Test Drive

CAT CT630 proves its metal

Cat CT630 has proven to deliver significant fuel savings for GKR Transport in WA.
Cat CT630 has proven to deliver significant fuel savings for GKR Transport in WA.

CAT'S CT630 is competing in a dynamic market sector where ruggedness and dependability has to merge with a low tare weight for maximum productivity.

The main competition, Actros 2655LS, Western Star 4964FXC, Iveco PowerStar and Stralis, and Freightliner's Coronado and Argosy, all bring that 70,000kg to 90,000kg GCM capability, with horsepowers between 540 and 580. But there are two key differences in the scrum that puts the CAT a head or two in front.

Firstly, the CAT stealthily creeps in at the lightest tare weight by a healthy margin, a full tonne lighter than the Powerstar with the Cummins engine.

The use of lightweight materials throughout helps but the chassis is very simple and free of over-engineering.

Secondly, the C15 engine is popular with past users, in spite of the factory sticking it up its customer base when it pulled out of on-highway business a few years ago.

That's why the return of the CAT brand is an engine story above all else.

Kevin Small owns GKR Transport in Welshpool, which he launched as a one-truck operation more than 26 years ago.

He is a confirmed CAT engine devotee, with a fleet that is defined by its heart rather than the badge on the front.

The majority of the fleet is Kenworth, with a couple of Western Stars and a solitary Freightliner, and the trucks run about 400,000km a year and are replaced about every three years.

Kevin bought the CAT 630 that was the star at the Perth Truck Show in July. In fact, he bought two for the 8000km a week Perth-Melbourne and Perth-Sydney general freight runs.

The display truck was ordered by WesTrac as a single cab so they could cut out the back and hang a decent 50-inch after-market sleeper on the back for the standard two-up work that is most of GKR's business.

For the past three months, one of those two CT630s has been driven almost exclusively by Mark and Clare Bolitho, one of the few husband-and-wife truck-driving teams operating in WA. Mark's a 24-year trucking veteran and has been driving with Clare for 15 years.

As I found in my CAT drive from Adelaide to Perth, the C15 gives the truck a very long stride on interstate work, with enough low-revving torque to maintain momentum on hills.

Mark and Clare said they stretched out quite a lead on one of the fleet's Kenworths on the grind up the Greenmount hill when the truck was brand-new and still tight.

The CT630's usually drive from Perth to Melbourne and back pulling a double trailer road train with an average weight of 75 to 80 tonnes. In the first three months on the road, they've done about 73,000km and averaged 63 l/100 km.

CAT has launched with a very slow start that has no doubt had the execs wringing their hands with frustration.

As the industry gets the word that the trucks are standing up to the rigours of the east/west business, more fleets will be looking closely at the package that's wrapped around one of the most popular and proven engines in the market.

Topics:  cat test drives

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