...volts of electric power. The loader cuts idling and is 10% more fuel-efficient, but Volvo says it will boost efficiency gains to 50% or more when other technologies, such as hydraulic hybrid power, become more affordable.

“We wanted to put a machine on the market that customers can actually buy,” said Arvid Rinaldo, global marketing manager. Volvo said L220F will pay for itself in two years, without naming prices.

High Speed

Speed was another solution. Moline, Ill.-based Deere showed its 764 High Speed Dozer, marrying the agility of a motor grader with the floatation of a dozer. Code-named “Bison” during field testing, the 764 promised top speeds on pavement of 18 mph and finish dozing at 6 mph, twice the speed of a normal dozer. The rubber-tracked unit goes on sale next year and will cost about the same as Deere’s 850J tractor. Sixty percent of its parts are already in inventory.

Not displayed on the 764 was Livermore, Calif.-based Topcon Positioning System Inc.’s high-speed grade-control unit called the 3D-MC2. Costing about $20,000 as an add-on to a typical $80,000 grade-controller outfit, the device takes signals from satellites and speeds up corrections to the blade 10 times faster for smoother cuts. “We are turning a bulldozer into a motor grader,” said Ray O’Connor, president and CEO. A Topcon spokesman added that the firm plans to talk to Deere about testing it on the high-speed 764 dozer, for obvious reasons.

One major buyer observed that vendors displayed concepts that would not be ready for production for perhaps another year to give a taste of what is to come when more stringent emission regulations arrive on the scene. “I think what they are trying to do is condition everybody,” said the buyer. “Everybody is apprehensive about Tier 4.” Deere employees said electric drive and other hybrids are coming, but the technology is not quite ready for prime time.

Competition did not stop with the earthmoving machines. Volvo introduced a line of pipelayers mounted on an excavator chassis. The units will go head-to-head with Caterpillar’s crawler-tractor-based pipelayers, which have been the industry standard for over half a century.

Overall winner in AEM’s student competition was the team from Perry, Okla., sponsored by Ditch Witch.
Construction Challenge
Overall winner in AEM’s student competition was the team from Perry, Okla., sponsored by Ditch Witch.

New cranes towering above the show’s outdoor exhibits watched over the aisles, though one breakthrough machine was too large to join the party: Manitowoc Co. detailed its model 31000, a 2,500-ton-capacity crawler crane available next year with four tracks that carry a “variable” counterweight, facilitating set up in tighter spaces within powerplants, refineries and other tricky places. The floating system has five patents pending and automatically extends from the rear of the crane from 27 ft to 95 ft when more load moment is needed and mechanically locks into place during lifting. It costs between $25 and $30 million. One unit is on order.

International investments were on display or in the air. Manitowoc said it had secured a 50-50 joint venture with TaiAn Dongyue Heavy Machinery Co. Ltd. to produce mobile cranes, while Deere discussed its first construction equipment venture outside North America to produce machines in a 50-50 venture with Xuzhou Xuwa Excavator Machinery Co. Ltd. Deere says it will use the plant to supply China and other developing markets without impinging on its longtime partnership with Hitachi in the States.

Remote compensator
Mack Trucks, Inc
Mack’s new Titan line signals the firm’s reentry into the heavy-haul market.

China is poised to become a world leader soon in equipment sales, noted Sam Allen, president of Deere Construction and For­estry, calling China “a very, very large market” and forecasting it to move from the world’s largest in total unit volume and fourth-largest in sales to second-largest in sales over  four years.

Nestled in one outdoor corner, Chang­sha, China-based Sany Group detailed its strategy to compete with high-priced European drilling rigs in the U.S. The middle of five rotary drillers, model SR220C was on display wearing a sold sign in a window. Sany is touting a hefty 30% discount over established mainstream players like Italy-based Soilmec S.P.A. and Germany-based Bauer Group.

Sany, building an assembly plant near Atlanta, is becoming a force in heavy equipment, “the new Kobelco,” says Scott Sharpe, a salesman for Las Vegas-based ROC Equipment, one of Sany’s six U.S. distributors. “We have an agreement with them for one year,” explained James Waters, another ROC sales rep. “We have to sell eight rigs, and we’ve already sold four.”

Heavy-duty trucks held their own in a convention centered largely around off-road machines. Mack reentered the heavy-haul market with its Titan truck line powered by its 16-liter MP10 engine. It is available with up to 605 hp and 2,060 lb-ft of torque and is the most powerful engine ever built by Mack.

“We haven’t been in this market for some time, [and] horsepower made it tough for Mack to keep up.... Now we have it,” noted former President Paul L. Vikner. He said he will do lobbying for the firm as Dennis Slagel, former president of Volvo Construction Equipment North America, takes the wheel at Mack. Both companies are owned by Sweden-based AB Volvo. Similarly, International Truck and Engine Corp., Warrenville, Ill., rounded out its heavy-duty truck line with the new Paystar 5900 SBA, a set-back-axle unit delivering up to 625 hp.

The workforce of the future even turned out at the show to compete in a new event called the “Construction Challenge,” a partnership between show owner Association of Equipment Manufacturers, Milwaukee, and Destination ImagiNation Inc., Glassboro, N.J. More than 700 high school students from 18 states participated in regional rallies, and 350 finalists came to Las Vegas to compete in finals sponsored by AEM members. Students debated infrastructure topics and built and raced their own homemade machines by putting them to work to move aggregate piles.

The mega-show was huge, but there may not be enough space to accommodate a bigger CONEXPO in 2011. For the first time, AEM is considering expanding to other venues in addition to the Las Vegas Convention Center.