The big upgrade

Caterpillar is still leading the pack, and moving to joystick control on the M-series graders seems to have been a masterstroke if the tightness of supply is any indication.While Caterpillar sits out front, John Deere has had a significant following in Australia for a long time, and Volvo and Komatsu are not short of admirers either. Mitsubishi may be a little behind in terms of number sold, but there are users who regard their strength highly, as one of the user stories in this feature indicates.Recently a number of Chinese brands have entered the market, although at this stage they are generally not regarded as frontline contenders at tender time. Given time, progression and good quality control, and if they can offer a significant price advantage, their place in the market may change. Sany is the most recent Chinese entrant, with Sino Heavy Equipment distributing its grader. George Christianson from SHE says the Sany grader is a well-built machine with top components such as Cummins, Rexroth, Danfoss and Siemens. SHE has used the experience of the first year on the market to implement some modifications in-house and through local contractors to refine the machine. A larger grader, the model PQ230, will be introduced in 2009.The market for compact graders is small, but at least it does exist where it didn’t for a long time. The compact grader market is showing some diversity in the size of machine offered, so that a machine levelling solution can be found for almost any size of job.Yet another new compact machine, the Laser-Grader, will be displayed at ACE in Melbourne. However this machine has been imported directly by the contractor and there are no immediate plans to make it available for general sale.It would be reasonably safe to assume the Laser-Grader being brought in by SitePrep’s Tom Yosiffidis is the most compact production grader that has the features of a full-size machine. It is a 6WD articulated machine with a machine width of 4 feet (excluding the blade) and a blade width of 6ft, and it can turn with an inside turn radius of 5ft and an outside turn radius of 9ft. With the blade angled it can pass through a 5ft opening. Weight is under 1.5 tonnes and length is under 4m, so it is easy to transport between jobs.The grader is supplied laser-ready and is being fitted locally with an MCE laser system.A key factor in Yosiffidis’ choice was the Laser-Grader’s ability to produce accurate cross falls, as he sees applications for the grader in preparing sporting fields, bicycle paths and the like, as well as general site preparation in confined areas. The Laser-Grader can easily work inside sheds, levelling the surface for slabs. It can also prepare the ground for footpaths and kerb-and-channel, because of its superior ability to produce a level (compared to a skid steer) and its narrow width that minimises intrusion onto the roadway. It is planned that the grader will complement the Harley Rake which SitePrep has been operating for four years. Yosiffidis swears by the Harley Rake as a fast, efficient means of clearing up a site prior to levelling with the Laser-Grader and laying of turf, garden beds, etc. Ironically, although the Laser-Grader is made in the United States its biggest market is in Europe and production runs to around six units per month. Like the Harley Rake, its purchase price initially seems expensive but it shines in the right application and its efficiency makes it an economic tool.

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