Shaws Iron Test

The arrival of this new Cat 980M in the log yard at Red Stag’s giant sawmill outside Rotorua came just in the nick of time.


The loading team – operated by Rotorua Forest Haulage – out in the yard were struggling to keep up with the increasing number of logs arriving at the upgraded mill and the big new Cat has helped to increase the tempo with its extra-large capacity. They could even do with another one.


Such is life at what is now the largest sawmill operating in the Southern Hemisphere.


With more than 150 log trucks streaming into the yard from local forests every weekday and a little less on weekends to match the appetite of the mill’s new double quad-gang saw line, the three Cat wheel loaders need to work 24 hours a day and seven days a week to keep pace.


The 980M that joined the RFH operation at Red Stag at the start of the year is the first to go into service in New Zealand and is the tenth generation of this model.


While it doesn’t look much different to the previous model Cat 980K still beavering alongside the new 980M in the log yard, it has a new cab layout and there have been a lot of changes under the skin, with many detailed refinements that constitute a completely different machine in the way it operates.


Chief among them is the new powertrain. The latest version of the Cat C13 ACERT engine offers increased power delivery but with 10% better fuel efficiency than its predecessor, the 980K. And if any of you out there are still operating an older 980H model, then you can look forward to a 25% fuel efficiency gain when you swap into the new M. Not bad, eh?


The regular operator of the new 980M at the Red Stag log yard, Steve Malaquin, believes his machine is supping even less than the Caterpillar factory estimates, adding: “The fuel consumption is really good, heaps better than the K and I reckon the M will even beat the 966 for fuel.”


That’ll make RFH boss, Tony ‘Sarge’ Sargeson, really happy.


This 980M has replaced one of the two Cat 966 models that was operating with the Cat 980K until the start of this year. Being able to grab a complete packet of logs that weigh up to 17 tonnes in one go makes the 980M a very useful addition to the fleet at the mill, compared to a maximum lift of 12 tonnes for the 966. And it means there are now two high capacity loaders on hand when things get super busy.



To illustrate just how hard these machines work for their living, Steve mentions that the new 980M has already clocked up 6,500 hours since it arrived in January. Then adding in the same breath “but it’s been very reliable, no problems at all”.


Steve is largely a spectator today because he’s been off work for the past six weeks after undergoing surgery to replace a worn-out hip. But he’s itching to get back behind the controls and is keeping his fingers crossed that a doctor’s assessment the following week will give him the all-clear.


“I’m feeling good now and ready to rock,” he says. “I’ve been bored. Sitting around at home has been driving me mad. Can’t wait to get back.”


One of the night-shift drivers is filling in on the 980M for the moment and Steve is here today to help liaise between our NZ Logger Iron Test team and his colleagues at the yard as well as the log truck drivers, using his two-way radio to make sure that the myriad of machines and trucks know exactly where we are. There’s normally no one on the ground during unloading and stacking operations, so it’s good to have that extra pair of eyes and radio communication....


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