Wheeled loaders: Staying safe around industry giants
By Leila Steed03 March 2021
How advanced technologies are lowering the safety risks for loader operators and site workers
In 2019, before the coronavirus, European sales of wheeled loaders with buckets over 1.0m3 hit a record high, according to specialist market research and forecasting company, Off-Highway Research (OHR).
While 2020 sales are thought to be down by 20%, industry analyst Off-Highway Research says the rebound from the pandemic is “expected to be a little more convincing in the medium term than that of compact wheeled loaders”, equipment buyers’ health and safety related concerns may now drive purchase decisions in a way that has never been seen before.
Although safety has always been at the forefront of manufacturer’s equipment, recent design, engineering and technological updates means the latest wheel loader models are being equipped even more safety features.
Site visibility and awareness
A case in point is Doosan Infracore Europe’s new DL-7 series of wheeled loaders. The machines, which now include Stage V-compliant Doosan and Scania engines, have undergone a complete redesign that has earned the company Germany’s prestigious 2020 iF Design Award.
Launched last December, the range currently comprises seven new models – the DL280-7, DL320-7, DL380-7, DL420-7, DL480-7, DL550-7 and the DL580-7 – all designed with improved onsite visibility and the latest safety technology.
The 19.4 tonne DL320-7 model is equipped with both a fully integrated colour rear-view camera and larger mirrors than those of the DL-5 series models. This provides the operator with a better view of the sides and rear of the machine, which is capable of reaching speeds of 40kph.
While the cab has 8 LED working lights that include an automatic strobe function reverse drive, the DL320-7 also has 14% larger windows and an enhanced working environment.
In fact, Doosan says its redesign cabs are both quieter and, with a new Grammer Actimo XXL seat, more comfortable. While these upgrades help to reduce operator fatigue and improve safety by minimising fatigue-related errors, one of the range’s standout safety-enhancing features is its transparent bucket feature.
Part of the DL-7’s safety assistant system, the transparent bucket feature gives operators an extended field of vision with no blind spots, which allows them see people and obstacles beyond the front of the bucket. The DL320-7 the machine’s moving object detection feature also helps operators safely navigate onsite obstacles and personnel.
Charlie Park, CEO of Doosan Infracore Europe, says, “We listened closely to the needs of our European customers and revisited every single aspect of our existing wheeled loader product design to provide the solutions they wanted.”
Doosan’s Smart Guidance System also lets drivers analyse their driving and provides a Score-Graph that shows the level of efficiency at which the machine is operating and identifies where improvement may be needed.
While Doosan is due to release another four DL-7 wheeled loader models later this year, Hyundai Construction Equipment Europe says the added technologies in its A-Series machines give operators “a feeling of safety and stability”, as well as peace of mind by helping to ensure an accident-free worksite.
Obstacle detection and navigation
An upgrade of the manufacturer’s HL-Series models, Hyundai’s 26.5 tonne A Series HL975A CVT wheeled loader is now available with optional safety features that include the Advanced Around View Monitoring (AAVM) system. The nine views provided by the AAVM give operators a 360° field of vision that helps them stay aware of possible dangers.
Other extras include the manufacturer’s Intelligent Moving Object Detection and its Radar Rear Detection systems, which identify obstacles behind the machine and alert the driver to its location and distance on the loader’s secondary monitor.
While the cab of the A Series wheeled loader includes an audible and visible safety alert function that prompts the operator to wear the seatbelt, an emergency stop switch means operators can instantly shut the engine down if needed.
With noise and vibration reduction technologies offering sound levels of only 70dB – one of the lowest in the company’s machine class – the wheeled loader’s optional remote door control lets operators open the cab door from a safe distance.
Inside the cab operators can use the machine’s 180mm touchscreen monitor. Incorporating a built-in audio system, USB and Bluetooth radio, the touchscreen gives operators machine status and monitoring information in real time for improved efficiency.
When it comes to performance, the HV975A CVT now has a new Stage V-compliant Cummins X12 engine that promises close to zero emissions and is equipped with Hyundai’s ZF CVT-transmission.
This continually changes the hydraulic-to-mechanical energy ratio to keep the engine in a low rpm range and, depending on application, can reduce fuel usage by as much as 30% without impacting on the model’s power or performance.
Hyundai says its new transmission gives the loader smoother acceleration than that of its previous HL-Series model and that with the CVT acting as a brake, wear life of the service brake is also extended.
Machine awareness and apps
Moving up a weight class is Volvo Construction Equipment Europe’s 35 tonne L260H wheeled loader. Part of the updated H-Series, the machine now benefits from a D13 engine that delivers up to 6% more power and 5% more torque than the smaller L250H model and incorporates added safety features.
While new and more visible orange handrails and steps have been added to the L260H, it also benefits from new rear-view mirrors that can be fitted with an optional rear-view camera. The combination enables the machine’s radar detect system to provide a visual and audible alert when it detects an unseen oncoming object.
