5 September 1997

Little loader out to fill a small telescopic niche

Telescopic handlers do not come much smaller than the latest articulated model to join the Schaffer loader range. Peter Hill tried it out

IN Germany, the wheeled loader reigns supreme when it comes to materials handling.

There, the little machines are as popular on road works and construction sites as they are on dairy and pig farms.

And they are increasingly catching the eye of UK farmers who want a compact and manoeuvrable loader with the potential for lower operating costs than a skid-steer and smaller dimensions than a tractor-loader.

Now, German manufacturer Schaffer wants to build on that appeal and capitalise on the UK farmers love affair with telescopic handlers by offering a machine that combines the mini wheeled loader and telehandler concepts.

In effect, the Schaffer 550T is a scaled-down version of the already small Matbro Teleram TR150 and JCB 409 Telemaster. Indeed, it has a bigger brother, the Schaffer 870T, that more closely matches these two.

Telehandler versatility

What the 550T offers is telehandler versatility in a really small package. It is just 1600mm (63in) wide for one thing – only the Manitou Buggiscopic is slimmer – and it measures 2380mm (94in) to the top of the safety frame or optional weather cab.

Overall length, from bucket tip to counter-weight tail, is a modest 4920mm (194in) and with tight-turning centre pivot steering that makes for a highly manoeuvrable little beast.

Nor does the 550T lack power, as a brief muck heap work-out revealed. Its four-cylinder Kubota engine pumps out 50hp, which would be painfully inadequate in a bigger machine but is more than adequate for this 3.9t device. The 550T, after all, is not designed for charging about fields popping big bales on to trailers or filling muck spreaders in five seconds flat. It is principally a yard vehicle with field capability.

Positive hydrostatic drive appears to be one of the secrets of the machines apparent lack of power. It also makes it very controllable even after just a few minutes in the driving seat. There is none of the sluggishness or over-run that seems to come with torque converter drive.

With the engine at idle and forward gear engaged, the Schaffer keeps perfectly still. Apply a few revs and the machine moves off slowly and positively, or stomp on the accelerator for a livelier get-away.

Forward, neutral and reverse are selected using a rocker switch on top of the hydraulics joy-stick, which is a perfect location for quick changes of direction. Another switch on the side moves up to the faster travel speed.

The joy-stick, for up-down and crowd-tip, is firmer than servo type controls but not unduly so, although it would be handier if it worked to the same angle as the drivers arm.

Similarly, the accelerator and inching/brake pedals, which are of a generous size and well-positioned, are too smooth and slippery beneath a muddy boot.

Hydraulic power and speed is more than adequate for a machine of this size, which will take a decent enough bite from a muck heap to load a flail spreader in three or four cycles. Forward-aft stability appears particularly good although, like any articulated telescopic handler, it has to be treated with respect when on the turn.

Lift height, at 4.4m (14ft 4in), is enough to stack round bales four high and the 550T will take its maximum load of 1.7t (which derates to 0.75t at full forward stretch) from ground level to full height. &#42

Above: Joy-stick boom and attachment control, with forward-reverse selector on top, makes operation quick and easy. The telescopic section is operated by a separate four-way lever which also controls a top grab and the hydraulic attachment locking pins. Left: Its small, but the Schaffer 550T can still stack round bales four high.

SCHAFFER 550T

&#8226 Engine Kubota 4cyl 50hp.

&#8226 Transmission Single pump, two-speed hydrostatic.

&#8226 Lift 1.7t to 4.4m (14ft 4in) pin height.

&#8226 Size Width 1600mm, height 2380mm, length 4920mm.

&#8226 Importer Websters Wheeled Loaders, Wolvey, Leics.