Truck Report: Cat Heavy Trucks Hit the Market

By Tom Berg, Truck Editor | November 28, 2011
Cat CT660 Truck

Caterpillar’s vocational truck went into production last summer, and units are heading to dealers right now. What are people making of them? That depends on where they stand.

Cat execs are proud of their first on-highway vehicle and emphasize that it’s a premium product with many features that will make it pleasureable to drive and profitable to own. They say they have numerous orders from enthusiastic customers. Many are users of Cat machinery and like the idea of a Cat Truck (the CT in the CT660 designation).

Competitors dismiss the CT as nothing more than an International PayStar 5000 with a Navistar diesel, and they’re not completely wrong. It is a PayStar built by Navistar at its vocational-truck plant in Garland, Texas. The CT comes down the same line as PayStars, and its chassis and engines are the same, except that engines are painted Cat yellow instead of MaxxForce grey. But the CT’s hood and grille are more massive and chromey, cab trim is decidedly deluxe, some build details differ, and drivetrain offerings depart from the PayStar components list.

International dealers, who now have another competitor to sell against, are not happy. Cat dealers are of course glad to have something new to sell, even if they have to learn to discount prices, something they’re not accustomed to.

Trade press editors who had a chance to see and drive the CT at Cat’s demonstration and learning center near Peoria are impressed with the product’s look and feel. It’s very nice inside and that big nose is right-in-your-face there.

The yellow 12.4-liter diesels were powerful enough and their internal brakes retarded well, especially at lower speeds in lower gears. The 15-liter model, which uses a Cat-designed block and internal parts, should be available by late winter. The engines don’t have urea-injection gear hung on their exhaust systems, as both Navistar and Cat are nonbelievers in that approach to reducing nitrogen oxide, preferring to handle it completely “in-cylinder.” So there’s more room on the frame for other equipment.

Regarding drivetrain options, those who want a fully automatic transmission will get only Cat’s own CX31 powershift in the CT. Also available in the CT are Eaton manual and automated mechanical gearboxes. A pair of “8LL” manuals were in demonstration trucks. Their gearshift levers were mounted several inches farther to the rear than I’ve seen in competitor trucks.

Turning radius was fairly short, which was helpful while U-turning on a short route within the Cat complex. The CT660 is the subject of next month’s Hands-On Trucking report, by the way.

A note on color: During the CT’s development, planners and executives considered offering it only in Cat yellow—Big Yellow Machines, Big Yellow Trucks, right? And aside from front-end styling, this would’ve visually differentiated the CT from the PayStar. But potential customers wanted to choose from other hues, so buyers can and do pick pretty much what they want.

What do you think of the Cat Truck? Cat execs and dealers would love to know.