Review: Caterpillar D6T XL dozer

By: Ron Horner

Presented by
  • Earthmovers & Excavators

Displaying grace and precision, this D6T XL Caterpillar dozer was making short work of a macadamia plantation with its powerful engine and excellent view of the work area. Ron Horner headed to the north coast to see an interesting set of dozer blades in action

The Caterpillar D6T XL dozer

Tucked away in a little town just out of Ballina on the NSW north coast is where I caught up with Steve Hammond from Hammond Earthmoving, the very proud owner of a 2012 model D6T Caterpillar dozer.

I had worked alongside this bloke on a very difficult project at Urunga where the team completed the rehabilitation of an abandoned antimony mine for the NSW government.

As is with a lot of jobs one encounters in a life time of earthmoving, the lasting and positive things that stick in your mind are the attitude and skill set of those you work with, the degree of difficulty of the job, the success of the project and the quality and uniqueness of the earthmoving gear involved. All of those attributes were found on this particular project and we all walked away celebrating a great outcome.

The job was so successful it won the NSW Earth Award for its category and made the finals of the Australian Earth Awards in 2017. 

Those associated with that particular project have kept in close contact over the years and have taken great interest in each other’s interests, family, health and of course their works in-hand. 

So, when Hammond rang and said he had bought a new dozer and was knee deep in building a macadamia plantation in his home town region, I just had to go and investigate both the machine and the project.

Windrow slotting V-blades designed specifically for this type of work


I tracked down Hammond and his dozer in the back blocks some kilometres off the beaten track west of the Pacific Highway, working on some magnificent, rich alluvial soil flats.

Greeting me with his trademark huge smile and handshake, Hammond pointed to a fully decked out 4,000hr, 2012 model D6T dozer (which could have passed for being brand new) idling away in the middle of a set of windrows.

Fitted to it was a set of V-shaped blades attached to the rippers and a rarely seen power-angle tilt (PAT) blade attached to the front, with the machine fitted with a Trimble GPS system. This little tractor was certainly built for a specific purpose and I was keen to get my bum in the seat just to see what could be done with it.

Comfortable air ride seating


Crawling up onto the Hi-Track walking gear to access the engine bay is only an issue if you are limited to one leg as there has been a re-design on the steps and handles to make climbing on and off the tractor easier.

Access to the engine via the keyless and hinged side covers is perfect and they stop or minimise the dust, leaf and stick matter that tend to congregate in the old-style open engine bay machines that adorned our industry for so many years.

As always, it surprises me the small amount of room taken up by the engine in the Cat dozers but this model is fitted with all of the anti-pollution gear made to man (e.g., Cat clean emissions module), which would be a nightmare for a basic owner/operator to complete any minor in-chassis engine works.

Running the Cat C9.3 ACERT turbo charged engine pushing out about 170kW (230hp) at approximately 1,800rpm gets this little tractor up and running whilst delivering plenty of power for all the jobs one could intend to throw at it.

Congested engine bay


Once in the seat, one could not be anything other than impressed with the comfort and visibility from the cab.

This cabin is isolation-mounted, which reduces vibration and noise whilst operating the little tractor in rough conditions, however in this application of topsoil shaping there is definitely a sense of eerie quiet.

The air-ride seat is spot on and the built in side arrestor arm rests are designed to help keep the operator in place and supported whenever exposed to traversing the steep side slopes this dozer is capable of handling.

The tapered shape of the cabin and hood ensures perfect vision to the blade and current work area. Combine this with the notched fuel tanks at the rear and the operator is in total control of their surroundings, with excellent views to the rippers and radical twin-blades attached to this particular machine.

The PAT blade extends some distance outside the track frame and makes it easy for the operator to take full control on the cutting and trimming capabilities of this machine. Any thoughts of the balance being compromised with the blades being fitted to the rear are definitely dismissed once work commences.

Typical Cat controls and slightly modified dash layout add to this already impressive list on this D6T dozer.

Improved dashboard layout


I must say, I am a touch biased when it comes to Caterpillar dozers and have a distinct liking for the D6 models from all eras.

No disappointment here – this dozer excels at balance, vision, comfort and performance. However, it was the V-shaped twin grading blades that had me intrigued and in need of assistance from Hammond to run me through the finer points of operation.

These were designed to cut the centres between the windrows of the macadamia plantation during construction.

After the GPS has been set, the PAT blade is angled and used to push up a perfectly straight windrow the full length of the cut whilst working one way, then pushed the opposite way whilst on the return trip.

The Cat grader is then used to rip the windrow centres prior to the D6T XL commencing its next move.

The V blades are then utilised to further cut and trim to grade the centres of those windrows and the spoil is then shaped to perfection with the use of the grader in its final trimming operation.

What we have at the end are rows upon rows of perfectly cut, placed and positioned GPS-controlled windrows ready for planting those beautiful macadamia nut trees Australia is renowned for.

This little tractor is factory fitted with the Cat GCR (grade control ready) function, which allows for easy installation of the Trimble GPS system prior to delivery, or for a relatively easy on-site fitment.

The variable PAT blade (which is optional) allows the operator to hydraulically adjust the blade lift, angle and tilt simultaneously using the ergonomically designed hand/blade control lever.

Not for every dozer owner or application, but to me this is like a tilting attachment on a digger – perfect for this job.

PAT blade controls on blade control lever


Although owning another brand of dozer for a short period, the Cat brand sticks pretty close to the Hammond family.

In his shed is housed a 1966 Caterpillar D6C dozer that Hammond proudly boasts of as being only its second owner.

Seeing the technological advancements in the D6 models over a 50-year period is difficult to comprehend, especially if you are my age when I cut my teeth on running the old girls (even back to cable blade operation).

Asked what his likes and dislikes were of this particular dozer, the compliments came fast and furious from Hammond, although there were a few small issues that only a fastidious owner/operator would complain about.

The amount of anti-pollution gear mounted to the engine is definitely a ‘new-age’ requirement but to old school blokes whom are a bit handy, it amounts to a ‘look but don’t touch’ approach. With this in mind you need to have a good back up plan and that’s where you call on the Westrac Service crew to help out. Hammond reckons it’s a game changer when you buy any earthmoving gear and would be lost without the Coffs Harbour and Alstonville Westrac depots.

The other issue is a simple as a ‘design out’ or ‘re-design in’ problem.

Hammond reckons the grated step prior to entering the cabin is poorly designed as the dust collects on it and when you open the cabin door the accumulated dust blows in and dirties the interior. A simple solution would be to make the grated mesh with larger diameter holes to allow the material to fall back onto the elevated track frame.

If I know Westrac, Hastings Deering and William Adams they will be right onto this, but that is how I run here. Reviews without fear or favour and spoken from the heart of the operators and owners.


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