Caterpillar is developing a complete line of fully automatic, planetary truck transmissions for vocational trucks in an effort to create a more integrated powertrain package for this market segment. In making the announced at the ConExpo-Con/Agg construction show in Las Vegas, the company said it plans to begin production of the transmissions later this year, with availability scheduled for 2006.

According to Tom Wickenhauser, a Caterpillar spokesman: “It just made sense to go into the vocational truck market with a transmission. We already had the technology, developed originally for our articulated dump trucks, and it will allow us to better integrate the engine and transmission for vocational customers to achieve optimum fuel economy and performance.”

The 6-sp. CX31 transmission will be compatible with Caterpillar C11, C13 and C15 engines, while the 8-sp. super-heavy-duty CX35 will match up with higher-horsepower C15 ratings for vocational trucks, said Caterpillar vp Chris Schena.

“Customers and original equipment manufacturers have been asking Caterpillar to provide automatic transmissions that can be matched with the Cat on-highway engines they are already buying,” Schena said. “It also means product support is greatly simplified, as customers will be able to use Caterpillar's dealer network for service solutions and product support.”

Wickenhauser added that warranty and extended service coverage for the transmissions would be matched to the engine, creating a “one stop shop” for vocational truck users.

“The key is that both the engine and transmission will be talking the same language,” he said. “When you have a Cat engine married to another brand, they're talking different languages and need interpretation to work together smoothly. But you don't want them talking the same language, either, as both have proprietary features and software.”

Producing a completely integrated engine-transmission package is also going to be critical in terms of meeting the upcoming 2007 engine emission regulations, Wickenhauser noted.

“Having our own transmission is going to help us get the best fuel economy and performance from our Acert engines in '07 for vocational users,” he said.