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The CT660's design includes features such as piano hinges and flexible fenders adopted from Cat's mining equipment for durability and long life.

In January, attendees will get their first World of Concrete look at the new Cat CT660 Vocational Truck. Unlike the prototype vehicles introduced last spring, you will get to examine the road-ready trucks. Caterpillar has been slowly revealing these vehicles the last five months.

So I was lucky that I beat many of you to the punch by participating in a special drive event in September at the Caterpillar proving grounds just outside the company's hometown of Peoria, Ill. Our hosts were George Taylor, director of Caterpillar's global on-highway truck group, and Gary Blood, vocational truck product manager.

Our meeting coincided with the announcement that dealer and customer deliveries would begin in late September. From June through early September, engineers had been conducting validation tests on the first units manufactured on the new assembly line at Navistar's Garland, Texas, truck plant.

They said the favorable customer response and successful product validation went as expected.

Blood believes the pre-production customer research has resulted in a product that expresses the “voice of the customer” in performance, ergonomics, and value. They brought their best mining equipment features to the truck's design. “We have delivered our experience in creating durable and well-performing cabs,” said Blood.

Blood shared an engineering study on the cab's best-of-class noise suppression system. Materials and assembly techniques resulted in a 30 percent interior noise reduction by beating target levels by 3dB(A) at peak noise level, compared to comparable truck models. “But I'm happier to report that we have created a driver's environment free of BSR (buzz, squeak, rattle),” said Blood.

Blood said owners will find the CT660 has a ruggedness not found in other trucks. These features include tough, flexible rubber-composite fender extensions, piano-style door hinges, and super-tight door seals.

I drove the truck for an hour. The cab was quiet, as Blood promised. It's hard to judge the overall operating ability of the unit in such a limited time. But I'm sure fleet managers can configure a powertrain suitable for their application.

While I was impressed with the focus on driver ergonomics, the chassis features that suggested durability and long life, and a powerful test drive, my biggest takeaway was what Caterpillar engineers might bring to the future for our industry. “For the first time, we now have the chance to develop ways to coordinate truck and equipment operations to drive down ownership costs and increase cycle time,” Taylor said.

For more information, visit www.cat.com.


The Road to Delivery

CT660's development began in June 2008, when Navistar International Corp. and Caterpillar announced a joint venture that resulted in a new company, NC2 Global LLC. NC2 is focused on developing on-highway trucks for markets outside of North America. The two companies agreed to produce Cat heavy-duty vocational trucks for North America. The trucks, manufactured at Navistar's Garland, Texas, facility, will be sold and serviced through the Cat North American dealer network.

In September, Navistar and Cat announced they will restructure certain aspects of the company. NC2 will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Navistar and both International and Caterpillar branded trucks will continue to be distributed through both International and Caterpillar dealers outside the U.S. Caterpillar and Navistar also will develop a new, cab-over-engine Cat vocational truck that will be sold globally.

For more, visit www.nc2.com.