Two Wheel Loaders and One Woman Who Wouldn’t Give Up

March 8, 2022

China’s Shexian county is in Hebei province, located east of the Taihang Mountains. As a historical and cultural city in China, the area is known for inscriptions, stone carvings, ancient houses, and antique temples. The region draws tourists from around the country. And it is in this land of antiquity that you’ll find a Caterpillar customer making history all her own.  

In the Beginning 

Zhang Zhuying is a wife and mother of two; she and her husband own a gravel plant in Shexian County. About 13 years ago, Zhang purchased a SEM ZL 30F wheel loader for a large job she’d just landed. Although she knew she couldn’t do the job without a machine, the risk weighed heavily on her.

“I was not very confident at that time. It’s hard to say whether I could make money after buying such an expensive loader. But at that time, I just got a big job and couldn’t do it without a wheel loader.”

The original purchase of the machine from SEM dealer Shexian Weiyuan Construction Machinery gave Zhang and her husband a unique regional designation: They became the only self-employed team in the southern half of Shexian County that owned a wheel loader. 

Working the Plan 

Still, after purchasing the loader, the pressure of repayment followed. Zhang made an unprecedented decision to learn how to operate the machine. At that time, it was rare to find a female operator. It seemed no one was optimistic that a woman could do the job, and she met resistance. But Zhang met that resistance head on.

Tangyue archway in China
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Tangyue Memorial Archway dates as far back as the Ming dynasty and are located in west Shexian County.

Tangyue archway in China

After working with her husband for a year, the couple broke even on the wheel loader, and the plant's operating conditions improved. The family decided to purchase another wheel loader. This time, a SEM ZL50F.

“As more and more people discovered we had wheel loaders, our business grew. Although we were tired, the whole family was full of energy at the time and felt that there was hope in life.”

Sharing the Benefits 

In 2016, some eight years after the original machine purchase, there was a flood in Shexian County, and the Zhang gravel factory was in the hardest-hit area. Without hesitation, Zhang and her husband used their two SEM wheel loaders to help those impacted in their neighborhood.

“At that time, the most important thing was to save people. In many places, people could no longer pass, but our wheel loaders were still able to pass.”

Woman and man next to wheel loader
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Woman and man next to wheel loader

Upon returning home, the couple discovered that several rear eight-wheel dump trucks and a recently purchased excavator were gone. The machines were later found in wreckage on a downstream beach, carried away by the flood. The loss made the couple feel like they were starting all over again. Zhang didn’t give up despite the devastation of losing so much equipment. She told her family, “We still have two loaders, and we are all fine. That is the greatest luck.”

Learning Never Stops 

For the past 13 years, Zhang has never thought of giving up. She likes to drive wheel loaders and says she feels at ease behind the wheel both day and night. She’s undoubtedly developed a special regard for her machines.

“These two SEM wheel loaders are no longer simple machines for us. They are like our family. They have silently made a lot of contributions to us for many years of hard work. They are the heroes of our family and helped us out of predicaments.”

In 2021, Zhang joined operators from across China at the SEM Operator Campus to hone her operator techniques. Outside of the industry, Zhang feeds her zest for learning by trying new things, including pursuing a chef and pastry certification and working to improve her Mandarin. 

Supporting Women in Construction

March 6 -12, 2022, is Women in Construction (WIC) Week, when we pause to highlight women pioneering paths in the construction industry. First observed in 1960, WIC Week is associated with the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), an organization dedicated to strengthening and amplifying the success of women in the construction industry.    

Caterpillar supports women in construction and is committed to improving diversity at every level of our business.  We believe that a diverse workforce is essential in building a high-performing Caterpillar team making positive changes in the communities where we live and work. 

Women with construction equipment in background
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Women with construction equipment in background