How to choose a motor grader and the right technology for it

Common wisdom believes that motor graders are the most demanding of all the machines on the site. So it would seem that graders will be the first in line for technological advances to facilitate operation. This is often the case, but it is not necessarily because it is a complex machine.

“I think we in the industry tend to exaggerate how difficult it is to drive motor graders,” says Nathaniel Waldschmidt, product manager for Case Construction Equipment. “Yes, it takes time and effort, but graders can be learned and mastered just like any other machine.”

He says it is not the nature of grader work that makes technology so valuable, but the nature of grader work where technology can greatly improve both production and accuracy. “In this competitive situation, incorporating technology” into a grader’s work is simply easy.

Driving a car is one of those technologies that is suitable for a grader.

The Case graders catalog has two models: the 836C (shown above) and the 856C, and each leaves the factory ready to drive, says Waldschmidt. “Between graders and bulldozers, it was for these applications that machine control was created.” Factory preparation makes it easy to integrate systems from Leica Geosystems, Topcon and Trimble.

Both the Deere 872 and 872 GP (shown) are equipped with automatic offset plus for simplified operation that does not require pedaling. The GP (Grade Pro) model includes several advanced automation features. Both run on 300-horsepower John Deere PowerTech PSS 9.0L engines. The Deere transmission provides eight forward and reverse speeds with 6WD in the first seven gears.John DeereEach of the eight G-Series models in the John Deere line is available as a Grade Pro model, designated as GP. Among the many automated features in Grade Pro are automation and automatic gain for cross-slope, as well as preventing damage to the machine so that the blade does not damage the tires or the ladder of the grader.

The machine preset function allows operators to program multiple functions with a single button. To prepare for the movement of the machine, for example, at the touch of a button you can straighten the hinge of the machine, lift and turn the blade in its folding position, raise the rear cultivator, turn on emergency lights and beacon and turn on automatic shift.

The Auto-Shift Plus transmission allows the grader to stop completely in any gear without the use of a clutch and restart by pressing the throttle. It also eliminates the need for an inch pedal and performs automatic shifting from four to eight while driving on the road.

SmartGrade is Deere’s latest technological advancement. It is a fully integrated mastless system that maintains accuracy by allowing the operator to control the articulation, blade pitch and wheel tilt as needed.

Models equipped with SmartGrade also support Topcon GPS and LPS, while maintaining the benefits of mastless design.

“SmartGrade allows operators to work without restrictions in any position by performing grading with automation,” says Matt Gedert, John Deere Road Construction Solutions Marketing Manager.

Motor grader Komatsu GD655-7 wide overviewThe Komatsu GD655-7 grader with a 163-horsepower engine has a two-mode three-stage variable power control that matches the operating parameters of the application to improve productivity and save fuel. The new gear lever allows you to select FNR with your fingertips. Improvements include a “right-sized” steering wheel for use on the road, as well as a new steering lever that provides fine control with low effort while driving.KomatsuNathan Rap, Komatsu’s product marketing manager, offers a list of technologies included in the company’s GD655-7 grader, including a dual-mode electronically controlled transmission with anti-jamming function and two pedals. It also features low-effort EPC controls and fully integrated 2D cross-slope inputs with memory settings to maintain blade tilt when adjusting blade height.

The GD655-7 comes with a configuration for easy installation of the Topcon 3D-MC2 system. Standard steering includes both a steering wheel and a steering lever mounted on the armrest, according to the programs and preferences of the operator.

Experienced grader operators are rightly proud of the sophisticated skills they have acquired over the years. So how much do they welcome technologies that simplify grader operation?

“An expert operator will evaluate tools that make tasks easier by automating some functions so that operators can focus on the results and what’s going on around them,” Rep says.

He adds that few, if any, other types of equipment have as many degrees of freedom as a grader, and the automation of some features allows highly skilled operators to focus on tasks that require their high level of skill.

