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The world’s first terminal tractor test track

The world’s first terminal tractor test track

With typical top speeds of just 40 kilometres  (24 miles) per hour, Kalmar Ottawa’s new test track for terminal tractors will never be mistaken for a Formula One or Indianapolis 500 race track. 

Nonetheless, the 1,200-metre (4593 ft)track at Cargotec’s global manufacturing facility for Kalmar terminal tractors in Ottawa, Kansas in the U.S. will make an important contribution to Kalmar Ottawa’s already world renowned reputation for outstanding quality and innovation.

Opened late last summer, it is the world’s first test track designed exclusively for terminal tractors. Every Kalmar Ottawa terminal tractor that rolls off the assembly line will be tested on the new track, and the company’s research and development engineers will use it to test design improvements to further enhance performance and lower the total cost of ownership.

“A safe, quality product is our goal every day,” says Gina Lopez, Vice President Terminal Tractors at Kalmar. “The test track helps us accomplish our goal both by putting trucks through the paces before shipment while also providing a designated area to test our product.”

A solid commitment to Kalmar Ottawa dealers

The test track took about nine months to build, and was constructed with reinforced concrete to accommodate loads of up to 80,000 pounds (36,287 kilograms).

“The new test track and the improved facilities show the unwavering commitment from Cargotec to Kalmar Ottawa and its dealers,” says Benjamin Hecht, Director of Terminal Tractor Products for Briggs Equipment. Based in Dallas, Texas, Briggs is one of Kalmar Ottawa’s largest U.S. dealers. “This capital improvement exemplifies the 60-year commitment to quality that Ottawa has been built on.”

The track is comprised of an east loop and a west loop joined by a straightaway, explains Alan Wilson, Director, Multi-Assembly Unit, at Kalmar Ottawa’s facility. The east loop includes a cobblestone rumble strip and a hill, where as Wilson says, “We can simulate some of the rough environments these trucks operate in”.

The hill features a 15 percent grade on one side that mimics driving onto and off shipping vessels -- the typical RoRo (roll-on-roll-off) application that terminal tractors commonly deal with in port areas. A 20 percent grade on the other side of the hill is designed to meet the brake grade-holding performance required under U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

The west loop is designed to replicate a warehouse shuttle yard. Terminal tractors can be tested for maneuverability, trailer connections, lift height and lift speed. “The majority of our production in the U.S. is used in distribution centres,” says Wilson. “So we can simulate that environment. Every unit that we produce goes through the test track protocol.”

"Every unit that we produce goes through the test track protocol.”

Quick quality-control

Before the launch of the test track late last summer, Kalmar Ottawa terminal tractors were tested in the adjoining industrial park. The ability now to test terminal tractors entirely on-site offers big advantages in terms of quality, safety and efficiency. “With the new test track,” says Wilson, “quality-control issues are identified even faster, giving the engineers an opportunity to correct them before the trucks enter the field.” 

As the terminal tractor competence centre for Kalmar, Wilson says that Kalmar Ottawa has a global responsibility for the design of the products it builds. "That responsibility required better testing capabilities for our engineering department. We’ve also seen growth with our production volumes, so we needed to test on site.”

Wilson emphasises that the test track is also an important benefit for Kalmar customers.  “One of the things it allows us to do is make it possible for customers to come and test drive their units because we now have the facility for that, where in the past we did not.”

Touting our cutting edge products

Dealers had an opportunity to visit the facilities in May 2018 during the annual dealer meeting, and Hecht says he plans to take at least four customers a year to visit the plant and the track. “As a dealer, I’m very excited to take customers there. The site improvements are just another highlight of our industry-leading products and our history as an industry leader."

A few dealers have already seen the new test track, and it has been very well received, says Wilson. “It’s been working out really well.  We had to make a few minor adjustments, but, overall, it has acquitted itself well.”

The Kalmar Ottawa plant is Cargotec’s global competence centre for terminal tractor design, assembly, after-market support, sales and marketing. The facility currently employs more than 300 people and covers an area of about 40 acres (16 hectares). Kalmar Ottawa terminal tractors have been manufactured at the site since 1958.

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