Caterpillar Inc. (Cat), a global marketer in earth-moving heavy equipment based in Peoria, Illinois, is widely known as the largest manufacturer of construction and mining equipment in the world. One of the machines it makes is a backhoe/loader, commonly used on smaller jobs for trenching utilities, but that equipment is not without problems.
History of Cat
Caterpillar has been around since the late 1800s, and is known for its excavators and bulldozers (both track driven), and the world’s largest off-road mining truck, the 797E. Cat has earned the reputation for producing machines viewed as the “gold standard” of heavy equipment within the industry.
The Cat backhoe works just like any other brand of backhoe. Its main component is a tractor, powered by a diesel engine, and it has massive hydraulics for the front and rear accessories. The front of the machine is a loader bucket, generally 1 cubic yard in capacity, which is used to move large amounts of dirt, set grades or load dump trucks. The rear of the hoe has an excavating tool consisting of a main boom, a secondary boom (dipper), and a small bucket armed with teeth designed to rip through compacted, cemented soil. The “hoe” end of the tractor is commonly used to trench residential utilities such as power, telephone and cable television, and is small in comparison to most of Cat’s other machines.
Case Backhoe Vs. CAT
The Case backhoe is considered by construction equipment operators as the fastest backhoe in terms of daily trench production and the most reliable for the number of hours between break-downs. In the early 1980s, Cat made the decision to begin making their own backhoes. One would assume that a company which could successfully manufacture some of the largest earth-moving equipment in the world could be equally adept at making the smaller backhoe, however, that was not the case. Early models had more than their fair share of problems, including slow hydraulics and excessive curb weight.
Cat Backhoe Problems
Construction companies expect production from their backhoe operators in terms of trench feet per day, and the Case backhoe, a fast machine, can easily meet production standards. The Cat backhoe, however, operates at a much slower rate than a Case. Boom swing speed for a Cat, the rate at which the operator can discard a bucket of dirt to the side, then return to digging, is slow and has never matched that of a Case. The brakes on a Cat backhoe have also been a problem, not because they are inefficient, but because they are always noisy and irritating for anyone in the immediate area.
Cost of a Cat
Typically, a basic, stripped-down Case backhoe will cost around $45,000, while a similar model Cat will run anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 more, probably because it bears the name Caterpillar (prices as of November 2009). Regardless of the few problems that a Cat backhoe has when compared to other popular name brands, it still is a powerful and dependable machine worthy of Cat’s reputation.