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On test: John Deere’s latest loader innovation

Designed to make repetitive tasks easier and more accurate, a new return to position (RTP) option is now available for use on selected H Series loaders fitted to John Deere’s 6R Series tractors.

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Product specialist Mark James says: “Our most popular loaders by far are MSL and NSL versions, so we have concentrated on these first.


Depending on how the RTP function is received in the market, we may well look to add it to HSL loaders in due course.”


It is also factory installed only at the moment. Mr James says: “It is possible to upgrade an existing tractor. However, it needs some extra wiring, connectors and software.


“On the loader side, a loader boom needs to have the correct holes to fit sensors, linkages, etc. and these are not there on non-RTP loaders. In the future, I would suggest they may.”


To work, the option requires the firm’s integrated command centre display, which is standard on 6R tractors. It must also be fitted with electronic independent control valves and an electrically operated joystick control.


To detect where it is in the lifting cycle, the loader is fitted with two sensors to detect the loader height and attachment angle. As a result, a complete loading cycle can be accomplished with four clicks of the joystick.


To get to grips with the RTP function, we tried it out on a 6150R tractor fitted with a H360 loader with MSL. The actual RTP function is mostly enabled by the tractor’s electronics, hence why it can only be used with a 6R. It is almost like a headland management system for the loader.


Making it simpler

Setting up the four RTP memory points could not be simpler. From the home menu on the command centre display, select the loader icon which will then display loader and attachment position along with buttons to set the points.


The RTP function will need to be enabled or turned on by selecting the top, right-hand button. Then it is a case of going through each of the four desired positions and hitting the set buttons. For example, lower the loader to the floor and put the bucket level, as if you were about to pick something up, then save the two positions (loader height and attachment angle) by pressing the relevant buttons. The

same can be done for a raised loader position and a tipped position for the attachment.


Once positions are set, they can be activated by flicking the joystick in the corresponding direction. For example, to raise to the pre-set height, pull the joysick backwards until you feel a small click as it passes through a gate, then let go of it. The loader will then raise to the set position and come to a halt by itself with no more intervention from the operator.


To test this, we tasked the outfit with the repetitive task of loading a trailer with muck off a concrete floor. While the RTP function took care of 90 per cent of the loader cycle, there still needs to be driver intervention when the bucket wants crowding back to get a full load.


Fortunately, the system does let you interrupt the cycle at any time if more movements are necessary than the pre-programmed four. RTP function aside, the loader can still be used like any other loader.


We found from a safety point of view, it did allow you to concentrate more on manoeuvring the tractor. For instance, while you are watching where you are going when reversing, the loader can be returning to its next position without you having to keep an eye on it.


Also, when working in a low building, you can use the upper position as a sort of limit. And with forward visibility restricted to the floor, it helps with getting the bucket level and on the floor every time.


While it is not a major issue, the RTP function does need turning on every time the tractor is re-started, which is also done through the terminal.


As well as being able to pre-programme the four positions, you can also set how aggressively the loader or attachment comes to a halt, with four pre-settings to choose from via the command centre terminal.


It also incorporates a shake function for attachments. You just tap the joystick to the detent/gate twice and it will sit and shake at whatever angle you have tipped it to.


The loader’s joystick control is mounted on the armrest which adds to the convenience of use. It also includes integrated buttons for powershift control. This allows your hand to spend more time on the joystick, rather than having to take it off to change gear – particularly good when staying in one range around the yard.


John Deere Loading
John Deere technology

FG verdict

While the return to position (RTP) function is not particularly aimed at anyone and was just designed to make life easier, it is only suited to particular jobs. For example, fit can be used when filling a trailer or spreader from the floor, so would be useful to move things such as grain from point A to point B.


Where the points vary, such as loading a diet feeder from the face of a silage clamp, at least half of the cycle will have to be carried out manually. Also, attachments which require a third service still need activating manually.


To be honest, we were sceptical at first as to how much you would gain from using the function, but it turns out it is so easy to set up and use and it does take some driver effort out of the equation, which ultimately has to be good for productivity.


Overall, and considering the extra cost which is £737 for the loader side and £130 for the tractor, the RTP function is a nice option to have, but it is quite hard to quantify how much it is saving you.


RTP-compatible John Deere loaders

  • H340 non self levelling (NSL)
  • H360 NSL
  • H340 mechanical self levelling (MSL)
  • H360 MSL
  • H380 MSL
  • Not compatible with hydraulic self levelling
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