The next generation of Cat 926, 930, and 938 small wheel loaders offer a full range of new technologies and features to improve safety, simplify operation and reduce the overall lifecycle costs of the machines.
"The small wheel loader portfolio, they are the Swiss Army knife of machines, and our challenge is to be able to configure them for success in a huge variety of applications,” said Joel Grimes, Cat wheel loader global product and application expert.
The new loaders offer industry-specific configurations targeted to agriculture, waste, forestry, aggregate and snow removal applications.
"Of course, you can buy them from us configured specific to an industry, specific to an application, but you can also as a dealer-installed kit in some cases, do it yourself or reconfigure them through the aftermarket space," he said.
Regardless of the application, Grimes said one of the questions he likes to ask globally is, what is one of the challenges in revenue growth? Safety universally comes up the most.
“Caterpillar is a very safety-focused company. Our dealers are very safety focused and our customers expect that we help to lead in this space,” Grimes said, noting that the new small wheel loaders offer new safety innovations, some standard and some optional.
Second to safety is the technology and general operation of the machine.
“One of the things we aspired to do with this next generation of small wheel loaders is making technology simple,” Grimes said. “On this size product, we know that the operator probably got promoted from a shovel, and it's one of the first machines they may be running. We want to make sure they get the most out of it without needing to know every button, every mode and everything to set.”
Lastly, he said, Cat’s benchmark aspiration is to have the lowest total lifecycle cost of a machine. Grimes said the next-generation 926, 930 and 938 wheel loaders further evolve that concept.
ConExpo/ConAgg 2023 was the customer debut for the small wheel loader models. Grimes said the loaders are expected to start going down the production line in Q3 2023 and out to customers in the fourth quarter.
Inspired by automotive features, the next-gen small wheel loaders take Cat machines further into the realm of safety and comfort.
“Organically we have redressed the cab so that we have a lot less obstruction. We have more glass from the floorboards to the ceiling, so you can just see what it is you want to see ordinarily,” Grimes said.
The design also improves the visibility of the attachments. An aggressive rack angle affords full cutting-edge and bucket corner views. Also, fork tip visibility at ground level and full height allow the operator to confidently load and unload materials, while an optional cranked tine further enhances forward visibility.
New auto temperature control with defrost button provides consistent operation in a range of ambient temperatures.
Almost every car has automatic lights. Inspired by the idea that drivers generally do not turn off auto mode, Grimes said, Cat gave the wheel loaders the same function. An optional tire pressure monitoring system is also available.
Smaller cab pillars, increased window area, heated and electric rearview mirrors with lower parabolic, and standard rearview cameras combine to improve operator visibility around the machine.
Additional options include a bird’s eye view camera system that provides 360-degree visibility. “From the operator station, you can see around this product,” Grimes said.
Using the touchscreen, operators can select a focus point to set a primary view on the display. “It also has logics, so if I’m going forward, I probably want to see forward, if I'm going in reverse, I probably want to see reverse, it automatically sets that for you,” he said.
Cat Detect, a rear object detection system with visual and audible alarms, provides additional alerts to serve as an extra eye and ear on the jobsite. It is an option.
Another safety issue that Grimes said fleet managers are always trying to make sure operators comply with is buckling up. An optional green light on top of the cab will tell you if the operator is wearing a safety belt.
“Now we know from working in this industry, you try to coach to buckle up but not everybody buckles up,” Grimes said. “The trick is they will go around the back of the seat and plug it in.” With the light sensor, if the light is green and no one is in the cab, then it’s likely buckled around the back.
Cat has also added an operator-not-present function on the small wheel loaders. For cases when an operator gets out of the loader and fails to set the parking brake, the machine will automatically set the parking brake. "If the machine is left in gear and no parking brake is set, the machine will shift into neutral and set the parking brake."
When the operator returns to the machine, it will coach the operator to shift into neutral to avoid the mistake in the future.
Lastly, the small wheel loaders are being added to the Cat Command remote operation consoles. “To remote into a machine, you need electric-over-hydraulic controls of major systems,” Grimes said. “As we bring on electric- over-hydraulic here, we're going to also bring Cat Command for loading to the global market."
The customizable in-cab display provides an easy view of operating parameters. Up to 50 different operating profiles can be set through the display, which the loader can recall when an operator starts the machine.
A new "force feedback" joystick steering option is coming down to the small loader portfolio for further customization, same as with Cat's medium loaders. “It's force feedback, and so at slow speeds, it's very soft to be comfortable for tight cycle work, but at high speeds, 25 miles an hour down the road, the joystick stiffens. So then it's safe to road next to our families down the highway,” Grimes said.
