New Cat pipelayers feature purpose-built frames and cab, heavy-lift capacities, precise hydraulic control, integrated powertrain, and operator comfort


The new Cat PL72, PL83, and PL87 pipelayers feature an integrated, all-Cat powertrain with differential steering and an electronically controlled hydraulic system that places total control of lifting functions into one single joystick.

Independent, variable-speed winches for the boom and hook provide precise control, and the enhanced counterweight system ensures a low center of gravity for optimum performance. A new ROPS provides added safety for both open and enclosed operator’s stations. The new, purpose-built pipelayer cab is now pressurized and incorporates new operator-comfort and convenience features.

The new pipelayers are designed to meet the demands of the pipeline industry for increased lift capacity, enhanced slope capability, ease of operation, performance, and transportability. Rated lift capacity (at tipping point) for the PL72 is 90,000 lb (40,823 kg); 170,000 lb (77,111 kg) for the PL83; and 216,000 lb (97,972 kg) for the PL87. A non-suspended, elevated-sprocket undercarriage provides ample track-on-ground for added stability, and the new models’ massive mainframes and main cases resist operating stress.

The PL72’s Cat C9.3 ACERT engine has a maximum power rating of 257 horsepower (192 kW); the Cat C15 ACERT engine in the PL83 and PL87 has a maximum power rating of 363 horsepower (271 kW); all engines meet US EPA Tier 4 Final/EU Stage IV emissions standards. The new models feature Cat’s torque divider and electronically controlled 3F/3R power-shift transmission.

The compact-profile winch assemblies for the new pipelayers feature oil-disc brakes to provide smooth operation and positive retention of boom and hook positions; the modular, pin-on design of the winches allows fast service in the field. Counterweight segments are contoured to provide optimum lifting performance and are extended hydraulically for efficient load balance and clearance. A new electronic kick-out switch for the PL83 and PL87 ensures that counterweights are retracted to the correct position.

The lightweight, durable boom features high-tensile-strength-steel construction and a narrow design that enhances visibility to the work area. Replaceable boom-mount bearings are designed for long life and easy service. The new PL83 and PL87 now use two booms in common, 24-ft (7.31-m) and 28-ft (8.53-m) configurations. The PL72 also features two booms measuring 20-ft (6.1-m) and 24-ft (7.3-m).

The short-profile block set enhances visibility to the work area and extends the working range of the boom. Heavy-lifting components include hook and boom blocks with sleeve bearings, forged hook with latch, ductile iron sheaves, and heavy-duty frame structures pinned together for strength and durability.

The pipelayers offer added operator-comfort features, such as a quieter cab, adjustable armrests and heated/ventilated seat options. A dash-mounted LCD display provides onboard diagnostic information for the operator, allows operators to create individual profiles and operational settings, and provides access to multiple switch-controlled functions.

The available enclosed cab is new and designed specifically for pipeline applications, allowing truck transport with the ROPS in place. The cab is fully sealed and supplied with filtered, pressurized air for a clean interior environment. Expansive glass surfaces allow unhindered visibility around the machine and into the trench, and a large skylight with sliding shade provides a clear view to the boom and block.

A low-effort joystick and a single-lever steering tiller place complete machine control at the operator’s fingertips, including hook and boom, counterweight position, throttle, transmission and steering. A planetary differential turns the machine by speeding one track and slowing the other to maintain full power to both tracks for added maneuverability in congested areas and for enhanced slope capability.

The new models are factory equipped to accept a load-monitor indicator (LMI), with new hydraulic circuitry, integrated mounting hardware, and a ready-mount power supply to facilitate installation. The LMI-ready system enables installation without opening the hydraulic system, thus preventing contamination.

Remote monitoring with the Cat Product Link system improves overall fleet management effectiveness, providing event and diagnostic codes, machine location, fuel level, idle time, working time, and other detailed information (including fault codes for not using seat belts) that is transmitted to the Cat secure web-based application, VisionLink.

For added job-site safety, a wide-angle rearview camera enhances visibility to the work area, and a standard operator-presence detection system allows the machine to idle when the operator is not seated, but locks out the power train to avoid unintentional movement.

To facilitate routine maintenance, hydraulic pressure taps allow quick pressure monitoring, and ecology drains for the radiator, hydraulic tank, engine, transmission, and main case add to service convenience and prevent spills. The radiator, charge-air cooler, and hydraulic oil cooler are packaged in a single plane, making clean-out easier, and the zero-speed, reversing hydraulic fan operates only as needed.

August 14, 2015

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Tom Stone is Editor of the iVT brand – which includes digital and print editions of a quarterly magazine and the Advanced Lift-truck supplement, as well as, which is updated daily. Tom has met and interviewed some of the world's leading industrial vehicle OEM presidents, CEOs and MDs, and takes great pride in cementing iVT's place as the leading forum for debate within the industry, a reputation that his been built up over the brand's 25-year history.

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