Maximum versatility

08 May 2008

Most wheeled loader manufacturers produce a wide range of machines to capitalise on this cornerstone of the construction equipment market. Wheeled loaders are usually site workhorses, and new machines are becoming more sophisticated and packed with technology to improve productivity, efficiency and comfort.


The majority of the new models launched in recent months fall into the compact or mid-sized categories. Larger machines are likely to be released later this year before the introduction of the first stage of the US Tier 3 and European Stage IIIA emissions requirements on 1 January 2006. Phased introduction of the Tier 2/Stage II regulations saw new machine launches synchronised with the emission laws, and the same is expected to happen as Tier 3 and

Stage IIIA are introduced. The first phase of Tier 3/Stage IIIA will affect machines in the 130 to 560 kW bracket and so will impact on larger wheeled loaders. Although there is more than six months to go until the regulations come into force, several major manufacturers have already unveiled their new Tier 3/Stage IIIA powered offerings.

However, this early introduction is not as commendable as it may first seem. Seven truck manufacturers ” Caterpillar, Cummins, Detroit Diesel, Navistar, Mack, Renault and Volvo ” must all introduce engines that comply with the emissions regulations a year early as part of a legal settlement in the US.

The agreement follows on from allegations the group used ‘defeat devices’to get their engines through the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approval for on-highway laws in the late 1990s. The software based devices effectively controlled engine emissions during testing, and then switched off during normal driving conditions. The manufacturers claimed the EPA told them to fit the devices but legal proceedings by the EPA resulted in multi-million dollar fines for the manufacturers and an early introduction of the emissions laws.

As a result Cat has already introduced new large wheeled loaders powered by its own Tier 3/Stage IIIA compliant ACERT engines. But Komatsu is one of the first outside the group to introduce its own Tier 3/Stage IIIA engines, which it claims not only reduce nitrogen oxide and particulate emissions but also improve fuel efficiency by up to +15%.

New technology

Some wheeled loader innovations include optional ‘auto-dig’functions that automate the digging cycle in a bid to improve productivity and reduce operator fatigue. Such systems eliminate some of the repetitiveness of the digging cycle and most work by taking control of the bucket during loading, leaving the operator to control the steering and throttle.

Improving operator comfort is something most manufacturers are now focusing on. More spacious cabs, better visibility, reduced noise and vibration, climate control and more ergonomically designed controls are being introduced on most construction equipment, and the wheeled loader market is no exception.

Reducing operating and maintenance costs is another aim of many of the new features on recently launched wheeled loaders.

Caterpillar has introduced an engine idle software package to maximise fuel efficiency without compromising function. The Engine Management Idle System (EMIS) switches automatically between four idle modes ” hibernate, work, low voltage and warm up. Recent testing of the system on Cat's 938G II wheeled loaders showed fuel consumption savings of +45% and +16% in hibernation and low working idle, respectively, compared to normal idling.

According to Liebherr, the hydrostratic drive system it uses on all of its wheeled loaders also improves fuel efficiency. Liebherr claims its new hydrostatically driven 10 tonne L 524 uses -40% less fuel than other conventionally driven machines in the same class and the system also contributes to -25% less tyre wear.

Large loaders

Komatsu's WA700-3 is the largest new wheeled loader on the market. Powered by a 477 kW Komatsu SAA6D170-E six cylinder diesel engine it delivers a breakout force of 53 tonnes. The 71 tonne unit has an 8.6 m3 bucket that has been designed to efficiently load 50 to 65 tonne haulers in quarries and smaller mining operations.

Cat has also added to its heavyweight wheeled loader range with the 31 tonne 980H and 49 tonne 988H, powered by its new Tier 3/Stage IIIA compliant ACERT 237 kW C15 and 354 kW D18 engines, respectively.

The 988H has a single box boom linkage ” rather than the more traditional two steel plate lift arms, which increases breakout force, lift capacity and dump clearance. According to Cat, this boom, which is available in three sizes, enhances visibility and offers superior torsional strength.

The 980H replaces the 980G and features key changes that improve productivity, operator comfort and serviceability. The 980H has Electronic Clutch Pressure Control, which gives smoother transmission shifts and eases maintenance by locating solenoid valves on top of the transmission housing and doubling the transmission filter change interval. Other improvements include additional cab sound insulation, which cuts noise in the cab by half to76 d(B)A.

John Deere has recently launched the 31 tonne 844J, which is the largest wheeled loader the company has ever produced. The 844J is powered by a 283 kW John Deere PowerTech diesel engine, which has been designed for easy maintenance. The machine has a 5.5 m3 capacity and its Powershift transmission continually senses speeds and loads to ensure a smooth ride.


Hitachi has updated its wheeled loader range with four new mid sized models in its LX series, ranging from the are equipped with Isuzu engines and Hitachi's Ride Control System, which helps reduce machine wear while providing optimum shock absorption of the loading frame. The machines, which have been designed in Europe, have a capacity of up to 4.2 m3 and can carry a maximum tipping load of 16 tonnes.

