QMJ Hillhead 2022

MARKET GUIDE: Equal wheel backhoes

Peter Anderson reviews the top 10 manufacturers providing backhoe loaders with equal-sized wheels, for the ultimate in traction and stability

Derived in the mid-1950’s from agricultural and industrial tractors, traditional backhoe loaders made a huge impact on mechanising the construction industry, and was the machine that started many of today’s blue-chip contracting and plant hire firms. In their heyday, backhoe loaders were to be found on almost every site, in the UK they have now been largely replaced by compact 360-degree excavators and site dumpers.

However, a tracked compact excavator can never replicate the versatility of a wheeled backhoe loader, which can legally, quickly and safely travel to and from site on the public highway. With loader arms and the 180-degree back-actor both equipped with appropriate attachments, one operator using one machine can undertake a bewildering array of jobs.

The requirement for on-road mobility with on-site versatility is increasingly being met by wheeled excavators, typically equipped with tilt-rotators, mirroring long-established Scandinavian working practices. For the ultimate in go-anywhere, do-anything versatility, Scandinavian manufactures have also taken the design of the backhoe loader to new heights, with powerful engines driving sophisticated hydraulic systems, in large machines equipped with equal-sized wheels, for maximum traction and stability.

The limiting factor in increasing the performance of a traditional backhoe loader is the configuration of its driveline, the agricultural tractor layout of smaller wheels at the front to provide steering, with larger rear wheels providing the majority of the traction.

By distributing the power and the load through four equal-sized tyres, typically much larger than those found on a wheeled excavator, the machine’s performance potential is transformed. However, using this much rubber means that steering has to be undertaken by either an articulated chassis, or a multi-mode all-wheel steering system.

We review the equal-wheel backhoe loaders currently being offered by 10 manufacturers, a mixture of big brand names, heavyweight Scandinavians and exotic Italians.

VENIERI
Long-established, well-respected, Italian-based Venieri offers three stylish models, the VF6.23, the VF8.23 and the VF10.23.

The two larger articulated chassis, hydrostatic models are the pick of the bunch, the design of which features a side radiator, a centrally-mounted engine and a rear oscillating axle. The large climate-controlled cab, mounted with anti-vibration absorbers on the main rear portion of chassis, provides excellent all-round visibility.

The VF8.23 weighs-in at 7.8t and uses a transverse-mounted Deutz engine rated at 78kW mated to a Bosch-Rexroth hydrostatic transmission. This is available with either parallel or Z-bar front loader arms, with the backhoe’s telescopic dipper providing a maximum dig depth of 5.4m.

At 9.5t operating weight, the flagship VF10.23 model is powered by the same engine as its smaller stablemate, but allows up to 1.6 cube buckets to be used on either of the loading arm configurations, while providing a digging depth of 6m.

 

MECALAC
The Coventry-built Mecalac TLB990 is powered by an 82kW Perkins engine, which delivers 450Nm of torque at 2200rpm. This drives a servo power synchro transmission that features active drive lockup as standard and provides a maximum road speed just shy of 40kph. Mecalac say that operators will benefit from automatic gear shifting and the machine’s enhanced roading capability, making travel between sites faster, safer and easier.

With its four-wheel steering system, the TLB990 achieves a turning circle of just 7.3m and can seamlessly transition between two-wheel, four-wheel and crab steer modes, for the ultimate manoeuvrability around tight sites.

The Perkins engine also drives a closed centre hydraulic system, boasting a pump flow rate of 164lit/min, which translates into a dipper breakout force of 6780daN, with a maximum reach of 6.95m and a maximum dig depth of 5.64m.

The TLB990 features a spacious cab with full-depth rear opening window, alongside opening rear side windows. The control consoles have been simplified for ease of operation and, on the servo models, the absence of pedals for auxiliary operation allows for more foot space.

 

LANNEN
Finland-based manufacturer Lannen offers a range of versatile, heavy-duty, multipurpose articulated backhoe loaders, to suit all terrain conditions. There are three models in their new M range, with operating weights between 12t and 13t, the 8600M, the 8700M and the 8800M, together with a road-rail version. These are powered by Agco engines, rated between 108kW and 127kW.

Driveline features include articulated steering, an automatic oscillation control system, combined with a four-wheel drive hydrostatic transmission. Both operating positions get drive controls, with maximum speed of travel speed of 46kph. Loading heights extend from 3.47m to 3.79m, while digging reach is between 6.41m and 6.83m. The backhoe also offers a high loading height, ranging from 3.93m to 4.08m across the three models.

According to Lannen, the solid, heavy-duty structure and the machine’s powerful and versatile hydraulic system make it possible to use a wide range of robust and power-intensive attachments, on both the loader and the backhoe. A new 25cm touch screen combined with digital networking technology results in heavy duty machines that are easy to control and to adjust to the job in hand.

 

KOMATSU
The WB97S-8 is the current equal-sized wheeled backhoe loader available from Komatsu, powered by a Stage 4 emission compliant 75kW engine. The 8.75t machine drives through a hydrostatic transmission that provides a top travel speed of 40kph.

Although one would expect a Stage 5-engined example to be launched this year, this Dash 8 version was a complete redesign of the model. The major areas of improvement were making it easier to load high-sided trucks, while increasing lifting capacity, breakout forces and maximum dig depth. There is the option of two four-speed transmissions: either a power shuttle box or with full power shift, providing twist grip control, automatic shifting and a kick-down function.

