German loader bucks the
While many tractor and
machinery companies are
reporting a downturn in
demand, sales of
loaders are 20% ahead of
their 1997 level.
Mike Williams took one for
a test drive to see why more
farmers are buying them
SOME of the customers for the German-built loaders are industrial and construction companies, but farming is easily the biggest market with 78% of UK sales according to David Wilby, managing director of the Norwich-based distributor, Compact Loader Specialists.
Widemann loaders are compact and manoeuvrable, and this attracts stock farmers and contractors who have traditional buildings and low-roofed pig and poultry units to work in. Lift capacities range from 250-3500kg, and the smallest models are only 80cm (2.5ft) wide and 2m (7ft) high with the lift arms lowered, small enough to go through an ordinary doorway.
Recent additions to the range include the 1090 D/P which is already one of the top selling Weidemann models in the UK, and this was the version used in the hands-on session. It is powered by a 48hp Perkins engine mounted at the rear, and the hydrostatic transmission has two speed ranges – one for working and the other for travel.
Climbing aboard is easy, with steps and grab handles in the right places and no cab door to open and close. A cab is on the options list for the 1090 D/P, but most Weidemann loaders are sold with just a rollbar. This is partly because a cab would keep the loader out of low roofed buildings, and also because many of the machines are working under cover for much of the time. But on a cold, wet winters day my choice would be a cab with a radio and a heater.
Driving without a cab presumably increases the noise level, especially as the 2.2 litre engine is located just behind the driver, but noise is not a problem on the 1090 D/P.
Driving cabless also means the operator is less insulated from the surrounds, with excellent all-round visibility from the high seat position, and it is easy to feel confident when manoeuvring in a confined space.
The seat is adjustable for height and driver weight, and a seat belt is standard equipment. The steering column adjusts for reach, and the other controls are well positioned to achieve fast cycle times. They include a dump pedal for the drivers left foot, plus throttle and brake pedals on the right of the steering column.
Most of the frequently used controls are collected together on a lever operated by the drivers right hand. The lever has a single button for selecting the high or low transmission range, two more buttons switch between forwards, neutral and reverse, and the lever position also controls the loader arm lift, lower and float positions.
One more function operated by the lever is bucket emptying, controlled by a sideways movement.
Having just one lever to control so many functions could be confusing, but it takes only a few minutes to feel at home with the joystick and experienced operators can achieve really quick cycle times with shuttle operations such as muck handling.
Hydrostatic drive systems have a number of advantages on this type of machine, including stepless speed control between zero and the maximum. They should also be smooth, which is the case with the Weidemann transmission, and forward/reverse shifts can be made on the move, even at high throttle settings.
Pressing the button to engage reverse while travelling forwards at speed requires a certain amount of determination first time round – perhaps something expensive will break or the driver will be thrown forwards.
Mr Wilby says the transmission will stand up to thousands of quite aggressive forward/reverse shifts every day – and this helps contractors cleaning out poultry and turkey houses to achieve their high work rates. Wearing the seatbelt helps to keep the driver secure during this type of manoeuvre, but the cushioning effect of the oil flow transmission softens the direction change and makes it less abrupt.
Pivot steering with the hinge point midway between the axles means the front and rear wheels follow in the same track, which is reassuring when turning sharp corners.
The steering is light, with a 2.33m (7.6ft) turning radius giving excellent manoeuvrability.
Compact Loader Specialists offers a comprehensive range of attachments, mostly of their own make, and these have the Weidemann hitch system which allows a practised operator to attach a non hydraulic unit in less than 10 seconds.
The 1090 D/P loader is 1.28m (4.5ft) wide, 1.94m (6ft) high to the top of the * pillars and has a maximum working height of 1.18m (3.5ft) to the attachment pivot point. The maximum tipping load is 2050kg straight and 1000kg tilted. The price is £21,000, and agricultural attachment prices range from £180 for a bale spike to £1000 for a twin ram grapple fork with Kverneland steel tines.