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Visionary approach

Consultant Plant Editor Nick Johnson assesses JCB’s latest innovations, including a low-skip site dumper, a telescopic boom skid steer loader and ‘new generation’ 1.6 to 1.8-tonne mini excavators.

Producing ever-bigger capacity site dumpers with the load in front of the operator was always going to risk accidents due to restricted forward visibility when the machines are fully loaded. Now, after a spate of serious injuries and fatalities, the industry is finally taking a close look at these products, and a series of meetings have been held involving contractors, hire companies, manufacturers, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), CPA and other interested parties.

Already many dumper makers have reacted to demands for models with integral cabs and, at the recent Plantworx exhibition, large cab- equipped machines were displayed by Ausa, JCB, NC Engineering and Wacker Neuson. Of these, the JCB unit created particular interest because of its completely new design, having not only a purpose-built cab on the rear chassis, but also a distinctive low-profile skip at the front. Called the 7FT Hi-Viz, this prototype 7-tonne payload articulated unit is due to go into production at the end of 2017. Interestingly, the forward tipping machine will be made at JCB’s factory at Rocester as part of a new in-house site dumper production line.

Producing its own range

Two years ago, JCB added site dumpers to its portfolio by sourcing badge-engineered machines, with capacities from 1 to 10 tonnes, from Terex in Coventry. Last year, Terex’s compact construction business was bought by the French company, Mecalac (whose latest launches are reviewed on page 29), and now JCB has decided to design and produce its own range, which will include nine articulated models. There will be a 1-tonne capacity hi-tip machine and both forward tip and swivel skip versions of 3, 6, 7 and 9-tonne units. Of these, the 6, 7 and 9-tonners will have cab options.

Fitted with a cab, the new site dumper is designed to allow the operator to remain seated during loading.

Whilst the other new dumpers will look more conventional, the prototype 7 tonner is demonstrably different. It has been developed by JCB’s Innovation Centre to address safety issues. Fitting a cab not only provides a better operator environment but, more importantly, it should allow the driver to remain on the machine whilst it is being loaded, thus reducing the risk of slips and trips when getting off and on, and keeping the operator clear of moving equipment, such as the loading excavator.

The chief distinguishing feature of the 7FT Hi-Viz is its low-slung skip. To provide better forward visibility, even when fully laden, its front axle has been moved slightly forward to allow the skip to be carried lower down behind it. Compared to a traditional 6-tonne site dumper, this reduces the front blind spot area from around 25m2 only 3.5m2

to . Certainly, the view from the seat gives the operator much better forward vision without the need for a camera system.

Current regulations call for the operator to be able to see a 1.5m tall person or object, standing 1m from the machine when unladen. With the Hi-Viz concept, they can see a 1.2m high person or object all around the machine, even when fully laden.

The prototype 7FT Hi-Viz created much interest at Plantworx. 13

Tim Burnhope, JCB’s Chief Innovation and Growth Officer, says that retaining the rear seated, front skip site dumper configuration (rather than adopting a front mounted rotating seat, rear skip arrangement as proposed by another manufacturer) retains simplicity and eliminates the need to re-train operators. Clearly, the JCB configuration can still be driven by the many operators who have a CPCS A09 card covering front-tipping dumpers.

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