The visibility enhancement is integrated into the Volvo Co-Pilot 250mm touchscreen, along with the company’s real-time On-Board Weighing app that helps reduce overloading, underloading, reweighing and waiting times.
Newly available in the L60H to L350H loaders, the Co-Pilot touchscreen includes the company’s Operator Coaching and Tire Pressure Monitoring System apps and new apps for weather, calculator and notes.
Alongside these, the L260H’s Co-Pilot features the new Map application, which that gives operators both an improved understanding and awareness of the site’s layout with real-time traffic information. This lets machine drivers change their driving behaviour in response and navigate jobsites in a safer manner.
In addition to the expanded range of safety options, Volvo’s latest machine updates also help to reduce the cost of ownership.
Volvo CE product manager Lars Eriksson says, “Now, in 2020, we have introduced new features that take these machines to a new level of efficiency. We are confident that these updates will help get the most out of the Volvo H-Series wheel loaders”.
The manufacturer’s L60H to L350H wheeled loaders now have Volvo’s rimpull control system as standard, allowing operators to minimise wheel spin and optimise the balance between rimpull and hydraulic functions. Volvo says this feature “helps reduce tire wear and fuel consumption, for more efficient bucket filling”.
Also contributing to lower costs is the engine oil change interval, which has been extended to 1,000 hours for all H-Series models. According to Volvo, it has also increased the interval for machines that incorporate its biodegradable hydraulic oil option to 8,000 hours - double the previous interval.
With new equipment updates continuing to improve machine safety, efficiency and versatility, the wide and diverse range of wheeled loaders now available in Europe will no doubt be of benefit to the post-pandemic market.
Cat takes control
Adding another dimension to machine safety, Cat has recently made its Command console available for its 51-tonne 988K wheeled loader available. Said to be ideal for quarrying applications, the remote-control device lets operators drive the 51 tonne machine, which is equipped with a Stage IV C18 engine, from a distance.
The line-of-sight technology, which comes with a shoulder harness, is both lightweight and compact. The device requires no onsite communications infrastructure and operators can control all the machine’s functions from a safe distance while in direct visual contact.
With the operator outside the loader’s cab, the risk of injury from accidents such as machine rollover or fall can be significantly reduced.
Cat says, “By removing the operator from the cab, it also eliminates machine vibration feedback felt by the operator, reducing fatigue.”
The Command console uses a dedicated transmitter and receiver to send commands directly to the machine’s electronics in real-time.
Key safety features automatically stop the wheeled loader if the wireless communication signals are lost or if a severe fault is detected. The remote control, which includes a stop switch, will also shut down the machine if the Command Console is tilted more than 60 degrees from its normal operating position.
According to Cat, the technology’s
multiple safeguards also prevent the machine from coasting in neutral and accidental activation.
Emergency braking technology
Liebherr says statistics show that onsite accidents involving wheeled loaders usually occur when the machine is reversing after a loading process. The manufacturer describes reverse travel as “particularly risky” and says machine operators have a “huge responsibility” when people are present in the machine’s operating area.
Liebherr has recently added extra functions to the active personnel detection system for its L526 to L586 XPower range of wheel loaders.
Designed to locate personnel that may be behind the machine, the German OEM has added a braking assistance function to reduce the machine’s stopping distance.
When the machine’s active personnel detection system identifies a danger, the new brake assistant immediately initiates the braking process and slows the machine to a stop. This reduces braking time so there no delay, as opposed to relying on the reactions of the machine operator.
In addition, the active personnel detection system has been upgraded with an Incident Map, which transmits a GPS signal to Liebherr’s in-house transfer and location system (LiDAT). This produces a map of risk zones and potential danger on the site for the operator, allowing them to take preventive actions.
Safety in the quarry
JCB’s newly updated 20 tonne 457 wheeled loader now comes with a safety pack option.
Alongside a rear object detection system and hi-viz exterior chevrons, the manufacturer’s dedicated quarry safety pack also includes the provision of blue flashing reverse lights and a green operator presence beacon.
While the application-specific safety pack option gives operators and site personnel an extra layer of protection while carrying out riskier work, the machine’s other safety features continue to protect in general environments.
The redesigned loader, which is now fitted with a Stage V-compliant Cummins QSB6.7 diesel engine with a single module after-treatment, replacing the MTU engine, has had its A-pillars repositioned so that they are the same width to the rest of the cab. As a result, the 457 loader now has a larger interior space with a panoramic front windscreen for increased visibility of the jobsite.
In addition to a rear-facing camera that gives a clear view from the back of the loader, the model’s rear-view mirrors have now been repositioned in front of the A-pillars to improve visibility. With its combination of internal, bonnet and heated external mirrors, operators can see around the entire machine.
For improved day-time visibility, an LED light option makes working at night or in dark conditions safer.
JCB has also mounted the door hinges on the A-pillar for safer access to the isolator-mounted Command Plus cab and the rear of the loader. For additional safety when moving around on the machine itself, the 457 loader comes with non-slip walkways and additional grab handle options.