The new, larger, low-noise, rounded cab features air conditioning, tinted glass, a one-piece rear window, new instrumentation and an air suspension seat, with fully proportional hydraulic servo controls for the front loader.

 

JCB
The latest generation of JCB 4CX models is available in three variants: the 4CX Plus, the 4CX Pro and the 4CX Pro Wastemaster. All are powered by their new DieselMax 448 engine, in this application rated at 81kW, but providing a whopping 516Nm of torque. This promises to deliver improved loading and roading performance, whilst delivering fuel economy.

The CommandPlus cab offers the comfort, space and low noise levels operators have come to expect, with a revise layout that includes a new style of steering wheel design, providing the operator with a better view to the new 18cm front display console.

In addition to hydraulically cushioned front arms for a smoother ride, the 4CX comes with a number of timesaving semi-automatic control sub-systems, including auto seat select, which changes the functionality of the controls. In addition, the auto stabiliser system lowers the legs and stops them when they have reached the ground.

Other new functions include auto two-wheel drive, which switches back and forth between 2WD and 4WD, while the auto drive feature locks the engine speed when roading, preventing excessive fuel consumption.

 

HYDREMA
There are four models in the latest F-Series of Hydrema articulated, permanent 4WD backhoe loaders, the 906F, 908F, 926F and 928F, with operating weights between 9.2- and 9.4-tonnes. The various models offer maximum digging depths from 4.81m to 5.33m, with front bucket capacities from 1.4cu.m to 1.7cu.m.

These latest models benefit from a roomier, air-conditioned cab that offers an improved control layout and improved visibility. The large, curved bonnet opens to the font, to provide good service access to the engine and cooling compartments.

Power for the 906F and 908F models is provided by a 90kW Cummins engine, which drives through a Dana fully automatic, electronically controlled transmission, providing six forward and three reverse gears. The driveline of the two larger models feature a 109kW Cummins engine mated to a fully electronically-controlled ZF automatic, soft-shift transmission.

An interesting option is Hydrema’s hydraulically side-shifting backhoe, which on the 906 and 926 models amounts to 1.6m, providing an impressive digging arc of 280 degrees, the similar system on the 908 and 928 models providing a range of just 200 degrees.

 

HUDDIG
Since its inception in 1959, Swedish-based Huddig has built more than 12,000 articulated backhoe loaders, which are designed for the overhead line, railway and construction sectors of the market.

The latest models include the new 1260E ‘utility’ machine, powered by a 116kW, 6.7 litre Cummins engine. This provides a backhoe digging depth of 4.9m and a loading height of 3.77m. The front loader has a reach of 2.63m, a load height of 2.69m and a dig depth of 90mm.

The City version of the 1260E has been specially adapted to urban environments and can be equipped with a wide range of attachments and accessories. The articulated steering provides a surprisingly tight turning radius, with smooth steering controls making it easier to work in confined spaces. With a tilt-rotator mounted on a hydraulically-offset dipper arm, the operator is provided with a huge effective working envelope from one position.

Moreover, Huddig is the first manufacturer to introduce hybrid drivelines to this sector of the market, with their new Tigon Technology system. The on-board battery is recharged as the backhoe is being powered by its diesel engine. When fully charged, the operator can opt to work with zero emissions for two hours of excavating duties, or by travelling 20km on the road.

 

HIDROMEK
Turkish manufacturer Hidromek has introduced an upgraded version of their HMK102B Supra multi-steering mode backhoe. It is powered by a 74.5kW Perkins engine, driving through an autoshift transmission providing six forward and three reverse gears, together with a travel speed of 40kph. A worthwhile option is a torque converter lock-up, which is automatically engaged in 5th and 6th gear to improve fuel economy while roading, as is the optional stabiliser system on the front arms.

In its commendably large cab, the HMK102B Supra comes with dual LCD displays, front and rear, allowing the operator to easily check all gauges both in the loading and excavating positions. The operator also gets a direction control button on the loader control, allowing contact to be maintained with the steering wheel and the loader control during all parts of the cycle.

 

CATERPILLAR
The new generation Cat 9.17-tonne 434 and 9.44-tonne 444 models are powered by a C3.6 engine, rated at 68kW and 76kW respectively, providing maximum digging depths of 5.75m and a very impressive 6.22m. A new powershift transmission is available as an option on the 434 model, while the 444 will continue to be fitted with a fully automatic transmission, all are fitted with a rear differential lock, for improved traction in poor ground conditions.

The cab interior has been redesigned and now features analogue machine gauges with a colour LCD information display. A selectable power management system offers the operator a choice of three modes, to boost machine performance by maximising backhoe implement speeds. For the first time on a Cat backhoe loader, there is now the option of a touchscreen LCD control panel, enabling the operator to quickly change key operating parameters.

 

CASE
As tested in the December 2021 issue of EARTHMOVERS, Case has introduced the 695SV backhoe. Weighing in at close to 10 tonnes, the 695SV is powered by a 3.6-litre FPT engine rated at 89kW at 1900rpm. The driveline consists of a powershift transmission with multi-mode all-wheel drive and steering axles, with both axles featuring limited slip differentials.

Depending on boom and dipper configuration, maximum dig depths range from 4.66m to 5.97m, while loading heights are between 3.87m and 5.12m.

The larger cab appears to be a comfortable place to spend a shift, with the control package enhanced, which includes a direction switch on the loader control and a roller switch on the pilot joysticks.

Article featured in the February 2022 issue of Earthmovers Magazine.

 

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