Cover story: Cat 310 mini excavators

The new Cat 310 mini excavators might be small on measurements, but they offer big benefits

Bay of Plenty-headquartered equipment hire company Hewletts Road Machinery has recently taken delivery of two new Cat excavators, which join an existing hire fleet made up of many more Cat machines of varying sizes. 

They’ve been hiring out the heavy stuff for decades. But you can point fairly and squarely to the Tauranga region’s unstoppable growth as the chief reason why two of well-known machine hire company, Hewletts Road Machinery’s latest acquisitions fall on the compact side of the equation.

The Cat 310 mini excavator is a small machine with big benefits

"The size of a large proportion of the house sites being actively developed in Tauranga now means that getting a 12- or 13-tonne digger down the side of an existing structure, or into smaller work sites, is getting harder and harder," says Hewletts Road Machinery operations manager, Mason Phillips.

"Everything is tighter with developers fitting more onto less. There’s a point where it’s all good having the machine strength, but if the digger is too big to use efficiently, then that becomes an issue. That’s what’s driven our purchase of these new Cat 310s—they fit into a spot in the range that few other machines currently do."

Add Cat’s latest suite of next-generation tech and improved operating efficiencies to the two machines’ basic dimensions, and the compact 10.1-tonner’s value in a variety of earthmoving scenarios adds up to more than the sum of its parts.

"They’re proving incredibly popular," confirms Terra Cat building construction industry manager, Bevan Dale.

"Delivering such an impressive level of in-cab technology at the smaller end of the Cat range has really lifted the bar. And even though the 10-tonner is a compact machine, if you need breakout ability and a five-metre-plus maximum dig depth, then this will deliver."

"The cabs are comfy with good heating and air conditioning and there’s a great amount of outward vision, too, which is important. From what we’ve seen, the fuel burn is also very efficient. Across the board the attention-to-detail is excellent."

Big performance in a mini design

The compact excavator works well in smaller work sites

Despite the challenges 2020 posed, Terra Cat has already placed plenty of new Cat mini excavators with customers all over New Zealand and they have been well received in a variety of construction disciplines, says Bevan.

For Mason Phillips at Hewletts Road Machinery, which has been supplying a huge variety of rental gear to the wider Bay of Plenty construction industry for nearly 40 years, another big benefit the Cat 310s bring with them is the simplicity with which they can be transported.

"Because we’re a hire entity, transport logistics is actually a big part of our service," says Mason who—as if to underline the fact—is even busy loading a transporter when Deals on Wheels catches up with him for this article.

"The 10-tonners are great because they’ll comfortably fit on an eight-wheeler and remain within the weight limitations. You can’t use an eight-wheeler to transport a 13-tonner because it’s overweight. But then when you get to site, the 10-tonner basically gives you as much reach as a larger 13-tonner will."

Maximum reach of 7.6 metres is impressive from a machine that has an overall undercarriage length of 3.2 metres and track width of 2.4 metres. In fact, improved performance in lifting, swinging, and travel are all part of the new Cat 310 feature set. While working hard, however, the latest next generation Cat mini excavators also boast 25% more horsepower over equivalent outgoing models and a 20% overall improvement in fuel efficiency.

This operating efficiency is attained through the addition of features such as auto idle and auto engine shutdown to minimise fuel burn, while a more efficient hydraulics system with a variable displacement pump has also been designed to help reduce operating costs.

Cab comfort

The latest next generation Cat mini excavators boast 25% more horsepower over equivalent outgoing models

Bevan says that improved air conditioning, a fully suspended operator seat and better ergonomics make the mini excavator’s cabs comfortable for long shifts.

"Caterpillar’s design philosophy means that there’s more commonality of parts and features throughout the wider Cat excavator range. So, that presents owners and operators of smaller gear like the Cat 310 with big benefits, because these entry-level machines receive similar or the same features as you’d find in the manufacturer’s bigger machines," he says.

Naturally, these features also include an improved safety kit. As part of the upgraded monitor system in the pressurised, ROPS- and TOPS-compliant cab, a clear-view reversing camera gives the operator improved visibility behind the machine, while courtesy work lights and a fluorescent retractable seat belt are other safety features built into the Cat 310.

Bevan says the machine’s Stick Steer feature is another benefit that Cat’s mini excavator range brings to the job site.

"I reckon this is a standout feature. Stick Steer gives the operator the ability to easily switch from traditional travel controls with levers and pedals to joystick controls just by pushing a button. It essentially means the operator can almost drive the Cat 310 like a skid steer. It just adds to the work efficiency these compact machines deliver to their owners."

Ably serviced under warranty by Terra Cat locally, Mason’s two Cat 310s are already out with Hewletts Road Machinery customers.

"These new machines definitely bring something different to our hire fleet being in that 10-tonne bracket," he concludes.

"But we tend to lean towards Cat anyway for a lot of our gear not only because of the product’s reliability but also because of Terra Cat aftersales support.

"Between their service teams here and in Rotorua, they have good technical support coverage across the Bay; they look after the guys using our gear well, and that’s obviously good for us."

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