JCB unveiled its redesigned 456 wheeled loader at ConExpo in Las Vegas, US in March. The 456 is aimed at the heavier end of the market, weighing in at 21 tonnes, and is an upgraded model which features +50% more cab space, restyled bodywork and easier maintenance.

In the mid-sized wheeled loader category, Komatsu has launched the 19 tonne WA430-6 and 11 tonne WA250-5, which is also available with a tool carrier. The 165 kW powered WA430-6 has a 5.5 m3 bucket and is equipped with an automatic central greasing system which drastically reduces maintenance costs.

The WA250-5 is powered by a Tier 2 compliant 100 kW engine and has hydrostatic transmission and a pressurised cab to keep noise levels down to 70 d(B)A. The tool carrier version ” the WA250PT-5 ” has all the same features as the WA250-5 but also has a parallel boom lift and hydraulically activated quick coupler.

Case has updated its D Series wheeled loader product line with a redesigned linkage and improved visibility. It has also added the 14 tonne 721D XT tool carrier to the range. The 712D XT has a 135 kW engine and is the largest tool carrier in Case's range. It comes fitted with a 2.3 m3 bucket as standard and has an improved loader arm linkage, which provides more bucket roll back for increased material retention.

Hydraulic couplers produced by ACS or JRB are offered as factory installed options on all XT loaders, enabling them to use any supplier's attachments. The XT range has also been upgraded with low profile routing of hoses and redesigned attachment area to improve the operator's line of sight to attachments.

The new 13 tonne Cat 930G incorporates a VersaLink loader linkage, which Cat claims combines the versatility of an integrated tool carrier with the speed, force and strength of a traditional Z-bar linkage. The machine is powered by a 111 kW Cat 3056E direct injection turbocharged diesel engine. The 930G has a bucket capacity of up to 5 m3 and is available with a high-lift option.

Mini marvels

Terex has updated its compact wheeled loader range with the SKL814 and SKL160H. The 3.9 tonne SKL814 is less than 96 inches (2.4 m) high and has been deigned to fit in the back of a utility van. It has a 37 kW four cylinder diesel Duetz engine, a hydrostatic drive and a universal attachment coupler system.

According to Terex, its new SKL160H has been developed for larger utility contractors and features a Z-bar for breakout force and additional linkage for parallel lifts. The 6.3 tonne machine is powered by a 76 kW Perkins turbocharged diesel engine and has a capacity of 1.7 m3.

John Deere has launched two new compact wheeled loaders. The new 244J and 304J, weighing in at 5.2 and 6 tonnes respectively, are the smallest machines in its product line. According to the company, both machines are designed for maximum manoeuvrability on tight sites and feature John Deere's Quik-Tach coupler and a ‘return to dig’function. Both machines are also powered by John Deere PowerTech engines, the 244J and 304J use 44 kW and 54 kW versions, respectively.

Case has also introduced three new D Series compact wheeled loaders, which feature Z-bar loader linkages to deliver high breakout forces, of between 5.4 and 7.6 tonnes, and fast cycle times. The 21D, 221D and 321D feature a two speed hydrostatic transmission and a high torque four cylinder engine, ranging in power from 39 to 52 kW.

The cab on the D Series has been ergonomically designed to provide maximum comforts and visibility and also has a single lever loader control. The flip up rear hood provides easy access to the engine, drive shaft and the daily checkpoints.

The WA80-5, WA70-5 and WA65-5 are Komatsu's latest compact machines weighing in at 5.6, 5 and 4.6 tonnes, respectively, and are aimed at the light construction market. The WA80-5 is powered by a 45 kW engine and has a 1.25 m3bucket, which can carry payloads of up to 2.2 tonnes. The WA70-5 and WA65-5 are equipped with 41 and 45 kW engines, respectively, and also feature a delta boom to provide the operator with an unobstructed view of the loader bucket.

Gehl's newest all wheel steer loader range ” the 80 Series ” falls into the compact category. The new Gehl 280, 480, 480T (the T stands for telescopic) and 680 are all fitted with ‘intelligent drive’technology for smooth work cycles and have four wheel steering to improve manoeuvrability. The 80 Series ranges in size and power from the 29 kW 3.2 tonne 280 up to the 56 kW 5.4 tonne 680. The range is also available with the Skid-A-Tach system, which allows the use of almost any skid steer loader attachment.

The new 4.8 tonne 406 is the smallest wheeled loader in JCB's range and the 43 kW powered machine has a lift capacity of 2.5 tonnes at full turn tipping.

Cat has also added to its compact range with the new 904B, which combines a skid steer loader quick coupler and Z-bar linkage to allow it to use both skid steer and wheeled loader tools. The machine weighs in at 4.4 tonnes and is powered by a 39 kW engine.iC

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