Product Review


November 14, 2011

Caterpillar Makes a Big Haul

Unit Rig mining trucks have ‘market compatibility’ with the existing Cat product line.

When the Caterpillar acquisition of mining equipment giant Bucyrus was finalized in July, the resulting announcement of new Cat Mining models seemed the perfect fit — almost.

The 793F represents the fifth generation of the 240-ton-payload “cornerstone” to the Caterpillar mining truck family, started in earnest in 1984. “When it comes to cost per ton, this product is the world beater,” says Ed McCord, Caterpillar mining truck product manager. Cat now adds the Unit Rig family, a pioneer brand that built the world’s first 200-ton electric-drive truck in 1969.

Where before there were no surface drills, hydraulic and electric rope shovels, draglines, underground drills, scoops, face haulers, and longwall shears among others, instantly, Caterpillar had them all, immediately re-branded with Cat-friendly nomenclature.

But what about the Bucyrus mining trucks, the former Unit Rig models previously owned by Terex? With its 10,000-plus large mining trucks already in the worldwide market, Caterpillar was already top of that game with market-leading models covering the payload range right up to 400 tons.

Don’t let the overall numbers fool you, says Ed McCord, Caterpillar mining trucks product manager. There’s a market for both the existing family of mostly mechanical-drive Caterpillar trucks and the full electric-drive family of re-branded Unit Rig trucks that “we will develop, manufacture, and sell,” McCord says. “We’ll sell them to those customers who have the right business case and to whom these trucks present the right value for their particular circumstances.” It will be a two-tier approach to market, if you may. “We are in the best position ever to offer the customer the widest possible variety of trucks,” he says, “and make sure that the truck, whether it’s mechanical drive or electric drive, is meeting the specific requirements of that customer and that dealer, who has to support that truck to the best possible degree. With the combined ranges of Caterpillar and Unit Rig, we can meet all kinds of requirements with a greater scope of response to each.”

Noting that 85 percent of Caterpillar large mining trucks ship to traditional markets in the Americas and Australia/Indonesia, there is “good market compatibility” with Unit Rig, noting that the latter brand’s “rest of world” (excluding Africa) shipments are 41 percent of its total compared to Caterpillar’s 8 percent. “Where Caterpillar has done very well with truck shipments, Unit Rig has done relatively poorly,” says McCord. “Where Caterpillar has done relatively poorly, the rest of the world, Unit Rig has been very present.”

Unit Rig trucks will eventually shed their MTU or Cummins engines in favor of Caterpillar power plants. “With a decent product and with Caterpillar-type product support, investment, distribution, and development, we will really do some remarkable things with these Unit Rig trucks,” says McCord, who notes that the eight-month wait for the Bucyrus deal to be approved was miniscule compared to the time he and his colleagues had to figure out what to do with the mining trucks. “In fact, we’ve had eight years and 11 days to think about it,” he notes, “because on July 1, 2003, we announced that we were acquiring Unit Rig and that we expected to complete the acquisition by the end of the year.”

On second thought, competing trucks aside, maybe some things are just meant to be.

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