JCB 3CX Field Test

April 1, 2020
We brought a JCB 3CX to the independent operator/instructors of International Union of Operating Engineers Local 649.

Construction Equipment editors put the JCB 3CX compact backhoe loader in the dirt at IUOE Local 649 in Bartonville, IL, where professional operators took it through its paces in this edition of Earthmoving Field Test.

The JCB 3CX Compact backhoe loader is a 74-horsepower machine featuring full-time four-wheel drive, pilot controls, and an 11-foot 10-inch dig depth.

Its engine adheres to Tier 4 regulations without the use of a diesel particulate filter or DEF.

Eager to see if a compact backhoe could handle serious dirt work, Construction Equipment brought a 3CX Compact to the independent operator/instructors of International Union of Operating Engineers Local 649 in Bartonville, Illinois.

At first glance, the most noticeable thing about the 3CX Compact is indeed its size.

It is 35 percent smaller than conventional backhoe loaders, such as the Deere model on the right. The 3CX Compact is 8 feet 8 inches high and 6 feet 2 inches wide.

Yet it still has enough clearance to load Local 649’s tandem dump truck. The backhoe loader’s load-over height is 9 feet 9 inches.

JCB’s goal in creating the 3CX Compact was to make a backhoe for urban areas and construction sites it feels will become increasingly congested in the future.

It also wanted to make a backhoe that was attachment-friendly.

The loader end is equipped with a skid steer quick hitch that will use any existing skid steer attachment. A parallel-lift loader arm design ensures that the bucket or front attachment will raise and lower level to the ground.

Note that there are four cylinders in the loader configuration instead of three. There is no cylinder in the middle to block an operator’s view.

The 3CX is engineered for fast travel between job sites as well—it can reach speeds of 25mph. A smooth ride loader suspension system, which is JCB parlance for ride control, keeps material in the bucket.

Once on tight job sites, the entire backhoe mechanism slides 3 feet 3 inches to the left and right side of the machine, and the machine’s vertical stabilizers allow the unit to dig closer to obstacles.

Local 649 operator/instructors Bill Cinnamon and Jeff Braun challenged both ends of the machine and found plenty of advantages, including the unit’s maneuverability.

Both Cinnamon and Braun were very impressed by the room in the machine’s cab. And Cinnamon sees the potential for the machine with utility contractors and companies.

“That’s where I see this coming in very handy,” he said.

Overall, operators praised the machine’s performance--and comfort--for its size.

“I think the power was matched well to the size,” said Cinnamon. “It had adequate power for anything it wanted.”

“It’s very comfortable for a large guy,” said Braun.

Finally, the operators stressed making sure the tasks required are matched to the 3CX Compact’s capabilities.

“Matched up properly [to the task], it’s going to feel just like being a bigger machine,” Cinnamon said.

About the Author

Frank Raczon

Raczon’s writing career spans nearly 25 years, including magazine publishing and public relations work with some of the industry’s major equipment manufacturers. He has won numerous awards in his career, including nods from the Construction Writers Association, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, and BtoB magazine. He is responsible for the magazine's Buying Files.