Easy shifting

25 March 2008

It's a Cold day in Launceston, Cornwall in the south west of England, and Muck Truck Idirector, Terry Rowlands, is proudly showing us the motorised 250 kg capacity micro-dumper. A test site had been selected that is characteristic of a muddy building site, with some steep inclines and level surfaces of various materials. Before we go into an evaluation of the machine, take a look at some of its technical features.

Controls

The controls are simple, with brake, throttle/choke and clutch on the left handlebar. The gearbox selection lever is on the right side, with the tipping release handle below the right hand handlebar. The throttle closes the choke control when pushed past a detent, to its maximum. After the engine starts, the throttle control should be returned to the position where the choke is in the open (run) position.

Engine

The machine is fitted with a vertical crankshaft Honda 4,1 kw petrol engine. Options available are the GCV160, or the more rugged GXV160 model.

Braking

A small disc brake is fitted to a shaft of the transmission, which provides efficient transmission braking.

Clutch

AV-belt drives from the pulley of the engine to the pulley mounted on the top of the transaxle. A tension belt clutch is fitted, witha cold provisions against the beltda jumping out of line with its pulleys.

Transmission

The single transaxle drives the front wheels on either side. The transaxle has a differential to enable skid steering, and incorporates the gearbox with four forward plus one reverse gear.

The machine is a genuine four wheel drive machine, with skid steer effect. The rear wheels on either side are driven by an ‘idl tic wheel which provides the friction drive from the surface of the front wheels to the surface of the rear wheels. This transmission method is patented, and is a good example of simplicity providing a good solution. (It is patented, but Muck Truck has come to an agreement with Belle Group for it to use a similar system on its own micro-dumper.)

On the demonstration machine the four wheel drive was impressive, with the powerful drive of the engine being transmitted to the rear and front wheels. Wear of the tyres was said not to cause drive slippage, providing the correct tyre pressures are maintained.

First impressions were good. The machine is well built and has been developed over a period of years. For the test, the bucket was filled with a typical load of damp earth, rocks and mud.

As a first time user with this product, it was clear how easy it would be for most people to handle, but care should be taken to ensure that there is adequate space for the novice user to get used to it. The Honda engine started first time, and the test commenced

Driving

Muck Truck staff explained that, normally, the user would alter the forward speed by selecting the appropriate gear for the speed required, and keep the engine at a medium speed. By doing this, the forward travel speed can be varied as desired. In practise the speed is selected by experience, using the combination of gear selection and throttle, before travel is commenced.

The clutch engagement can be sudden, but is able to be used smoothly with a little practise. The brake is efficient, and holds the machine on all inclines. Minimum speed in first gear is an impressive crawl, and gives the feeling of being totally under control, with the ability to overcome any normal obstacles. By selecting various gears and throttle positions, the forward speed is altered to its maximum of a fast walk speed.

Abrupt stops should be avoided, especially when descending an incline, and care should be taken to avoid the machine tipping forwards unintentionally.

The machine has more than abundant power, with no hesitation or straining when climbing steep inclines. With a full load, the machine was powered up a steep incline with the front wheels lifted off the ground. The full-time four wheel drive worked efficiently, and there was no hesitation or slipping of the drive to the rear wheels.

Steering

The machine drives forward in a straight line, Steering the machine is done by lifting the handlebars, thus raising the back wheels off the ground. The machine can then be easily turned on the axis of the front transaxle, using the differential. Steering can also be done by pushing the handlebars to one side, to skid the rear wheels a little. Steering is harder when the machine is climbing an incline and loaded, due to the increased weight distribution onto the rear wheels.

Unloading

Unloading is done by releasing the handle under the right hand handlebar, and then raising the two handlebars until the machine is slightly inclined forward, at which point the bucket tips forward under its own weight. After the load is discharged, the bucket is easily returned to the normal position by hand, if the machine is horizontal.

Instructions

The instructions are decaled on the machine in front of the controls.

Maintenance

Access to the engine, checking of oil levels and cleaning of the air filter are all easy. The drive belt and the brake need to be regularly checked for correct adjustment, a task that is simple and clearly set out in the instructions.

Attachments

Many attachments are available for the Muck Truck, ranging from various wheel and tyre options to a powerlift attachment that enables the machine to efficiently lift and transport 200 kg pallets in an inclined position.

Uses

This machine serves as a method of moving small amounts of material, and it does it well.

It provides an efficient method of moving the 250 kg capacity of its load with little effort required from its operator.

It provides flexibility of movement of materials and is capable of ascending most inclines likely to be encountered on building sites, with the advantage of the ability of passing through openings of 700 mm. With good site organisation, a Muck Truck (or several working together) would increase the productivity of other site equipment such as mini excavators, batch concrete mixers, etc.

Limitations

The weight distribution does limit the descending incline, and care has to be taken when descending under load to avoid accidental forward tipping of the machine. Braking needs to be done with care under that situation.

The bucket is too high to accept the discharge directly from most small cement mixers, but making a small platform for a mixer is a simple solution.

The unit needs to be in a nearly horizontal/descending situation to unload. Trying to unload on climbing slopes or ramps will normally involve considerable effort from the operator. An accessory is available to enable simple discharging into skips, by providing a ramp and horizontal surface for the machine to discharge from.

Benefits

The simplicity of the machine has been retained throughout its development, and thus the capital cost is reasonable.

The normal facilities of Honda are available for the engine spare parts and maintenance.

Due to its size and weight, the Muck Truck is easy to transport with a normal van or pick-up truck.

It has been developed over many years, appears to be well built, and should prove reliable and reasonably hard wearing.

Most operators will find it easy to use with little practice, and the available attachments enable the machine to be used advantageously in several situations.

Is it a rental product?

All rental fleets are different, as rental clients have different requirements. The Muck Truck is not a substitute for a site dumper, for example, but will serve well in situations where operators need to transport small amounts of materials around a site.

The simple design and build should ensure its reliability, and the machine appears easy to maintain. Used correctly, it fulfils the increasingly common health and safety requirements governing manual handling of heavy loads – something that wheelbarrows may not always do.

It should also aid the productivity of other machines, such as mini-excavators, and make maximum use of available manpower. The Muck Truck can be used when other material movement methods are not suitable, and is the type of machine which may often be able to be included as a package of equipment rented to a client to match a particular situation.

Listening first to a client's description of his task and then suggesting suitable equipment is often better renting than asking what machines he wants to rent.

Conclusion

The machine should have a sufficient lifespan to provide a good return on investment, providing it is not overly abused. The build quality is good, with good finishing of welding and paint evident. The machine is a relatively light-weight, and should be treated as such to give the best results.

With its relatively low cost, the Muck Truck may provide rental income which otherwise would not have occurred, and increase client satisfaction with the variety of your rental fleet.

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