6 August 1999

Visibility plus speed make an ideal match

Height, suspension and a

stable wheelbase make the

JCB Fastrac a fitting partner

for a verge trimmer, says a

south Wales drainage board.

Andy Moore reports

SADDLE a JCB 2115 Fastrac with a McConnel hedgtrimmer and immediately, the words chalk and cheese spring to mind – one frequently works at over 30mph, the other at speeds of less than 1.5mph.

But for mowing over 100 miles of waterway verges, the combination is considered ideal by the Caldicote and Wentlooge Drainage Board. Based in Newport, Gwent, the board is responsible for maintaining the dykes throughout the county.

"Speed between jobs, excellent visibility and good stability were the main attributes for choosing the Fastrac as the work station for trimmer work," says engineer Dean Jackson-Johns.

And he also believes the decision to equip the Fastrac with a McConnel Power Arm 7000T unit to have been correct. Having a telescopic boom, the 7000T can operate at distances of up to 7.7m (25ft) – ample reach for working its 1.2m (4ft) cutting head over wide dykes.

Conversion work for marrying the two machines was carried out at the McConnel assembly plant in Ludlow, Shropshire.

The intention was to mount the trimmer conventionally on the tractors three-point linkage, but the Fastracs load platform was considered to be a better choice.

"With the unit mounted on the platform, the flail head can be positioned almost in line with the cab," says Mr Jackson-Johns. "The operator only has to turn his head slightly, which is a lot better than the usual neck crane required with the hitch-mounted machine."

Another advantage, he claims, is that the three-point linkage and drawbar are left free for other equipment to be attached.

Platform mounting required the fabrication of a subframe having four locating quick release pins positioned at each corner. The only major change to the trimmer was to remove its two axle brackets.

Four hydraulic pull-out legs provide a stand, while a length of box section beefs up the back of the trimmer.

Demounting the trimmer is said to take about 15 minutes and involves releasing the four pins, pto and lowering the four hydraulic legs.

Once the Fastrac is driven clear of the trimmer, the legs are lowered and the machine is mounted on its original 60cm (2ft) parking stands.

Mowing of dyke verges in Gwent takes place from June to November and, until three weeks ago, was a duty performed by a single John Deere 3050.

As partner to the John Deere, the 115hp Fastrac will work 1700hrs every year as it takes on the first and second cut verge mowing operations.

Winter months are occupied cleaning out the dykes with a weed cutting basket, which is exchanged for the flail cutting head.

"Conservation authorities only allow individual areas to be mown at different times of the year according to pollination and animal habitats," says Mr Jackson-Johns. "The Fastrac will help to reduce workloads and be more flexible for mowing strategic locations."

The only trouble reported with the combination so far has been excessive side loading on the rear nearside shock absorber – due to operation of the boom in the extended position.

This resulted in the tyre rubbing on the frame. JCB cured the problem by fitting a more rigid shock absorber to allow the extra weight to be carried.

Niggles aside, Mr Jackson-Johns says he has high expectations for the combination. "Depending on how well the Fastrac performs, we aim to keep it for maybe 10 years. Within that time, there might be room for a second one to replace the John Deere." &#42

Rapid speed between jobs and excellent boom visibility are the Fastracs key assets, reckons Dean Jackson-Johns of the Drainage Board.

The JCB Fastrac 2115 with McConnel 7000T hedge trimmer will help mow 100 miles of waterway verges for seven months every year. With a 7.7m reach the power arm can span wide dykes.

A fabricated sub-frame allows trimmer platform mounting, which has four locating quick-release pins positioned at each corner. Main changes to the trimmer include removing its two front axle brackets.