He said joystick steering will become an option, and Cat will also maintain a low-effort steering wheel for those who prefer that operating style.
Simple in-cab pushbutton kick-out settings for upper, lower and tilt allow operators to match bucket position to the task, helping to extend the cutting edge's life. Controlled by a joystick button, a new bucket shake feature provides precise metering of materials in batching or spreading applications and cleans the bucket.
Additionally, the new loaders offer the option of a joystick or single-axis levers, and both come with a range of programmable options to meet operator preference.
“The DNA of this product, as we evolve, can accept even future enhancements through programmable joysticks,” Grimes said. “They're not hardwired to a function anymore. They're hardwired to a brain, and the brain can then be told what to control.”
Included with joystick controls, the jog dial offers quick, on-the-go speed, throttle lock, auxiliary hydraulic flow, and wheel torque adjustments as well as screen navigation and creep speed control.
Grimes said Cat’s small wheel loader lineup comes standard with automatic wheel torque, which lets the machine do the work by automatically controlling torque to the wheel and adjusting rimpull control to reduce tire spin.
“We will automatically find the right amount of wheel torque without spinning, digging holes or burning rubber off the machines," he said. The function also helps conserve the tires.
To improve traction on difficult terrain, the new loaders feature standard front-axle differential lock with an optional limited rear slip differential. On the 926 and 930 loaders, the differential lock is simply controlled on the go by the operator with the joystick. The new 938 loader comes standard with an automatic differential lock, as well as manual control.
Another new technology is engine rpm automation. “This is one of the first in the industry, especially on this size class,” Grimes said. “Now a good operator knows that you don't keep the gas smashed to the floor if you don't need that engine rpm.” The feature automatically adjusts engine speed based on operator input.
Systems are optimized and sized to run at standard lower rpm for the next-gen small wheel loaders. The 1,200- to 1,500-rpm working range makes them more fuel efficient. Larger pumps run at slower speeds for less wear and longer service life.
If there's no input from the operator, the machine will go into a hibernated, state. Grimes said the operator does have the ability to manually adjust rpm and torque settings, however, anytime the machine is turned off, it will return to the auto setting by default.
“It's the type of thing a good operator just won't even notice because they're doing that anyway,” Grimes said. “This is the type of automated feature set which is going to help a newer operator get the most out of it, and organically, it will coach them along the way.”
With standard parallelism, the optimized Z-bar linkage digs like a Z-bar but acts like a tool carrier, increasing versatility and visibility. The design provides coupler and high-lift options for all new models. The positive pressure fusion coupler interface eliminates wear and maximizes performance with reduced work-tool offset. A full range of work tools for the new loaders includes forks with mechanical parallel lift and performance series buckets featuring an aggressive rack angle for load retention and a 10% boost in fill factors.
Grimes said Cat Payload comes standard with a 250-hour demo mode to test before subscribing. Payload provides on-the-go weighing to help operators hit exact targets to avoid overloading, underloading, or misloading materials.
These new wheel loaders feature four customized powertrain operating modes:
- Utility mode: Designed for hydromechanical tool use or pick-and-place work with power and speed. Utility vehicle mode delivers fine ground speed control with engine rpm throttle lock.
- Torque mode: Saves up to 5% on fuel by “freewheeling” around corners and on downhills.
- Hystat mode: Provides engine braking with aggressive deceleration, acceleration and no travel until the throttle is applied.
- Ice mode: For snow-clearing applications. Ice mode offers soft directional shifts and extended coast-out for improved control.
For those keeping track of the Cat next-gen loader launches, utility mode was seen in 2022 in the next-gen compact loaders.
“This gives us the ability to use one foot only for operation,” Grimes said. “... You push on the pedal, the faster it goes. You get off the pedal, it stops.”
All daily service items are now within easy reach, and the new cabin filter is serviced from ground level. Optional integrated auto lube with adjustable grease frequency and tire pressure and temperature monitoring with adjustable safety limits are available.
Grimes said service intervals for engine oil and filters and fuel filters have doubled to 1,000 hours. "Your average small wheel loader user is close to 1,200 hours a year, which means we're at close to one-year service interval a year," Grimes said.
Over 10,000 operating hours, the longer service intervals reportedly save 45% in engine oil, 67% in fuel filters, and 45% on air filters.
Cat has also added full-return filtration on the Hystat implement and steering systems. “If there are any contaminants introduced into the system ... then we're going to fully filter all of the return plugs into the tank so any contaminants which might come in, we're going to get out early so that it doesn't cycle through,” Grimes said.