27 March 1999

SMOOTHOPERATOR

FITSTHEBILL

Does two go into one? JCB hopes so with its latest scaled-down offering for the farmyard.

THE evidence from potato and veg farms shows there is a place for the forklift on the modern farm. It also demonstrates the need for a chunky telehandler for carrying and tipping one-tonne potato boxes with aplomb.

But where does JCBs telescopic forklift – the Teletruk – fit into all this? The manufacturer will argue wherever it wants to – and perhaps with some justification.

You can forget rough terrain ability but the Teletruk can be expected to shine in many more tasks on outside concrete or indoors than can any conventional mast forklift. Because, unlike the majority of counterbalanced forklifts, the Teletruk has a telescopic boom with 2.2m of forward reach, and options of a useable, rehandling shovel, potato box rotator, and sideshift on the forks.

It adds up to a forklift-sized machine with the ability to handle potato boxes, loaded pallets and even stack big bales three high. John Mitchell, of JCB Industrial, admits the Teletruk – first seen at last years Royal Smithfield Show – was originally launched into the warehouse and depot markets but it soon became clear that many farms also use forklifts as well as the larger telehandlers, including those made by JCB itself.

Advantage

Growers grading and bagging potatoes for sale are among the most likely to use one or more forklifts, says Mr Mitchell. The Teletruk has particular advantages for them given the advent of bigger articulated trucks and trailer combinations now coming on to farms designed with less turning space than a modern warehouse might have.

This very often means a 15-minute delay in loading pallets or boxes while a truck is turned round because the forklift can access only one side. The Teletruks telescopic arm advantage means it can be used to load a truck with pallets from one side only. As well as being able to reach over obstructions, the operator could even use it to load a pallet into a small van which would normally require loading potato bag-by-potato bag.

There are already 2t and 2.5t models in the range so handling one-tonne potato boxes with a box rotator is simple. A 3t model – like the others with either a GM LPG 3.0-litre power plant or diesel fuelling a 2.2-litre Perkins engine – becomes available in April.

Prices start around £21,000.

Loads can be raised to a height of 4.1m but there are other features to mark the Teletruk out from the conventional forklift. The restricted carriage tilt of a masted machine with just 16 degrees of total tilt is banished in favour of 111deg tilt of the carriage only. With forks fitted, it is possible to use the 16deg back tilt for greater stability, while the standard full forward tilt means its easy to withdraw from difficult loads.

The quick disconnect mechanism means forks can be exchanged for a 0.5 cu m shovel in 2-3 minutes. The tilt rams are in the booms front end so the shovel doesnt need any extra pivots or rams.

As if to emphasis the uniqueness of this forklift/handler, JCB has recognised the preference among operators for either machines with the stop-start driving characteristics of a hydrostatic drive machine or the torque converter type with dual pedal control. The Teletruks electronic brain can be programmed quickly to deliver either style of operation.

John Mitchell is confident, however, that operators coming from either conventional forklifts or from conventional telehandlers will quickly find their way around the controls of this mini-hybrid.