Caterpillar introduces its first next gen forestry machine

The Caterpillar next generation platform boosts production while reducing maintenance costs

By Bill Tremblay

Caterpillar has introduced its first forestry machine incorporating the manufacturer’s next generation platform. 

The new Cat next generation 538 Forest Machine is more productive, more comfortable and costs less to maintain than its predecessor. 

“This machine introduction builds on about 40 years of experience and development with forest machines at Cat,” said Mike Dickenson, Caterpillar’s product specialist for forestry excavators. “It’s really exciting to be able to integrate this into the fold and to move forward with a brand-new platform.” 

Alongside the next gen platform, which boosts operator and fuel efficiency while reducing maintenance costs, Caterpillar worked with customers, operators, mechanics and dealers to design the machine. 

“That’s really what sets the stage for the product development on this machine,” Dickenson said. 

Available in log loader and general forest configurations, the 538 has a new electrohydraulic control system that delivers 10 per cent more swing torque, allowing the machine to do work with more power and precision.

As well, a high wide undercarriage provides 15 per cent more ground clearance to help the machine pass over stumps and other obstructions with ease.

An updates to the drive system also increases travel speed, helping the next generation 538 cover more ground and move up and down slopes faster. 

“We’ve gained over 10 per cent travel speed, and we’ve had good feedback on the travel performance,” Dickenson said. “The swing torque update is substantial.”

Cat 7.1 engine

The 538 includes the Cat 7.1 engine that meets Tier 4 Final and Stage V emission standards and is flexible to run on biodiesel up to B20. 

Smart mode automatically matches engine and hydraulic power to working conditions to help reduce fuel consumption up to 5 per cent without sacrificing performance. 

The 538 also offers a cold-start capability of -32 Celsius and reliable high ambient temperature operation reaching 48 Celsius. It efficiently operates at altitudes reaching 3,000 metres without derating. Fuel tank capacity is more than double the previous model, which means the new 538 can operate up to five shifts before the need to refuel. 

Forestry cab

The all-new certified forestry cab design for the Caterpillar next generation 538 dramatically improves operator comfort and safety.

“The cab is 25 per cent larger with 50 per cent greater overall visibility than our previous 538,” said Giacomo Bottone, worldwide director for Caterpillar’s forestry and medium excavator family. “Plus, it has a heated seat and a more ergonomically friendly layout, so the operator doesn’t have to exert much effort to be efficient and productive.”   

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Ingress/egress is easier due to the cab’s wider and taller door and tilt-up console on the operator’s seat. As well, the specially insulated roof and improved window and door seals keep in-cab noise levels low.

The machine’s new dual HVAC system keeps operators comfortable regardless of working in the summer heat or during subfreezing ambient winter temperatures. 

“We’re really making sure we have strong air conditioning performance,” Dickenson said.

Operators can start the 538’s engine with a simple push of a button. The new Operator ID allows each operator to quickly program and store their own machine settings and attachment function preferences. A larger 25 cm high-resolution touchscreen monitor delivers intuitive navigation through operating menus, and includes a digital version of the operator’s manual for quick reference. An available Caterpillar PL161 Attachment Locator assists in finding work tools within a range of 60 metres, even when covered by overgrowth or debris. 

A larger, 32 mm polycarbonate front window improves visibility and operating safety. Smaller cab pillars with the large panoramic windows and recessed right front side of the machine contribute to the 50 per cent visibility improvement over the previous model. Two different cab risers –16.5 cm fixed or 1.2 metre hydraulic tilt – are available to help operators better see the job site. Video feed from the standard rearview camera is easily visible on the high-resolution monitor to enhance operating safety; an optional sideview camera improves visibility even more. 


Compared to the previous model, the Next Generation 538 lowers maintenance costs by up to 15 per cent over the course of 12,000 hours of operation. 

“We improved our filters and our service intervals, and we improved ground-level access to service points to make daily maintenance quick and safe, including a new ground-level dipstick for checking the engine oil,” Bottone said. “Our new electrohydraulic control system eliminates the need for a pilot filter and pilot oil altogether.”

The improved filters and synchronized replacement intervals result in greater uptime and 50 fewer filters being consumed over 12,000 hours. Fuel filters feature a synchronized 1,000-hour change interval, which doubles the service life of the previous model. A new hydraulic oil return filter improves filtration and delivers a 3,000-hour service life, which is 50 per cent longer than previous designs.

The high-efficiency, hydraulically driven cooling fan runs only when necessary, and reversing intervals are programmable to enable the fan to keep the radiator cores clean without interrupting the work schedule. 

Caterpillar’s Product Link technology captures critical operating data, fault codes, and machine location information to boost fleet management efficiency. The next generation 538 has Remote Troubleshoot capability when within cell coverage. Remote Troubleshoot analyzes real-time machine data captured by Product Link for diagnostics of fault codes without impacting machine productivity, and it can potentially save a service trip to the job site. Also, owners can be sure the 538 is operating with the most current version of software with standard Remote Flash (dependent on cell service), which updates machine software around the production schedule. 

“Loggers who want more production, greater comfort and safety and lower maintenance cost will love the next generation 538,” Bottone said. “When you add in our Cat dealer network that’s committed to forestry, you get a winning combination of machine and support that can’t be beat for moving timber.”