will meet anticipated emissions regulations and requirements.

"We can analyze a customer's fleet and identify where their emissions level is. If, for example, a customer has three or four unregulated machines that have 10,000 to 12,000 hours on them and they are going to keep them for any length of time, then we have this program that can replace the engine with a Tier 1 or greater, along with reconditioning the rest of the power train for additional service life," Mike Lazzara, product support sales manager for Michigan CAT, said.

The Washtenaw County Road Commission is taking advantage of Michigan CAT's program and is upgrading a 1994 Cat 140G grader that has over 14,000 hours on it. The machine is used for snowplowing and grading limestone and gravel roads in the summer.

"This machine had a transmission failure in October 2008. We knew that we had to put this piece of equipment back into the fleet, so I contacted Michigan CAT and another dealer to find out what it would cost to do an upgrade of that transmission," Bob Berger, equipment supervisor for the Washtenaw County Road Commission, said.

"Through our partnership with the Clean Energy Coalition I had seen some publications about funding. I contacted Sean Reed at the Clean Energy Coalition. He said that they were working on some grant funding with Michigan CAT to do some engine upgrades to a Tier 1 level. From there, it just blossomed."

The Washtenaw County Road Commission is a stakeholder and partner in the Clean Energy Coalition, of Ypsilanti, MI, which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting clean energy technologies.

"Two of the goals of the Washtenaw County Road Commission Board of Road Commissioners are to be good stewards of the public's money and also be sensitive to the environment. There is no question that the nature of our business can be dirty. We consume fuels to operate the machines we need to do our job, and the board is quite committed to improving our efficiency, our cost-effectiveness and reducing our impact on the environment anywhere that it can," James D. Harmon, P.E., director of Operations for the Washtenaw County Road Commission, said.

"We also informed the board that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has identified Washtenaw County, MI, as a noncompliant county in the Midwest in terms of air quality standards. This was an opportunity for us to make progress toward reducing our impact on our environment in Washtenaw County.

"With Michigan CAT's program, we were able to secure the approval we needed from the Washtenaw County Road Commission Board of County Road Commissioners to go ahead with the upgrade.

"This was not something that we had budgeted for. We have a diminishing capital budget for equipment just like most agencies in Michigan. This was an expense we did not anticipate. But, we had an essential piece of equipment that had a transmission failure and we needed to do a significant repair. We knew that we had other deterioration in the power train and the last thing we wanted was to replace an expensive transmission, put it back in service and then have a major engine malfunction or differential malfunction.

"So, we were able to work in conjunction with Michigan CAT to bring a cost comparison forward to our board so that they could look at the repair, upgrade and purchase options. At the end of the day, the Powertrain Rebuild program was the most economical solution for our agency, and our board unanimously approved it on March 2. This has opened up a new possibility for us to extend service life for our existing fleet."