Wheel Loaders

The versatility that wheel loaders offer to contractors has meant they have been a mainstay of the construction industry for the last 50 years. Construction Week spoke to dealers and manufacturers about how the product has developed from an agricultural machine and what the market should expect in the near future as environmental concerns begin to take precedence with Europe and the USA adopting tough Tier 3 emission standards in 2006.

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By  Colin Foreman Published  July 24, 2004

Wheel Loaders|~|CAT3body.jpg|~|In quarries wheel loaders are used to load trucks|~|Perhaps the most common type of medium to large construction equipment plying its trade around the emirates at the moment is the wheel loader. Large volumes of all types of construction equipment is being shipped into the market, but wheel loaders in particular seem to be riding high on the crest of a boom. “The market is definitely growing and at the moment and I expect to see this continue for the coming five years. The market for new machines in the UAE at the moment is at about the 450-unit level. This figure has grown from 350 in 2002 to 450 in 2004. So the last two years has seen significant growth,” says M Arif Chishti, divisional manager with Famco. The market for new equipment has held up despite significant growth for used equipment. “There are a lot of new entrants in to the market and they do not have the capital to purchase new machines so they start with older machines. This hasn’t really affected the market for new as the more established contractors still require new equipment,” says Chishti. As one of the least technically complicated pieces of construction equipment, numerous small companies have been able to enter the wheel loader market. Small manufacturers are able to source components from different manufacturers and just fabricate the chassis to create a wheel loader. “Although you can get the components from different vendors, the right combination of components has to be used,” says Abdul Salam Aziz, sales manager, Galadari Trucks & Heavy Equipment. This does not just affect the wheel loader market, it effects all equipment types as technology has become an easily transferable commodity that is becoming more and more accessible as the world becomes a smaller place. The UAE is a magnet for equipment made in this way as it is a booming market with high levels of demand and little in the way of product standards. “We are in open territory here. A manufacturer in China may not be able to sell machines in Europe because they do not meet the necessary standards, but he will be able to sell his machine in this market,” says Peter Walters, industry manager, heavy construction, Caterpillar. The demand that is attracting equipment to the emirates is driven by two main market sectors. The first is the general construction industry that uses machines for a wide range of applications including earthmoving, material handling and site preparation work. Although the machines used by the construction industry are by no means small, it is the other market sector, the quarries, where the bigger machines are needed to remain productive. Productivity is vitally important for this market as the machines run for close to 24 h a day and the cost of each bucket can be calculated. Productivity is just one of the facets of the wheel loader that has been improved over the years. When first developed some 50 years ago it was a much more simple machine than it is now, even though it remains a relatively straightforward machine. Essentially, the machine was based on the concept of a reverse agricultural tractor. Over time new developments were introduced to improve performance. Hydraulic lift arms were introduced to give greater break out force, machines became articulated to improve manoeuvrability, and more recently operator comfort was improved with the inclusion of more roomy air-conditioned cabins. “Manufacturers try to improve the functionality of wheel loaders with every new model they develop. This is done using attachments so that customers can use the same machine for various different applications,” says Dominik Ribi, marketing consultant quarry & aggregates division, Caterpillar. Reflecting the demand for more versatile machines, Caterpillar has launched the IT62 integrated tool carrier. The machine itself is the same as a standard 962, but has a 100% parallel lift arrangement, because the lifting arrangement is a parallelogram. “This means that if the machine is used as a forklift the forks are absolutely level all the time,” says Ribi. “The visibility from the cab to the work tool is also better because you don’t have the traditional Z-bar linkage in the operator’s centre line of sight,” adds Ribi. Versatile models like this are more popular in more mature markets where there is a lot of industry and material handling. In the UAE the market is still dominated by digging, rock moving and sand moving so the Z-bar linkage is still favourite because it offers the best break out forces and productivity. The way that manufacturers tackle the issue of productivity has changed over the years. The current trend is to improve operator comfort. “An operator may be able to work for 53 – 55 min/h instead of 40 min/h if he is more comfortable, and this obviously improves the cost per tonne,” says Chishti. Operator comfort is achieved by offering more spacious, air-conditioned cabins. This increase in performance is more significant than any increase in machine performance. “What often gets forgotten is that while a manufacturer can increase the performance of a wheel loader by 4 or 5%, a good operator can increase productivity by up to 25%,” says Ribi. legal needs Going forward, the biggest change to wheel loaders over the coming years will be a legal requirement – at least in North America and Europe. As of January 2006 all machines in the EU and North America will have to be Tier 3 compliant and meet the next level of emissions requirements. “The move from Tier 2 to Tier 3 is a far bigger jump than the move from Tier 1 to Tier 2. Instead of just modifying the components of the engine, an entirely new type of engine had to be built,” says Walters. Tier 3 is unlikely to have a massive impact on the local market in the near future as it will not be a legal requirement, but it may become so in the future. Regardless, it will mean that all new equipment shipped to the market by leading manufacturers will automatically comply.||**||

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