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Revamped eight-tonne loader design 64 years in the making


The Cat 966 GC wheel loader – a culmination of more than six decades of R&D in wheel loader design – is expected to hit Australia’s Caterpillar dealerships in late September and brings with it a huge value proposition for the local quarrying sector. Nickolas Zakharia writes.

Most people have heard someone say that things are simply not as affordable as they once were. The price of fuel in particular is a common water cooler conversation for anyone that owns a vehicle.

And while the “good old days” of low cost fuel and cheap living might seem like a distant memory, the team at Caterpillar have launched the efficient and value-orientated Cat 966 GC wheel loader in Australia. 

Operating costs are a huge factor to any quarry operation, with Cat’s new wheel loader designed for quarry customers who want their jobs done as efficiently as possible.

“You’re simply getting more bang for your buck,” Caterpillar product specialist Dick Mars told Quarry.

Designed to fit the bill of small and mid-size quarries, the 966 GC can be used in a wide range of conditions. In particular, the eight-tonne capacity loader can typically fill a greater variety of trucks, unlike a larger 10-tonne capacity loader which will be limited to filling larger trucks. Its 239kW Cat C9.3B engine is part of what gives this wheel loader low ownership and operating costs. 

The Tier 3 engine has a common-rail fuel injection system with triple filtration that allows for a wider range of fuels and is designed for low fuel consumption and reduced sound levels, while still maintaining a strong power margin for its class of wheel loaders.

“The 966 GC is really our new branding of simplicity and ease of operation,” Mars said.

The “beauty”, he said, of the Cat C9.3B engine is its fuel consumption. Fuel consumption is based on engine revolutions per minute (RPM) and cylinder size.

“If you’ve got an electronic control module where you can control that fuel burst into the chamber deriving more power, you’re producing good power and good breakout force in a smaller engine that’s burning less fuel,” Mars explained. “Smaller engines have less costs in terms of consumables such as oils and filters and so forth.”

The Caterpillar 966 GC comes standard with a load-sensing hydraulic system.


The lightweight wheel loader also produces higher power than some competitors’ heavier options.

“Some of our competitors are using 10- and 11-litre size engines and they’re producing somewhat less or similar engine power but we’re doing it with a smaller engine,” Mars said. “The same power generated from a smaller size engine provides the same breakout force as a larger engine which is what you need when you’re in a digging situation.”

He added Caterpillar’s Z-bar loader linkage has been engineered with strong digging performance and high breakout forces through a design that Caterpillar has refined over many decades.

“Caterpillar developed the very first Z-bar linkage in 1956 on a 944 (wheel loader) – that was the very first wheel loader manufactured,” Mars said.

“The Z-bar technology is basically a very simplistic design. For example, pushing on the bottom of the cross bar that pulls on the top link is what gives you the highest breakout force you can possibly get.

“Every manufacturer has variants to that (Z-bar), all of which would confidently argue the point that nothing beats Z-bar.”


The 966 GC also comes standard with a load-sensing hydraulic system which continuously adjusts the flow and pressure to match the operating situation. This drives down pump load and fuel usage.

“Load-sensing is where the operator pulls on a bucket lever, that increases or decreases the flow of oil through that pump, and that gives him that sensing of the strength of the input command that he’s putting into that linkage,” Mars explained. “In essence, the more he moves the lever the quicker the responsiveness of the pump activates the cylinders that work that bucket.

“Load-sensing technology has been around for quite some time,” Mars added. “But it’s the finesse of how you use the solenoids and how you use the electronics to run the load sensing capabilities.

“On the GC, we’re using a pilot system and that pilot system simply gives you variability in the opening and closing of that valve and therefore gives that load sensing capability.”

Mars said load-sensing technology provides greater capability to less skilled operators and levels the playing field.

“When you have load-sensing hydraulics, you can enable a wider variety of operators,” he explained. “You actually are promoting and helping the site become more efficient.”


As a larger model to Cat’s five-tonne capacity 950 GC wheel loader, the 966 GC incorporates the DNA of its older 966H counterpart to deliver, with the added benefit of enhanced fuel efficiency, power, reliability and value. 

For Mars, the components and design retain customer trust that a new Cat wheel loader is going to perform as reliably as the previous Cat legacy platforms.

“A lot of these machines, like the 966 GC, use a lot of legacy components from previous models such as our H-series,” Mars said. “That really provides the DNA of durability that a lot of our customers have come to expect.

“Often you’ll go to quarries and you’ll see parked out the back an old 966E or an even older machine. When you’ve been using front linkages and front loader arms for that long, it wouldn’t make sense to redesign the wheel loader so we basically take some of that proven componentry and you bring it back into life with some of these GC products.”


Also standard on the 966 GC is a hydraulically driven, variable speed cooling fan to adjust temperature and add further savings to fuel costs.

“The 966 GC is fitted with an on-demand hydraulic fan – and again this is not new technology,” Mars said. “We’ve had this out since the G-series in the early 2000s.

“The on-demand hydraulic fan senses the temperature and increases or decreases the fan speed to suit. So lower fan speed uses less power and that saves fuel. There’s no point having a fan running at full RPM when you just start the machine first thing in the morning.”

In order for the 966 GC to don the Caterpillar logo, it had to undertake stringent field testing to ensure it was ready for extreme conditions and environments. This was achieved through Caterpillar’s field follow program, which involves Cat dealers and customers testing machines in real world environments. 

“We take them to customer jobsites and we get the customer to use that machine in the appropriate environment, where we maintain and manage the machine,” Mars said. “Sometimes we make small adjustments to design and so forth.

“We’ve had nine field followed 966 GC machines around the world working in various customer jobsites in countries like Dubai, the USA, China and Asia since late 2018. Those nine machines amassed almost 30,000 hours in total. So, that gives us a high level of confidence.

“A lot of these field followed machines have done enough quarry work to satisfy a two year stint in an average quarry which does an average of around 1500 hours a year.”

The Cat 966 GC is expected to become available in the Australian market between late September and early October. 

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