Tri Valley Puts the Cat® Next Gen 538 Forestry Excavator to the Test

March 8, 2021

When Finning approached forestry customer Tri Valley Construction Ltd. to put the Next Gen Cat® 538 excavator through the paces, owner Logan McKenzie, a third-generation logger, jumped at the chance.  “We were honoured to take part in this field test on the new Next Gen 538,” said Logan. “We’ve been a customer of Finning’s since my grandfather owned the company in the 60’s and my father after him, and it all started with Cat dozers and then we added skidders, processors and excavators. The reliability is phenomenal.” Today Tri Valley has a crew of 18 and has added articulated trucks, a wheel loader and a skid steer to his fleet of 23 Cat machines.

They’re located in a remote area of B.C. by Princeton, a half a days’ drive from anywhere. “But we have a good relationship with Finning who is our service provider,” says Logan. “We have a field mechanic in town that provides us great service and they always have parts available when we need them.”

You can see why Tri Valley jumped at the chance to test drive the new Next Gen 538 when Finning came knocking. Not just because it’s a Cat, but this is a totally re-vamped machine with some big improvements. It’s got more horsepower, greater stability and the cab has been given a total overhaul with operator comfort and visibility in mind. “The biggest difference is the cab and comfort for the operator,” says Logan. “It’s not cramped like the old ones there’s more room. My operators are in the machine for 10 -12 hours and they’re not sore or fatigued at the end of the day. These machines are their second home, so you want them to be comfortable.” Tyson Leduc, operator for Tri Valley, definitely sees the improvements in overall comfort. “The biggest thing about the cab, you’ve got the room to get in with all your stuff no problem. I really like the controls on it now that they’re integrated on the touch screen, it’s really nice to have them there. There’s lots of visibility you can see past the boom now and you’re not tired at the end of your shift. I actually look forward to coming to work to get in that machine every day.”

Trevor Dueck, sales rep for Finning Canada, who used to operate these machines is more than impressed with the comfort of the new 538. “One of the most exciting parts of this Next Gen is the cab,” says Trevor. “It’s got a nice big door that swings open and once you get inside you’ve got the ergonomics of the cab, the way the seat is situated with the handles, and from a visibility standpoint, Caterpillar moved the frame back on the right side so now you look out and there’s nothing blocking your view. It’s a game changer and a showstopper from an operator’s point of view.”

There are a couple of other new features that make this machine stand out from the pack. Caterpillar has ramped up the horsepower on this machine, added swing torque and increased the ground clearance. “I just love the performance on this machine,” says Tyson. “The swing torque is really nice, especially in this heavy wood. You’ve got more traction and control from the track power and its faster. The old machine did 100 pieces an hour, and with this one you can do a fair bit more than that.”  Doubling the fuel capacity has also added to the performance. “With the increased fuel capacity, I don’t need to fuel up every day, I can go three 10-hour shifts no problem and having the extra weight in the back means the stability is really good on it,” says Tyson.

Another huge component is the hydraulics given these machines are often working in some pretty extreme conditions and cold temperatures. But Caterpillar has also addressed that on the Next Gen 538. “It has the warmup feature on it which works really well,” says Tyson. “It warms up the hydraulics and the engine and it only takes maybe five minutes. It saves you a lot of time. Previous machines didn’t have this feature and it would take you working the machine for up to a half hour to bring the hydraulics up to temperature.”

Trevor is really excited about sharing the benefits of the Next Gen 538 with his customers and getting them into this new machine. “This is one of those machine’s that comes out of the box and it’s ready to go to the bush,” says Trevor. “You don’t need to add lights or any extra guarding, it’s all there. Right out of the gate this thing’s going to the woods and it’s going to process wood and make you money.” From an operator’s perspective Tyson is sold on the new machine. “From the door to starting it, to running it, it’s all good. If you’re lucky enough to get into one, you’re going to feel a different way about going to work.” And after putting the Next Gen 538 to the test Tri Valley is definitely onboard. “This 538 goes above and beyond my expectations, with what they’ve done,” says Logan. “The 538 has always been a great platform, but this one has hit it out of the park. I can’t wait to get a fleet of them.”

For more information on the Cat® 538 Forestry Machine click here.