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Test drive: Bobcat telehandlers designed to be serious farm contenders

Having recently launched its largest ag-spec loader to date, Bobcat is motivated to prove its telehandlers are designed to be serious farm contenders and not just rebadged construction machines.

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Test drive: Bobcat telehandlers designed to be serious farm contenders

Bobcat now offers dedicated agricultural telehandlers with lift capacities of 2.6-4.3 tonnes and lift heights from six to 7.5 metres, featuring a new three-year, 3,000-hour warranty.

 

The approach to ag-spec machines has been refocused, says European product manager Olivier Traccucci, with the manufacturer now boasting seven models and three levels of specification.

 

This is determined by the number of stars following the Agri designation, starting at one star for the most basic, which fulfils all homologation regulations; two stars, which sees increased operator comfort amenities; and three stars, which includes boom suspension, LED lights and automated features, among other niceties.

 

Ag handlers are not just construction machines with chevron tyres, Mr Traccucci is keen to insist. Instead he says the loaders have been designed from the ground up, with the farm-based operator front and foremost in the process.

 

With such a dedicated following in the poultry industry for the company’s skid-steer loaders, Mr Traccucci says the demand was for a compact yet powerful machine to complement the firm’s most famous product, and this has been achieved with the compact series telehandlers.


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Clearance

 

Despite the diminutive dimensions of the range, including an overall height and width of 2.1m, lift heights are up to 6.75m, enabling clearance over silage and arctic trailers, with a payload of up to 3t.

 

Mr Traccucci says the company has also experienced demand for more options with its standard range of telehandlers, resulting in last year’s launch of the biggest model produced to date, the TL43.80HF.

 

The rest of the range, bar the TL35.70, uses the company’s high flow technology, a 190-litre per minute load-sensing, flow-sharing hydraulic pump.

 

Cycle times for its loaders are some of the shortest on the market, claims the company, with 150 litres/minute available at the auxiliary attachment.

 

All loaders use the same 3.4-litre Doosan derived Stage 4-compliant engine, delivering 75, 100 and 130hp outputs. Likewise, all loaders use hydrostatic transmissions.

 

To get an impression of the changes made, we got to grips with the TL43.80HF, the biggest and newest loader in the Bobcat range, designed with large arable, dairy and anaerobic digester farms in mind.

 

Capable of hoisting 4.3t to 7.5m, it features the 130hp engine. It will also appeal to those who no longer feel they are getting the best out of a 3.5t machine because of the stifling EN15000 load limiters.

HYDRAULICS

HYDRAULICS

HYDRAULIC functions are swift yet easy to control, with plenty of redesigned points along the length of the boom.

 

The company’s power lift system uses a second ram to ease the load on the main ram at the start of a lift, maintaining decent cycle speeds, not achievable with a single larger ram, according to the company.

 

The headstock tilt and crowd mechanism has also be redone, with a Z-bar linkage added for the first time.

 

Loading

 

This has increased the tear out force and strength of the front end, offering seven tonnes of force, the company says. This certainly shows when loading soil and muck.

 

This setup was also necessary for optimising the use of larger bucket, and now offers 152-degrees of movement, 17-degrees more than the direct linkage of other models, particularly noticeable in the tipping portion where the bottom of the bucket goes beyond the horizontal and back towards the loader.

 

The auxiliary module has an automatic pressure release system and a 12-volt electrical socket as standard.

CAB

ATTENTION has been paid to the cab, which has acres of glazing. The rear right corner features a pillarless setup and sweeping curved glass, providing clear views to the wheel.

 

The exhaust is neatly tucked out of the way with the selective catalytic reduction canister hidden under the bonnet. Boom height is also low, complementing the decent all-round visibility.

 

However, in the age of reducing the reliance on plastic, Bobcat obviously did not get the memo, having adorned everything with a particularly cheap-feeling grey material.

 

It is neither pleasing on the eye or tactile to the touch, and if confronted with a rough operator, it does not look particularly long-lasting either. The interior material is a shame as the cab itself is a pleasant place to be.

 

The joystick and switch gear all feel of good quality, with directional change either through a stalk on the left-hand side of the steering wheel or via the joystick where it is placed on the top.

 

This makes switching direction and performing another function, such as retracting the boom, difficult, as your thumb has to perform two tasks. It would be better on the underside of the joystick, where the index finger could flick into forward or reverse.

 

When neutral is selected, the parking brake automatically comes on after a couple of seconds.

 

It disconnects automatically when a direction is selected, a handy safety feature.

 

Machine parameters, such as lift speed, boom extension rate and auxiliary flow, are controllable through a small screen on the dashboard.

ENGINE AND DRIVETRAIN

ENGINE AND DRIVETRAIN

MUCH of the company’s development with this machine has been keeping the tare weight to a minimum, resulting in the loader tipping the scales at 8,040kg.

 

The key to keeping the weight to a minimum is the design of the chassis, which, unlike many telehandlers where two thick sheets of plate are used longitudinally for rigidity, uses a welded box to provide the same tensile strength properties, but at a reduced weight, says the company, as thinner 8mm plate is used.

 

Heavy-duty axles from Dana-Spicer are used, while the hydraulic pump and hydrostatic transmission are from Casappa and Danfoss. The hydrostatic motor provides two speeds: a low speed for precise movements and a faster one for road travel, as well as dedicated creep function dislocating travel speed from engine rpm.

 

Motor

 

Behind the hydrostatic motor is a two-speed mechanical gearbox offering speeds from 0-14kph and 0-40kph. In first gear, full torque is available, making it adept at getting a decent bucketful out of a pile of muck or grain.

 

However, second gear is somewhat lacklustre in its torque availability and struggles to climb banks without a run-up. And although a pick-up hitch is fitted as standard, its use is questionable as the loader struggles on slopes itself, let alone with a trailer in tow.

 

Another niggle with this arrangement is the fact you have to completely stop to shift up or down the mechanical gear, which is controlled by a rocker switch on the dash.

 

The 130hp engine has plenty of grunt and is quiet in operation. The usual host of features keep emissions at bay, including AdBlue, but there is no diesel particulate filter. An ecomode caps engine revs at 1,800rpm while maintaining full hydraulic power, but top speed is limited to 35kph.

TL43.80HF specification

■ Lift capacity: 4.3 tonnes
■ Lift Height: 7.5 metres
■ Hydraulic flow: 190 litres per minute
■ Weight: 8,040kg
■ Size: L4,585mm x W2,300mm x H2,374mm
■ Price: From £76,804 plus VAT

FG verdict

FG verdict

A CAPABLE machine, well-suited to yard duties such as loading grain mixer wagons and the likes, the TL43.80HF has plenty of power and hydraulic performance.

 

Switching between gears is cumbersome, however, on concrete not necessarily an issue.

 

Visibility from the cab is good, however, the interior lets it down. Lift capacity and reach are impressive for a machine of its size, but as is now the case with many loaders, getting near the limit is next to impossible with the EN15000 load limiters.

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