AccuGrade Controls in Action:
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The loader backhoe is the latest machine to get digital earthmoving controls, and one manufacturer thinks that contractors will be willing to pay more for the added intelligence.

While updating performance on its line of loader backhoes, Caterpillar Inc. couldn’t resist offering new “E” series models with optional boom sensors and a cab-mounted LCD panel. Together, the “AccuGrade” controls will allow operators to program digging depths into the system and follow the computer’s guidance as they dig.

New Tool. Controls speed digging cycles.

Loader backhoes haven’t changed all that much since earthmoving vendors began introducing them in the 1950s, and some have wondered whether a new generation built with a complex layer of electronics will fly. Kevin Hershberger, senior project consultant for Cat, thinks they will. He claims that operators can quantify distances with the boom “like a tape measure” and dig much faster than traditional methods. Hershberger estimates the option will cost between $10,000 and $20,000, with a fully decked-out vehicle costing $127,000. A laser-guided unit also will be available.

Peoria, Ill.-based Cat says it has no plans so far to put GPS on loader backhoes. The “E” series computer is not as sophisticated as the GPS ones on larger machines because GPS could double the price of a small construction vehicle. But the scaled-down version still promises to speed up trench production and minimize contractors’ risk exposure.