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The Utility Expo 2023 draws record-breaking attendance

By Stephen Elliott

October 1, 2023

Caterpillar electric mini excavatorThe Utility Expo 2023 returned to the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky., last week with a record-setting gathering of over 21,000 utility construction professionals from all 50 states and 60 countries. More than 900 exhibitors showcased products from Sept. 26-28 for the utility construction industry.

The previous attendance record was set in 2019. The biennial trade show features equipment test drives and interactive product demonstrations.

“From every perspective, this year’s Utility Expo surpassed all expectations, offering an abundance of sights and experiences for attendees,” says John Rozum, The Utility Expo show director. “Our goal is to bring utility pros together with exhibitors and equipment manufacturers to advance the utility industry and showcase how the equipment, products and technologies help keep our communities working and thriving.”

The Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), a North America-based international trade group representing off-road equipment manufacturers and suppliers with more than 1,000 companies and more than 200 product lines in the agriculture and construction-related industry sectors worldwide, owns and produces The Utility Expo.

One of the areas exhibitors focused on was a lower-carbon future, with companies such as Bobcat Co., Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE), Caterpillar, John Deere, and Case Construction Equipment displaying recently released or prototype models in the battery electric machine category.

Caterpillar, Irving, Texas, highlighted its new 301.9 mini excavator, which will go into production this year, and is scheduled for dealer availability at the end of the first quarter 2024. Greg Worley, Caterpillar global market professional, mini hydraulic excavator, says the machine runs on a 32 kWh battery/48V system.

Worley says the machine is designed for sites requiring reduced exhaust emissions and machine noise and for work inside buildings. The mini excavator has a 2.2-ton operating weight and a 0.13-cu.-yd. bucket capacity.

“It’s quiet,” Worley says. “I’m the first to say not every electric machine will replace a diesel machine in certain applications. What’s surprising a lot of people is nobody believes this has the same performance as a diesel machine.”

Worley says one skeptical customer of battery-powered equipment ran the 301.9 on the demo yard and was impressed.

“It was a design decision,” Worley says candidly of the mini excavator. “One of the things that we, at Caterpillar, decided to do from the outset was if we were going to do a battery machine, we wanted it to have the same or similar performance to a diesel.”

Worley says the 301.9 mini excavator is built off of the 301.8 diesel machine.

“One of the things Caterpillar is very clear to say is that diesel will continue to be a significant player in the construction industry,” Worley says. “But, we will provide alternative power options, and this is one of those alternatives we’re bringing to the market to help with the whole sustainability message.

“We look at California, New York, Chicago, the big cities being very high up on our priority list of where to place this machine. It’s also in some of those high-end landscaping situations like Colorado, where they don’t like smoke. They don’t like noise.”

A variety of exhibitors and products filled both the indoor and outdoor exhibit areas, covering a record 1.5 million net sq. ft. Some of the products at the show included:


Ditch Witch mini stand-on skid steer 

The SK1750 mini stand-on skid steer from Ditch Witch, Perry, Okla., features a patent-pending track system for added productivity and a smoother ride, the company says. Equipped to handle a wide range of landscape, irrigation and tree-care projects, the machine features a new track system that has a tension-check window, allowing operators to visually check track tension without threading a separate gauge tool.

Fecon telematics platform 

The Fusion telematics platform from Fecon, Lebanon, Ohio, uses features such as automatic machine calibration, location services and performance tracking to improve mulching performance and productivity. The product enables customers to optimize the performance of the head on any compatible carrier with a Plug n’ Play design that calibrates the head to the machine at each start up and throughout the day’s operation. An ongoing data analysis is designed to empower customers to make real time data-driven decisions to enhance efficiency, the company says.

KATO/Compact Excavator Sales 

The 188-hp IC70 rotator crawler from KATO/Compact Excavator Sales, Elizabethtown, Ky., comes standard with a three-way opening dump bed, multi-function monitor and joystick control. The machine has a diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) tank, an operating weight of 25,575 lbs. and a 15,435-lb. payload.

Stellar Industries poly lube skid 

The LM220M poly lube skid from Stellar Industries, Garner, Iowa, is designed to enhance lubrication services for mechanic trucks with its improved contamination control, reduce leak points, serviceability and ability to be lifted by a crane. The tool can be completely customized to meet the needs of different industries and equipment types — accommodating various types of custom configuration fluid options.

Terex Utilities boom lift options 

Terex Utilities, Watertown, S.D., exhibited a pre-production Terex® Z-60 Substation Utility Boom (SUB). The unit has been undergoing field tests throughout the year, the company says. “This 60-ft. class insulated mobile elevated work platform (MEWP) is based on a Genie Z-60 FE and will be an expansion of our SUB product line, joining the Z-45 SUB, which was first introduced in 2021,” says Robert Hasegawa, product manager.

The machine features a fiberglass fly jib section and fiberglass platform with swing gate. At 8 ft. 2 in. wide, the machine has an 18-ft. 8-in. outside turning radius, 24-ft. 3-in. up and over clearance, and working range that takes the platform 10 ft. below grade. The hybrid system automatically senses if the batteries need to be charged and will use the 24-hp diesel engine and generator to recharge the batteries. The system will charge depleted batteries to 80 percent in approximately 4 hours.

Vermeer vacuum excavator 

The VX75 vacuum excavator from Vermeer, Pella, Iowa, is equipped with a 1,500-cfm vacuum blower. It is available with a 5-in. hydraulic boom option for standard units and a 4-in. hydraulic boom option for air and jetter versions. The machine is designed for utility work, including potholing, horizontal directional drilling (HDD), slurry management and micro-trenching dust containment. The vacuum excavator’s control panel and full function remote control allows operators to start and stop the machine and control everything from the boom to the water system and spoil system.