Equipment focus: training safely on JCB 135W skid-steers

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  • Earthmovers & Exacavators

The high-safety, easy-access side doors on JCB skid-steer loaders are a key reason Victoria-based civil construction training company Safe T Training has bought four of JCB’s new 135W Eco earthmovers to train new operators, according to owner Craig Williams.

Equipment focus: training safely on JCB 135W skid-steers
Safe T Training owner Craig Williams has recently added four new JCB 135W Eco skid-steer loaders to his training fleet.

"The reason we chose the SSLs from JCB is for safety, because of the set-up," says Craig, who runs Safe T Training with his brother Brett and wife Karon. "With other skid steers, you have to climb in and out over the bucket, which is very dangerous and slippery.

"We don’t want any of our students getting hurt. The fact the JCB machines have a side entrance, like a car door, means they can get in and out very easily.

"Some of our students wouldn’t have the strength to pull themselves in and out over the bucket," he adds, "so it’s about ease of access as much as safety."

Other factors that influenced the company’s choice of skid-steer loaders were reliability, simplicity of operation and size.

"You can stand beside the students as they are driving and reach in to take control if you have to," says Karon, who has been the driving force behind Safe T Training’s work with secondary schools. "And because it has a canopy, not a glass cabin, you communicate face-to-face rather than trying to yell through the glass when they’re 20 foot up in the air. It’s much more hands-on training than you can do with any of the big machines."

The 135 model is a radial-lift skid steer with a 612kg operating capacity and an average 60 percent better visibility and 46 percent larger cab than its competitors, JCB says. It’s powered by a 404D-22 diesel engine delivering 47.9 horsepower (35.7kW).

Craig says JCB Construction Equipment Australia trained all of Safe T Training’s staff on the machines and made required modifications "pretty much overnight".

For example, they needed a simple single-bucket arrangement instead of the standard four-in-one bucket to minimise confusion during the early stages of training.

 "We also wanted the machines to run only at low speeds," Craig says. "Many of the kids we work with have never driven a car, let alone a machine, so if they learn the basics at low speed, they develop complete operating proficiency before they learn to work at speed.

"It’s very easy for teenagers to confuse their ambitions and their abilities – at low speed, that simply isn’t possible," he adds." The JCB team understood immediately what we wanted and why and it was done."

Other features that Karon and Craig say they rate highly include the hydraulic and park braking systems, the fuel efficiency and the clear, easily-read gauges which make it easy for students to understand the machine they are using.

"We’ve had these machines for six months now, and they haven’t stopped. Luckily they don’t cost a fortune in fuel to run, and we’ve had no down time. The reliability has been excellent," Craig says.

The company was introduced to the 135W by JCB CEA’s Brendan Clarke, who says understood its business needs and knew the skid-steer would be ideal.

"I knew of his interest in the mono-boom skid-steer loader for his training work, so I approached him about the machines," Brendan says. "I knew the side access was a winner for him, for being able to get close to the people he is training.

"That ease of physical access means the trainer can get right in there and show the learner what they need to see and do, without any risk," he says. "The other benefit of the single boom, aside from safety, is better visibility – about 270 degrees of clear vision. That’s good for any operator, but especially so for a learner.

"Craig recognised the benefits immediately. He initially said he would take one, and the next thing it was two, and suddenly it was four!"

Brendan says these features that make the machines attractive to any operators who want machines that you don’t have to climb over to get in and out of, or to change the attachments. Side-entry is becoming standard globally, he adds, and Australia is likely to follow the trend to making it mandatory.

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