JCB introduced its compact telehandler series in North America in 1996 and upgraded it in 2003. The Savannah, Ga.-based company builds and brands nearly all of its components. Although the engine in the Showcase unit was a Perkins, all current shipments feature JCB's Dieselmax engine — a four-cylinder, three-liter, naturally aspirated 83-horsepower engine. Current production engines are Tier 2-compliant, but telehandlers shipped after May 2008 will be fitted with Tier 3 engines. The Dieselmax engine was designed to allow it to adapt to the more stringent Tier 4 standards, which, basically, means converting the present mechanical fuel system to electronic.
A two-speed hydrostatic transmission in the 524-50 delivers a brisk 19.8-mph travel speed. Direct-acting brakes on each wheel are activated through JCB's Max-Trac torque-proportioning axles with outboard planetary drives. Limited-slip axles are optional. The design allows a class-leading inside turning radius of 9 feet 8 inches.
The JCB 524-50 telehandler has three steering modes: two-wheel, four-wheel, and crab. Mode selection is made with the flick of a switch, thanks to an electric valve control. An optional multi-function controller incorporates all boom controls into one joystick (but the Showcase unit was not so equipped).
Designed for both tool and material-handler needs, the JCB 524-50 features nearly 9,000 pounds of breakout force. One control allows a bucket attachment to float when leveling loose material like gravel, while an inching control in the brake pedal allows slow drive speeds with high engine rpm to power faster boom operation and to satisfy hydraulic-flow requirements of attachments such as snow blowers or power sweepers. A large-capacity radiator eliminates potential problems with heat buildup associated with these types of applications.
Designed to keep maintenance tasks simple, the engine is positioned to the rear of the machine, where all service points are readily available. The rear-mounted engine allows the boom to be offset a few inches, which enables the cab to be a little wider and shifts it closer to the front axles for enhanced visibility. This configuration also opens up the entire right side for improved visibility and results, as well, in reduced engine noise in the cab. The Showcase unit had an open cab, but an enclosed cab is available as an option.
Large plastic fenders are easy to replace if damaged. An optional belly guard offers additional protection to the undercarriage if the application dictates. The battery has an easy-disconnect feature to disable the machine. And if operators try to drive through the parking brake, an alarm sounds when the machine is in gear.
Boom construction is a key consideration for ground-engaging machines. The boom and pins take the brunt of the force, so the boom, support brackets, gooseneck, and carriage mount should be robust. The JCB machine uses a unique carriage mount, as well as a formed boom — made of two channel sections, rather than four flat plate sections — that is generally considered better able to withstand added forces. It is quite apparent that this is a rugged product designed appropriately to handle the rigors of ground-engaging tasks, while at the same time performing as a superior tool handler.
Considering JCB's brand-centric philosophy, it's surprising that this approach does not also extend to attachments, leaving owners the luxury of purchasing aftermarket products.