Almost every site-prep project requires some kind of grading, which is essentially smoothing and leveling (or sloping) a jobsite. Some grading projects, such as building pads, parking lots or road surfaces, require perfection because even the slightest deviation can not only lead to increased costs, it can also cause major problems down the road. For example, lack of water flow control can result in flooding, and poor elevation consistency can lead to inefficient use of expensive fill materials.
While motor graders are specially designed for grading large surfaces with impressive accuracy, dozer grading can be a cost-effective alternative for operators working in a smaller area. Additional benefits are listed below as small dozers provide:
Lower upfront costs
Increased maneuverability in tighter spaces
Reduced fuel consumption for lower owning and operating costs
Technological advances for improved grading accuracy
Machine versatility, which is ideal for projects with multiple job tasks
Additionally, advances in dozer controls have made the work much easier. Speed, blade pitch and angle are now controlled with a simple joystick or thumb switch, and some models even offer advanced controls that automatically complete parts of the cycle for improved productivity.
What makes grading so difficult is the fact that the machine pitches over any uneven terrain in the jobsite surface. The operator must move the blade as the machine moves just to ensure the resulting surface is smooth. Beginner operators may spend a majority of their effort trying to make a smooth surface, rather than focusing on how to move the dirt into the position they want.
Dozer Grading Accuracy
Because grading accuracy is so important, some machine designs come with a built-in system to help improve operator precision when necessary. The best dozer grading systems include a well-balanced base machine, crisp and predictable blade controls and an intelligent powertrain that keeps the machine moving through the material.
However, not all machines are created equal. Machine technology continues to evolve and now there are innovative grading tools that can help operators at various skill levels work faster and more accurately. Grade control attachments include the following:
2D slope systems provide a very low-cost option that can maintain a specific slope angle.
2D laser systems allow dozer operators to grade and fill with increased accuracy without the use of traditional stakes or grade checkers for a faster grade in fewer passes. They require line of sight to the laser and are perfect for smaller areas where high accuracy is necessary.
3D GPS systems are best when the jobsite involves contours, rather than single or dual slope planes, because they automatically control the blade to a specific surface and don’t need line of sight. While these systems are the most flexible, trees or tall buildings can reduce effectiveness.
3D laser systems are used to create highly accurate 3D surfaces. They require line of site, and can be used to subsidize 3D GPS systems in areas where a signal isn’t available.
Maintaining consistent grade is difficult, labor intensive and challenging for even the most experienced operators. Using grade control systems for small dozers can help improve productivity, especially when your bottom line depends on moving material safely, quickly and accurately the first time.
In addition to the AccuGrade™ Grade Control Systems listed above, Caterpillar also offers dozer grading technologies to help reduce operator fatigue so the focus can remain on getting the job done faster.
StableBlade helps smooth out the operator commands and compensate for the normal pitching of the machine as it travels over the surface
Auto Traction Control constantly monitors the machine to detect track slip and automatically adjusts the track speed to avoid affecting the grading surface.
Optional Slope Assist automatically controls the blade to an operator-specified mainfall and blade slope, so the operator can focus on blade elevation and dirt management. This system doesn’t control to a specific elevation, but it can make creating a consistent slope a lot easier.