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March 3-7, 2026

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Top 4 Construction Equipment Advances



Construction equipment has evolved enormously over the past decade. Manufacturers have developed innovations that have made equipment smarter, safer, and more productive. Now the industry is in the midst of an era where further advancements are changing the way construction sites can operate.

“One thing we’ve seen over the past few years is that a lot of these newer technologies are now converging,” says Dr. Ray Gallant, Vice President – Sustainability and Productivity Services at Volvo Construction Equipment. Technologies that allow equipment to dig faster or grade more accurately are beneficial on an individual level. But when multiple technologies can work together, an entire jobsite becomes more efficient.

The following is a look at what several leading equipment manufacturers believe are the top advances in construction equipment today.

1. Digitization

This advancement relates to the gathering, transmission, and analysis of information. Commonly used terms like Internet of Things (IoT) and telematics fall within this area of innovation.

By extracting GPS location data of equipment and vehicles, Volvo Connected Map provides a real-time view of the entire jobsite.

Speaking of telematics, many people point to a piece of equipment’s ability to monitor its own performance, transmitting information such as location, use and misuse, engine diagnostics, etc. While those pieces of information are beneficial, the opportunity to leverage equipment digitization has become much broader.

Sean Mairet, Group Product Manager for Grade Control at John Deere, says equipment telematics is now allowing fleet managers to predict maintenance issues so they can take corrective action before downtime ensues. As Mairet states, this represents an important graduation from just data to actionable insights.

Telematics is expanding beyond the piece of equipment, as well.

“It’s about sensing what a machine is doing and what the power demands are,” Gallant explains. “At the end of the day, what we’re trying to do is lower our energy consumption by being smarter about how much work we get out of every unit of energy. When you can sense things like the temperature and terrain, what a machine is trying to lift, etc., you can start helping the operator run the machine smarter and lower the energy output.”

Telematics is also helping to drive productivity. For instance, Caterpillar recently introduced VisionLink Productivity, a brand-agnostic telematics solution that can gather an array of data from an array of equipment across a jobsite. “All of that information goes to the cloud, enabling field and office personnel to closely and accurately monitor utilization and the progress of the fleet,” says Lonnie Fritz, Senior Market Professional – Construction Industries at Caterpillar.

For example, let’s say an excavator is loading several articulated trucks. Excavator productivity can be tracked by measuring things like payload and cycle times. Truck productivity can be tracked by measuring payloads, cycle times, and the routes being driven. “This information enables you to compare actual production to what was budgeted,” Fritz says. “Telematics has evolved to where we’re able to take actionable data and turn it into actual process improvements.”

Digitization is also about connecting people and equipment to help a jobsite run more efficiently. Volvo’s Connected Map is one technology that can help accomplish this. By extracting GPS location data of equipment and vehicles, both on-site and remote staff can maintain a real-time view of the entire jobsite. This digital information helps site managers locate machinery, optimize traffic flow, and communicate with operators much faster and more precisely.

2. Automation and operator assistance

John Deere’s 772GP Motor Grader includes position-sensing cylinders which enable options such as automation and SmartGrade, along with other operator-assist features such as Blade Flip and Auto Pass.

While fully autonomous construction equipment remains an aspiration, the automation of certain machine functions is helping build a bridge to that future state. Operator assist systems that help operators dig, grade, compact, and load continue to improve and gain further adoption.

“These assist technologies have turned operators into better operators,” Gallant says. “First, they reduce the typical learning curve for an operator, taking it down from maybe five years to just a year. They also help operators in conditions that are less than ideal. For instance, certain technologies can sense working conditions and self-adjust, such as slowing a machine down if it begins losing traction.”

Grade control is a popular operator assist system with broad application. It’s found on everything from motor graders and dozers to wheel loaders, skid steers, and excavators.

“Five years ago, 2D was still in its early stages. Now it’s more mainstream,” Mairet says. “Now you also have 3D which is a complete smart-grade solution. 3D leverages an off-board ecosystem that ties the physical machine and operator to a digital plan. That digitization and connectivity create a cohesive symphony that makes the most of productivity.”

