JCB Loadall: The world’s favourite Telescopic Handler

JCB’s Loadall line-up has been the global number one telescopic handler for many years, leading the market with innovative design and engineering excellence, providing materials handling and lifting solutions for construction, agricultural and industrial markets for almost four decades. This month JCB will celebrate the production of its 200,000th award-winning Loadall telehandler, a milestone in materials handling history.

Launched in 1977 as the JCB 520, the first model was a two-wheel drive machine with a 6.4m lift height and a maximum lift capacity of 2.25 tonnes. Until that time contractors had lifted materials with masted rough terrain fork lifts, backhoe loaders and loading shovels. Over the last 40 years the JCB Loadall range has expanded beyond recognition, to incorporate machines with working heights of up to 20m and maximum lift capacities exceeding 6 tonnes.

With every update JCB has moved the telescopic handler market forwards, introducing four-wheel drive, placing the engine to the side of the chassis to allow a lower boom mounting position, offering multi-mode steering with equal sized wheels, to improve maneouvrability.

Now JCB is taking the telescopic handler market into new territory once again, with the introduction of low-emission Tier 4 Final engines, to improve efficiency and cycle times when placing a load at height.

From that early two-wheel drive 520 model the range grew rapidly, with the addition of the heavier lift 525 in 1980 and the lighter second generation 520-2 and 520-4 in 1981, the latter introducing four-wheel drive and larger rear wheels for improved traction on construction sites. These models were also notable for the introduction of JCB’s Q-fit implement carriage, which allowed operators to work with a range of bucket and attachments, as well as pallet forks.

Though known worldwide by the Loadall name, it was in fact only adopted by JCB’s telehandlers in 1982. At that time JCB had introduced its own slick-shifting Synchro-Shuttle transmissions, while servo controls levers were added in 1986, making life easier for the operator, particularly in repetitive handling and loading operations.

Though well established by the late 1980s, JCB completely overhauled the concept in 1989 with rear-engined models incorporating multi-mode steering, with equal-sized wheels all round for improved travel comfort and manoeuvrability. In addition to front-end two-wheel steering, that made it easier to pilot a Loadall along the road, drivers could enjoy pirouetting in tight circles with all wheels steering or even shuffling sideways in crab-steer mode, to get out of an awkward corner or take the edge of a bucket along the edge of a roadway.

A key advantage of the mid-engine installation was the lower boom mounting, which improved rearward visibility. However by 1997 JCB had identified that further improvements could be made by moving the engine to a side-mounted position, between the wheels. This allowed a further reduction in the height of the boom pivot for even better visibility over the right hand side and to the rear three-quarter, while providing unmatched service access to the power unit and cooling pack.

Power and fuel efficiency benefitted again in 2005 when JCB’s own engine, the 4.4-litre Dieselmax was introduced. Output was increased further for the engine’s debut during 2006 in the side-engine Loadall and two examples of this potent engine powered a purpose-built streamliner to a new diesel land-speed record on Bonneville salt flats in the United States.

As part of the ongoing development of the Loadall in response to customer demand for increased performance and lower ownership costs, top-end models featured a high-capacity, variable flow hydraulics system with oil pumped only as needed up to 140-litre/min.

That same year, the Loadall reached a significant production milestone when it became the first telehandler brand to hit the 100,000 mark. Annual sales were such that an £8 million investment in manufacturing resources and a second assembly line at the Rocester headquarters factory brought improved production efficiency and flexibility, and substantially increased capacity. Just one year later in 2007 JCB would win the Queen’s Award for its ground-breaking 536-70, 535-140 HiViz and 535-125 HiViz models.

They would be closely followed in 2008 by a completely new side-engine, high-boom design for the North American market. In 2009, JCB built on existing experience with hydrostatic drives in mid-engined compact handlers to develop the 527-58. As the first compact side-engine Loadall with hydraulic propulsion, this recently enhanced machine offered a great combination of size, manoeuvrability, driving ease and loading/handling performance.

To meet new emissions standards and performance demands, JCB recently developed the 4.4-litre EcoMAX engines further, using only cooled exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) and a variable geometry turbo to meet Euro Stage IIIB / US Tier 4 Interim emissions standards. Installed in high specification versions of mainstream Loadall handlers in 2012, the EcoMAX also featured a more powerful engine control unit that sharpened its responses and helped deliver more torque and significantly improved fuel consumption. JCB also introduced a 55kW EcoMAX engine to meet demand for lower operating costs, CO2 emissions and improved efficiency. This served as a popular choice for customers thanks to the exceptionally strong low-speed torque characteristics, normally only seen on higher powered engines.

Also in 2012 JCB launched the heavyweight 550-80, an 8m lift machine with a 5 tonne capacity, designed primarily for arduous loading operations with high capacity buckets in both waste handling and agricultural markets. This would be closely followed in 2014 by the 560-80, taking that maximum lift capacity to 6 tonnes. JCB’s highest lifting machine, the five-stage boom 540-200 which provides customers with a stable 20m lift height, also joined the line-up at that time.

Today, the Loadall engine features a compact exhaust silencer and selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system, housed beneath the hood to meet the much more exacting Euro Stage IV / US Tier 4 Final emissions without the added hardware and servicing costs associated with the diesel particulate filter (DPF) needed on several competitor machines. The 55kW EcoMAX solution really comes into its own as it meets emissions legislation without any requirement for after-treatment, mitigating the need for DEF (AdBlue).

Hydraulic performance came under the spotlight in 2014 with the introduction of Smart Hydraulics across the 550, 560 and Wastemaster range, which includes a unique lift cylinder circuit that permits the boom to lower faster under complete control at low engine revs. This regenerative hydraulics system also added more:  cylinder end-stroke damping, a ‘bucket shake’ feature, automated the boom suspension and auxiliary venting. Loading cycles were also 20% faster and the system delivered a 15% reduction in fuel consumption.

Further evidence of JCB’s unrivalled experience developing both hydrostatic and powershift transmissions emerged with the 2015 introduction of the ultra-compact Loadall 525-60 HiViz with a hydrostatic transmission, full sized spacious cab and exceptionally low boom mounting design to maximise visibility. The compact machine is just 1.8m high and 1.8m wide.

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