Moving past a stand of trees adjacent to a small, family-owned farm, a Cat 12M3 Motor Grader leveled a two-foot tall windrow of compacted earth pulled from a roadside ditch.
With the ditch pulled and the driving surface of the narrow, two-lane unpaved road bladed to the proper crown seemingly effortlessly by the Appling County, Georgia, Road Department machine, the 12M3 continued on down the road. There were miles of roadway to be worked before the day ended.
Nine Cat Motor Graders maintain the county’s 1,026-mile roadway system, including 680 miles of unpaved roads. The department utilizes eight 140M Motor Graders and the newly purchased 12M3 Motor Grader.
The road department breaks the 512-square-mile county into five sections. One motor grader maintains the roads in each of the sections. Three other motor graders are devoted primarily to road construction and special projects such as the rebuilding of washed-out roadway sections.
The 12M3’s primary role is road maintenance. The 179-hp machine has the power and dependability necessary to meet the demands of long hours and daily work just as well as the larger motor graders the department utilizes, but at less expense.
Maintenance of unpaved roads is top priority with the road department. Crews strive to blade roads every three weeks to keep the driving surfaces in good condition, according to Tommy Davis, road superintendent.
Jerry Kersey, a 14-year veteran machine operator with the road department who has operated dump trucks, wheel loaders and motor graders, has been working on the 12M3 since it was delivered in early fall. “I really like the steering,” Kersey said.
“The 12M3 has excellent control.”
The standard automatic differential lock/ unlock is one of the features that he particularly likes. “It gives me more mobility,” Kersey said. “I enjoy my job, and I enjoy running this piece of equipment.”
The standard automatic differential lock/unlock monitors machine and application parameters to unlock/re-lock the differential during operation, improving production and enhancing comfort while protecting the power train.
The road department purchased the 12M3 using a state contract. The motor grader was purchased with extended warranty coverage, which means the machine will be under warranty for its entire working life with the county. That keeps operating costs down and uptime high.
Machines are traded in every 5,000 hours or five years. Davis implemented the motor grader replacement policy when he became road superintendent in 1994, after he retired from a 32-year career with the Georgia Department of Transportation.
Trading in the machines on a regular basis has resulted in a newer, more dependable fleet. The policy keeps uptime high, which is a priority with the road department. “People have high expectations. They expect the roads to be in good driving shape every day,” Davis said.
Product Link™ and VisionLink® monitor the performance of the 12M3 and provide valuable information such as alerts, machine location, and working and idle time. This helps keep uptime high, and prevents minor problems from becoming more severe.
Product Link transmits the information via cell and satellite. The corresponding web-based application, VisionLink, enables customized health and utilization reports to be delivered to Cat dealer, Yancey Bros., Co. The dealer monitors the information and works with the road department on how to use the data to keep machine performance strong.
S•O•SSM Fluids Sampling also monitors 12M3 performance. With the program, a routine sampling interval is established to create a data history. The comparison of samples to more easily identify deviations from the normal trend enables meaningful recommendations to be made to keep the motor grader working economically and efficiently.
Outstanding service and parts support from Yancey helps keep the road department’s fleet in excellent condition. “They do a great job,” Davis said. “If we need a part, they can get it for us no later than the next day.”
Improving unpaved roads to paved surfaces is another road department responsibility. Crews upgrade approximately five miles of unpaved roads to asphalt annually. The Appling County Road Department completes all construction work, other than paving.
The crews also improve washed out and weak roads by adding river stone from the Edwin I. Hatch Nuclear Power Plant—which is located in Appling County—to the sand and clay mix that makes up most of the unpaved roads. “When we blend in the river stone, it’s almost like concrete,” Davis said. “It’s very strong.”
Other Cat machines in the Road Department fleet include: a 320E L Excavator, 336D Excavator, 420F Backhoe Loader, 420E Backhoe Loader and a RM500 Road Reclaimer.
While road department personnel complete a variety of jobs, the emphasis is always on maintaining unpaved roads. Day-in and day-out, outstanding operators and a fleet of reliable Cat machines keep county roads in top shape.