Caterpillar 140 GC motor graderCat’s 140 GC is designed to combine high performance with low costs for small and medium jobs. The Cat C7.1 engine is designed for a maximum power of 196 horsepower, and the automatic transmission with gearshift provides six forward and three reverse gears, eliminating the need to press the pedal. The 12-foot blade and a variety of attachments, including scarifiers, rippers and front blades, provide versatility.The caterpillarProduct specialist Eric Cohout says the use of Cat technology has been a threefold development.

The levers were first; they were easy to use, and operator efficiency improved as muscle memory deepened over time.

Then the M-Series graders in 2007 introduced joysticks that offered easy, intuitive three-axis control, auto-articulation, and grouped all major functions into two joysticks.

In 2018, the next generation of cars with a choice of levers or joysticks.

“Some operators, especially those with more experience, prefer low joystick efforts,” says Kohaout. “Sometimes the advantage is based on the application.” Rough sharply prefers the lever, and finishing is best done with joysticks.

Cohaut says the right combination of technology helps combat the current labor shortage. Effortless joystick controls allow older workers to stay at work longer, and automated features allow new operators to improve their skills much faster.

Note: “These new employees still need to learn how to manage the material and understand how what they do fits into the overall site.”

The Cat 120 GC and 140 GC graders come with rudders and lever controls. In addition, these two models allow customers to choose features and technologies a la carte.

The 140 GC, for example, comes with a standard seat; upgrades have mechanical or air suspension. Customers can move from the base cab to the ventilated cab or descend to the canopy. ROPS / FOPS is optional. An on-demand fan is standard, and a reverse fan is optional.

A non-rotating differential is standard, while all-wheel drive is an affordable option.

How important is AWD?

“It offers 40% more traction than a rear tandem drive,” says Cohaut, “but also has higher initial and current costs. The question is, does productivity increase offset costs? ”

Cat’s AWD provides steering speed compensation to minimize squeaking tires when cornering. On models without the GC this allows all-wheel drive to occur from the front wheels only at speeds up to 5 miles per hour, minimizing damage to the finished surface.

Here Kochaut again offers a word of warning. AWD encourages some operators to drive their graders like bulldozers than they are.

Rap notes that most grading operations are performed with rear-wheel drive, even on all-wheel drive graders.

“For a system that is used only part of the time, there is a lot of extra cost, wear and tear, fuel consumption and maintenance.”

AWD has its place in certain situations, “but in most cases it is not needed. The rationale for AWD comes down to how much extra money you are willing to spend and whether or not it is required to do the job. ”

Improved mechanics

Deere offers an optional Premium Circle for all graders with sealed bearings and gears to reduce maintenance costs and reduce downtime.

The design eliminates the need to adjust and replace worn stands and provides 40% more torque to the wheel and 15% more speed than a standard wheel. The only maintenance required by Premium Circle is to lubricate the bearing every 500 hours.

Hull graders are equipped with an A-frame drawbar with a heavy-duty frame frame design to reduce lateral load and extend service life.

The saddle can be hydraulically mounted in five positions. The gooseneck geometry allows the operator to rotate the blade more than 90 degrees for each working side without mechanical intervention.

Graders are like snow blowers

Cohaout says the key to effective grader snow removal is the right equipment.

“New wings and plows are often coming to market,” he says. “Know the benefits these new products offer.”

As snowfall in many areas becomes lighter, wings without a mast become more attractive. Modern snow tires can eliminate the need for chains, and some snow tires provide true all-season performance.

“Do you need an edge trip? Do your LED lights heat up enough to prevent icing lenses? Do you have the right beacons? ” he says contactors should ask themselves.

“Graders are well-adjusted for snow removal, so be sure to do your homework.”

Dumpers equipped with plows have the advantage of spreading anti-icing chemicals or sand during plowing, Waldschmidt says, but graders provide much better visibility of cleaning. Graders are also more mobile and, equipped with snow wings, better clear the shoulders and move the snow away from the road.

“Motor graders are wildly underestimated for their efficiency and capabilities in snow removal.”

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