Review: JCB TLT35D 4x4 Teletruk
The newly arrived JCB Teletruk offers a unique approach to materials handling. Matt Wood has a closer look at very different machine
The machine you see pictured here does a good job of defying categorisation; in fact, it kind of looks like the love child of a skid-steer loader and a counter-balance fork lift.
It’s not really considered very professional for me to use technical terms like ‘thingaby-jig’ or ‘doovalackey’ but this latest offering from JCB does tend to fall firmly into the ‘thingy’ category.
JCB’s Teletruk fills a whole number of materials handling grey areas that until now have been difficult to fill by any one machine on the market.
The JCB name has long been synonymous with yellow machines that dig holes. In fact, in Australia JCB has traditionally been considered a manufacturer of backhoes rather than a provider of materials handling solutions. For many years the construction equipment scene in this country was divided into different shades of yellow, with the larger end of the spectrum dominated by Caterpillar, Volvo and Komatsu, while the lighter end was rounded out by JCB.
The JCB story itself starts with Joseph Cyril Bamford whose initials form the company’s name and logo. During Britain’s post-war economic doldrums Bamford started manufacturing tipping trailers for farmers out of a rented lock-up. By 1949 he had come up with a loader attachment for the then popular Fordson Major tractor which proved a big hit.
By the early ’50s the backhoe that the company became famous for had hit the market and within the next decade the company was moving into larger premises.
One thing that has remained an interesting quirk of JCB has been the continual desire to design and manufacture its own power plants. There’s a real sense that the company is determined to do things its way.
However, as one of the largest privately owned construction equipment makers in the world, and second largest by volume, JCB has also had a long and innovative history in materials handling.
In the late 1970s when British manufacturing was spiralling down into virtual extinction and many hallowed British institutions were in their death throes, JCB pioneered the telehandler concept which has revolutionised the way materials are handled on building sites and farms around the world.
The off-road telehandler has become a familiar sight on construction sites and has become invaluable for handling both palletised items as well as doubling as a mini crane or even an earthmover.
Bearing this in mind the Teletruk seems like an obvious evolution of the telehandler concept and it draws heavily on the JCB experience of both the telehandlers and the skid-steer loaders.
JCB has managed to corner the skid-steer market in some parts of the world as it is the only one on the market that uses a single boom arm which means visibility is increased and the machine can be entered via a side door.
So the Teletruk seems part fork lift, part loader, but what does this actually mean in terms of tasks it can carry out? Well for a start the telescopic arm means that it can load across a truck or trailer from one side of the vehicle, which dramatically reduces the amount of yard space needed for the job. Theoretically this does away with at least one five-metre corridor down the side of a loading area.
Both of the 4x4 and 4x2 models also don’t need a hardstand to operate on with 175mm and 125mm of ground clearance respectively.
Another big advantage is that the machine has no mast which gives it very good overhead clearance; at a maximum height of 2,205mm it can drive into a shipping container with no difficulties.
The mast-less design also increases the stability of the machine when both laden and unladen.
But the forward reach of the Teletruk, at 2,450mm, means the machine can reach into containers and over other pallets to pick up another one behind them.
It would be easy to say that the main domain of this machine would be in industrial and manufacturing settings, but the Teletruk seems to pop up in some unlikely places.
One interesting use found for the machine in Britain has been to use the Teletruk to load parcel express courier vans. Loading vans with a fork lift can be a pain if the side door doesn’t give enough clearance for a pallet and the van has a lift-up rear door that gets in the way of a conventional fork lift mast.
The reach of the Teletruk means palletised freight can be through loaded into the van from the rear which can cut down a lot of manual lifting and fork lift gymnastics.
But the varied uses for the machine keep on coming. The 3-tonne lift capacity means that the use of attachments such as grabs won’t compromise the machine’s capacity in many roles. Quick-release attachments like rotators are also an easy ask. But even equipped with fork times the machine can pick up a pallet that has fallen over and can even pick up and drop pallets below level. This has been something that has come in handy for use on waterside applications where the tide fluctuates making loading and unloading onto flat surfaces difficult. The 4,400mm maximum lift height for the 4x2 model still gives quite a bit of flexibility for putting pallets into racking or for stacking product. And if you like you can still hook up a bucket to the front and use it as a mini earth mover. It’s kind of like the ultimate materials handling Tonka toy.
I had a chance to play with the TLT35D 4x4 model recently at Construction Equipment Australia’s (CEA) Dandenong headquarters recently in an effort to get my head around this rather strange machine.
Stepping into the yellow thingy was an easy step up pretty much as you’d expect for a standard counter-balance IC truck.
But, from behind the wheel the feeling was pure tele-handler cockpit even down to the joystick controls.
The Teletruk is available in both 4x4 and 4x2 the 4x2 model is standard with a rollover protection (ROPS) canopy while the 4x4 model that I played with has a fully enclosed AC cab. The visibility from the cab was superb and virtually unrestricted from all angles.
In operation the 61hp (46kW) Deutz diesel engine is reasonably quiet and provides plenty of grunt to both get the machine moving through the hydrostatic transmission and also to power the tele-boom hydraulics.
The overwhelming sense you get from operating this machine is one of stability. The lack of a mast overhead takes a lot of bump and sway out of the machine. The Teletruk will also cope will a 2,000kg load beyond the 2m stretch of the boom.
The machine has a 3,500mm turning radius, which doesn’t make it quite a nimble as some counter-balance machines, but it doesn’t exactly compete with these trucks in these roles.
Clearly most people are going to ask what sort of price premium a machine like this commands and you are looking at nearly twice the price of some conventional fork lifts.
But given the variety of roles that this machine can fill it could be said that it’s worth two machines anyway. With the JCB pedigree behind it, the JCB Tele-thingy ... whatsit truk may just be the best of British manufacturing, and that’s something that you don’t hear very often in today’s manufacturing environment.