By Cole Parkinson
In mid-June, a critical piece of Municipal District of Taber equipment reached its end of life, meaning the municipality had to find a way to replace the machine in short order.
On June 15, the M.D.’s 1998 CAT D7 had a catastrophic engine failure resulting in a rod puncturing the side of the engine block.
The machine is used in all aspects of M.D. construction projects including pushing scrapers, level and strip material, ripping, reclamation and working in tight and muddy conditions.
During council’s regular meeting on June 23, a discussion on replacing the broken machine and where the money would come from was had.
“The D7 is large enough to recover scrapers when they get stuck but small enough to float on soft ground. It is a very versatile piece of equipment,” reads administration’s report for council.
A replacement unit was not budgeted for in 2020, though it was due for 2021, and an estimate for a brand new CAT D7 was set at $750,000.
A cost estimate for a used D7 was $450,000 while they were also presented with the option to rent the machine for the rest of the construction season at $25,000 per month.
“This isn’t necessarily a scenario we planned for, but it is a scenario we are currently faced with,” added CAO Arlos Crofts.
While it has put the M.D. in a precarious situation, the machine has been in the fleet for several years and has had thousands of dollars put into it.
“Since 2012, the M.D. has invested $320,000 parts and labour into this machine. The engine was rebuilt about five years ago, some other powertrain work was done as well,” continued administration’s report. “The bulk of the repairs since 2012 were structural repairs to the undercarriage and track barrels. Most of this damage is a direct result of wintertime work. In winter when the ground is hard from the frost, track spin becomes a major issue. Track spin and track slap damage the undercarriage quickly and puts excessive amounts of torque on the barrels causing them to crack, which leads to the major structural issues that we have on the machine today. Due to these issues, this machine is not a suitable candidate for a major rebuild. Wintertime is for maintenance and repair.”
“In the future, maybe we should give a second thought to doing winter work. It seems to be quite hard on our equipment,” stated Coun. John Turcato.
Administration agreed they would discuss how winter work could be done in the future in a way to preserve machinery as best as they could.
“It is something that should be considered. There are ways to do it but it does take a toll on the equipment. It’s something we are aware of and there is proper maintenance when we are doing that,” replied Stu Weber, director of public works, who also answered the question of if maintenance was done in house or by the manufacturer. “The work that was done was sent out to CAT to do, in this scenario. Going forward, we will try to do most stuff in house. I feel we have a really good crew here and I have a lot of faith in the guys back there. I like doing the work in house because there is more care put into it.”
A question around purchasing a used unit was also brought forward by council.
“I put $450,000 in there because what I have seen from used ones, most are 2012 to 2014. They all have about 5,000 hours on them and that $450,000 would get a decent one. The nice thing about buying one through a dealership is there is warranty. One thing to keep in mind with tracked equipment is about 5,000 hours, you do about $100,000 of undercarriage work. At 10,000 hours you do about $300,000 of rebuild work. If you do that religiously, I’ve seen dozers with 50,000 to 60,000 hours on them because they are getting those rebuilds,” answered Weber.
And as far as repairing the current unit, administration explained the work required would not be beneficial in the long run.
“This particular D7 we have here, it’s not worth repairing. There is just too many issues with it it’s not worth the money to get it back up to spec,” continued Weber.
It was estimated a new engine for the D7 would cost $70,000 and further upgrades needed could total close to $250,000 which would also leave the unit off M.D. roads for at least three months.
Council was also presented with a long-term forecast of equipment for many different divisions across the municipality.
In terms of public works, administration explained some of their equipment is getting close to the end.
“This winter when I came on board, I looked at our scrapers. They are getting close to the end of life as well. We spent a fair bit of money, $25,000 to $30,000, lining the bowl of the oldest scraper. I am confident that we can get another three or four years out of it now. My intention would be to push those scraper purchases back a bit and I think there are more in there than there needs to be. One update there though is, you can’t get a scraper for $750,000 anymore, they are more like $1.5 million. That is the way with all of this equipment.”
With no means of funding left for capital purchases from the 2020 budget, administration explained the unit would be paid for by moving 2021 equipment around.
“We would do a lot of shuffling in 2021 and up the line. Looking at this document, there is lots of movement that needs to happen to get things the way I would like to see them, in terms of capital replacement. I think we can stretch out and eliminate some things going forward. As far as 2020 goes, it is an addition,” added Weber.
A motion that council approve $750,000 for the purchase of a new D7 dozer using the Sourcewell program and to fund it through the equipment replacement reserves was carried unanimously.