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On-test: New bulk and reach machines from Manitou

Having fettled its smaller machines, Manitou’s current focus is on its large telehandlers with two new introductions to the bulk handling and high reach market. James Rickard takes them for a test drive.

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Following an increase in demand for larger capacity bulk handling machines and further reaching telehandlers, Manitou has developed two new models to add to its ag range.


Geared towards bulk handling of materials such as grain and biomass, the new, six tonne lift MLT960 telehandler has been developed from the ground up and represents Manitou’s largest capacity agricultural machine to date.


However, if high reaching is your requirement, the firm has also introduced the MLT1040. Replacing the MLT1035S and complimenting the 840, the new model gets a two stage boom able to lift to 10m high.

To get a flavour of the new machines we got stuck into a pile of grain with the 960 and put the 1040 to work on bale handling duties.



Based on the firm’s construction machines, both the MLT960 and 1040 share the same curvaceous cab. With it you get air suspended seat, CD player, Bluetooth connectivity and  air conditioning.


Also transferred over from its construction machines is a new dash layout which incorporates blister buttons to setup various machine settings; analogue dials for revs, fuel level and temperature; and a digital readout for machine information.


For the most part it is pretty intuitive to use and less intimidating than it initially looks, but the screen needs to be a lot bigger and clearer – it requires a lot more than just a glance to view information, especially gear selection on the 1040.



As with all Manitou telehandlers, the 960 and 1040 get the firm’s JSM joystick control. For those unfamiliar with the concept, it comprises a mouse-style shaped joystick which fits in the palm of your hand and puts all primary controls at your fingertips including transmission and auxiliary services.


It is also integrated into the machine’s armrest and moves with the seat, and while it does take a while to get used to at first, once mastered it is a peach to use.


Thanks to large doors, cab access is good. Once inside, space is decent although a bit more headroom would not go a miss.


Despite the 960’s (pictured) beefy rear-end, visibility all-round is better than you might think looking at it from the outside. From its lofty driving position, you actually have quite a commanding view of the working area.


It is a similar story for the 1040 too. Its low boom position affords good views all-round, particularly to the rear, right quarter.

Handling modes

Handling modes

In-line with EN15000 requirements, both new machines employ three selectable handling modes; handling, bucket and suspended. Standard default setting is handling mode which when the safe load limit is reached only allows you to lift and retract the boom – essentially allowing you to bring the load back closer to the machine.


Bucket mode is similar to handling mode but also allows you to tilt and crowd and operate a third service, when the safe load limit is reached.


Finally, suspended mode is basically a de-rated version of the handling mode which takes into account the swing of a load, reducing load capacity performance by 10 per cent when it gets close to the safe load limit.


For safety reasons, the machine does not remember when bucket mode has been selected and defaults back to the, deemed safest, handling mode every time the machine is keyed off. However, suspended mode is remembered.

Steering modes

Sticking with modes, the 960 and 1040 also come with a fourth steering mode. As well as front, four wheel and crab, you can now select semi-crab steer.


This allows the rear wheels to be locked in a position of your choice but still allows you to steer the front wheels – ideal for cleaning along the edges of a grain store or feed trough, for example.



A smart design touch on the 960 is the uncluttered boom nose, avoiding collisions of any vital components on the top edges of tall trailer. Also, to help when coupling hydraulic hoses, the hydraulic pressure can be dropped out of the circuit via the press of a button in the cab.


Giving the 960 something to think about was the use of a 4cu.m grain bucket. Despite the heavy load up front, the 960 felt a stable machine throughout, really giving you the confidence to throw it about. For increased stability, the 960’s rear axle hydraulically locks rigid when the boom reaches an angle of 55 degrees.


Manoeuvrability is good too, with the 960 able to turn on a sixpence – handy inside a tight grain store.

Performance II

Performance II

Equally as agile, if not more so, is the 1040. It also gets a useful stability control function located on the front axle and allows manual hydraulic ‘sway’ control, effectively allowing you to level up the machine – particularly useful for those high lifts.


Interestingly, steering on the 1040 is light as a feather, but fairly heavy on the 960 which is a shame as you end up having to wrestle it in and out of buildings.


For both, hydraulic flow is impressive, helping to keep cycle times down, although the 960 could do with some more end boom dampening to take out shock when it retracts and extends fully.


Under the bonnet of both machines lurks a John Deere engine. Using a combination of a diesel particulate filter (DPF), a diesel oxidation catalyst and exhaust gas recirculation, the Deere motors meet Stage 3b emissions standards.


While there is no AdBlue to top up the DPF does need to go through a regeneration process every now and again to burn off built up particles. Mostly this is done without you even noticing, but if you are working in dry dusty environments, it can be overridden to delay the process until it is safe to do so. This can be done up to 10 times, at which point the machine will rev up to clean itself out.


Mounted transversely, access to the engine’s filters and maintenance points is pretty good and a pull out screen in front of the radiators makes removal of debris easier. To prevent dust from being blown up, air is expelled out of the rear/upper portion of the engine bay.


If grills do get full of trash, the radiator is fitted as standard with a reversible fan which can be operated manually or automatically. In automatic mode it will reverse every three minutes for 15 seconds.

MLT 960 transmission

MLT 960 transmission

Transmission-wise, the 960 gets continuously variable transmission (CVT) operated by a two stage hydrostatic offering a top speed of 40kph. Range changes are automatic with speed simply selected via the foot pedal – essentially rev and go.


Speed uptake is smooth and the transmission very controllable, however, it does require quite high revs to really make it dance. Once in high range too, acceleration then becomes a bit lethargic. On the plus side, the transmission does offer a good amount of retardation when decelerating, which is good around the yard as you almost need no braking.


If an operation does require speed to be limited, a knob on the console can be used to govern the top speed limit from 0-40kph.

In addition, revs can be set via a hand throttle independently of travel speed selection to maintain oil flow to an attachment such as a feeder, bucket for example. Oil flow can also be adjusted and set according to requirements.

MLT 1040 transmission

MLT 1040 transmission

As for the 1040, it gets a five-speed powershift transmission which can be operated in manual or in automatic.  


In automatic, a top gear can be selected which the machine will not go over and you also get torque lock out in gears 4th and 5th, which really comes into its own on the road with the machine maintaining speed much better.


On the whole gear changes are fairly smooth, and it does pick its feet up well, much more so than the CVT in the 960.

Automatic park brake

A handy feature for both models is the use of an automatic park brake which engages whenever the machine is brought to a standstill and neutral selected. As well as the extra safety, it is quite a useful tool when handling materials as the machine can be flicked into neutral and the telehandler will hold itself rigid.


We would say it probably works slightly better with the CVT than the powershift. With the latter you get a bit more of a lag in transmission uptake when coming out of neutral, which is a bit less predictable than the hydro especially when carrying out small, precise manoeuvres.

FG Insight verdict

FG Insight verdict

Despite the multiple transmission, handling and steering modes, the new machines are for the most part are simple to set up and get going.


Similar operating logic really helps when jumping between the two machines, especially if you did have multiple machines in a fleet.


The main differences to be aware of between the two telehandlers is the CVT of the 960 and the powershift of the 1040, which offer up two very different, based on their intended applications, but two good driving experiences.





Maximum lift capacity



Maximum lift height



Unladen weight




180l/min, 270bar

180l/min, 290bar


4.5-litre, four-cylinder, John Deere

4.5-litre, four-cylinder, John Deere





534Nm at 1,500rpm

534Nm at 1,500rpm


Two stage, hydrostatic

Five speed, powershift

Retail price



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