So I spent half a day test driving Caterpillar’s new CT680 vocational truck model – the third in its CT vocational truck line, joining the CT660 introduced back in 2011 and the CT681 rolled out in October last year.
In this case, I got behind the wheel of a CT680 tractor configuration, one equipped with Caterpillar’s CX31 automatic transmission – six forward gears married to one reverse gear.
[You can view more photos of the ride and drive event by clicking here.]
Impressions? Well, this harkens back to a similar experience obtained with Mack Trucks a few weeks ago: it’s so simple to drive even a journalist can do it.
Seriously, though, isn’t that the point? With drivers not only in short supply, a simple push-button-automatic completely removes the hassle of shifting gears.
Both hands are on the wheel and both eyes are on the road – just where most fleet managers want them to be.
I talked to Charlie Pepper, a Caterpillar sales manager serving the company’s California region, about what aspects of the CT680 should appeal most to customers.
He quickly highlighted three areas:
- Driver recruiting & retention
- Lower lifecycle costs
- Improved safety
Obviously, he explained, a truck that is comfortable as well as easy to operate appeals to rookie and veteran drivers alike.
The lower lifecycle costs derive from eliminating manual shifting needed in heavy traffic as well as in crowded urban and suburban locales – especially the wear-and-tear on clutches.
Finally, safety: with two hands on the wheel and two eyes on the road, drivers can improve their “situational awareness” because they aren’t worrying about stalling out due to a poorly-timed gear change.
Those are some pretty compelling reasons for why OEMs continue to develop commercial trucks – on-highway as well as vocational – that treat simplicity as a major design hallmark.