Fritz says grade control can also work in tandem with other assist features to further reduce operator inputs. AutoCarry, for example, is a Caterpillar technology that helps operators maximize blade load while limiting track slip, by automatically adjusting blade height on a dozer. Another technology, Steer Assist, automates steering functions to guide the travel of the dozer on a selected line within the 3D digital jobsite design file.

Another example is Blade Flip, which is part of John Deere’s Grader Automation Package. “The operator simply double-taps a button to rotate the moldboard from one side to the other,” Mairet says. “That’s a lot easier than having to hold the button down the entire time the moldboard rotates. Making it easier to perform these types of repetitive types tasks is a real benefit. The industry has way more work to do than people to do it.”

To further make equipment as easy to operate as possible, Caterpillar has developed operator coaching technology. Tips are provided in real-time to help operators scoop, push, and load more productively. “These tips are both audible and visible, and are built into the monitor in the cab,” Fritz says.

Remote control technology is another high-value advancement. Remote operation provides several key benefits:

  • Operators can be removed from higher-risk environments.
  • One person could operate several machines on several jobsites.
  • Widens the labor pool to those with physical disabilities who can’t climb in/out of equipment.

3. Safety

Construction equipment has also continued to get safer over the years.

With Caterpillar’s Command Technology, the equipment can be operated remotely either on-site with a handheld remote console control, or off-site using a universal remote operating station.

“Technologies like advanced vision systems and people detection are becoming a lot more relevant,” Mairet says. “Providing as much visibility as possible to the operator is key. Cameras and optical detection systems have improved tremendously over the past five years.”

Mairet points out how these technologies are able to differentiate certain objects they detect, i.e. a dirt pile vs. a human being. That’s important because balancing safety and productivity isn’t just a matter of seeing something. It’s also about knowing what to do when something is seen.

4. Sustainable power

Sustainable power represents another key area of advancement. The key for construction companies is to leverage the right solutions for the right applications.

Battery-electric immediately comes to mind. According to Gallant, it is no longer just for smaller types of equipment. Volvo, for instance, recently unveiled its first mid-size battery-electric excavator, the EC230, a 23-metric-ton model. Volvo will also be introducing a battery-electric roller in the Fall of 2023.

The transition to battery-electric is just that, a transition. Much like on-road automobiles, support infrastructure is needed to accelerate the transition.

“The last thing anybody wants to do is put a piece of equipment on a jobsite with no way to charge it,” Gallant says. “A one-day machine doesn’t do much good. We want to make sure the entire ecosystem around battery-electric is ready for this type of operation.”

Another sustainable energy, hydrogen, faces a similar situation. “(As a combustible power source), the challenge is getting hydrogen stored and transported in the quantities needed,” Gallant says. “It could make sense for a very large site like a mine or port where on-site hydrogen production might be feasible. But in general, a lot of work still has to be done, and a lot of that is happening behind the scenes right now.”

An alternative approach is to incorporate a hydrogen fuel cell on a piece of equipment. That fuel cell produces electricity to recharge batteries which drive the machine. Volvo has been testing a haul truck that utilizes this configuration.

As sustainable power solutions like hydrogen and battery-electric continue to evolve, Gallant says other alternative fuels are playing a larger role in helping the construction industry along its sustainability journey.

“Alternative fuels like biodiesel and natural gas are much better for the environment, but still provide the power needed on the jobsite,” Gallant says. “The other important point is that they help provide a transition. You can’t replace 100 years of diesel infrastructure overnight. Right now it’s a matter of looking at all of these technologies, and picking the right areas to invest in to see the best result.”

To that point, John Deere’s Mairet says a lot of contractors are also finding a comfort zone with diesel-electric hybrids. Productivity and sustainability blend well, and adoption is not cumbersome. “Just like with full automation, sustainable power sources like full battery-electric are still way out,” Mairet says. “But things are being done along the way that makes a lot of sense.”

They are also providing a lot of benefits—to those who are willing to adopt them.


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