It’s been about 24 years since U.K-based JCB introduced the ag industry’s first high-speed tractor, the Fastrac. That was back in 1991. This past January, the company debuted a reengineered version of that tractor, the new 4000 Series, at an event in Quebec. The new tractor also made an appearance at the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, Kentucky, in February.
In early March, members of the farm media were invited to JCB’s Savannah, Georgia, facility to see all the brand’s new equipment, including the 4000 Series Fastrac.
“It was the world’s first fully suspended tractor,” said Tim Burnhope, JCB’s chief innovation and growth officer, during a formal presentation at the company’s Savannah assembly plant. “It’s still the only fully suspended tractor on the market.”
With the 4000’s equal-wheel design, full suspension, central cab, air brake connections and rear platform capable of carrying a load of up to 4,000 kilograms (8,800 pounds), it remains unique in the Canadian ag equipment marketplace. And company executives are hoping the design changes built into this series will make it even more appealing to North American farmers.
The 4000 Series addresses what Dan Schmidt, JCB’s vice president of ag equipment in North America, says were criticisms of the previous generation. Most notably, that the Fastrac couldn’t be configured to work in row-crop fields.
“The issue has always been for the U.S. and Canada, yeah, I like your tractor, but can it row crop,” he said. “Until now, we haven’t had that. So now, with narrower tires, which are 65 kp/h rated, we can set this up for traditional row crops. We went to a new chassis design. This chassis is a unibody style, but it’s also narrower.”
The narrow chassis also gives the 4000 Series what Schmidt says is a “best-in-class turning radius” of just over 10 metres. (Although other than maybe the Claas Xerion, it’s hard to imagine what other tractors you could consider to be in the same class as the Fastrac.) To further improve manoeuvrability, buyers can opt for standard front axle steering only or an optional feature that includes five different steering modes by incorporating rear axle steering. Also with the Fast Steer option, steering wheel sensitivity can be increased to only two full turns lock-to-lock to make the tractor easier to handle in tight spaces.
Another thing engineers addressed in the new tractors that put off potential buyers on the previous 2000 Series was that it wasn’t ready for a front-end loader.
“For the first time ever, more specifically for North America, the 4000 Series is loader ready,” Schmidt continued. “We think this will be a great opportunity in this 160 to 220 horsepower class. On the Fastrac, I think material handling with loader work is going to be a big deal for us. Because we have a loader, you can lock, or make the suspension rigid, on the front.”
Listening to the users
According to Schmidt, these improvements were the direct result of feedback from North American farmers.
“We built this tractor around key elements that the traditional ag customers appreciated most,” he explained. “The Fastrac customers always knew it was fast. The fully integrated suspension; we had to maintain that. It had to have powerful braking; if you’re going to go fast you have to be able to stop the load. And finally, they really appreciated the deluxe, centre-mount cab. We had to take those features and incorporate them into a new platform and a new package.”
“We’ve tested it for thousands of hours and had it with a huge number of customers,” added Burnhope.
To spin the tires, which are now available in a variety of sizes, all three Fastrac models will use AGCO’s 6.6 litre, six-cylinder diesel mated to a CVT transmission. In the hydraulics department, a 144 l.p.m. (38 g.p.m.), flow-on-demand, closed centre, piston pump delivers oil flow to implements while a separate gear pump keeps fluid supplied to the tractor steering system.
Brand executives believe Fastrac’s high speed, along with its standard rear air brake connections, which allow it to pull a heavy truck trailer, will give the tractor unique appeal to farmers who need to move equipment like sprayer nurse tenders, round bale wagons or grain carts back and forth to the field in record time. And it can couple that ability with the kind of traction offered only by a four-wheel drive tractor.
“With North American farms getting larger and larger, faster cycle times really help improve the materials handling process,” said Schmidt.
And the unique rear deck behind the Fastrac’s cab can handle a large tank. Fitting a sprayer boom kit to the tractor effectively turns it into a high-speed field sprayer, eliminating the need to invest in a dedicated SP sprayer that is only capable of doing one function.
“In Europe they do a lot of spraying (with a Fastrac),” he added. “This deck can hold 8,800 pounds.”
JCB offers “one can” SCR engine emissions solution
JCB’s new Ecomax Tier 4 Final engines, are being installed in some North American Loadall models for the first time in 2015. These diesels have ratings of 109, 125 and 145 horsepower. According to Alan Tolley, director of engine programs, even though these diesels meet Tier 4 Final emissions standards, they remain compact enough to fit into the existing chassis.
The reason for that is the “one can” emissions system that doesn’t require a diesel particulate filter or diesel oxidation catalyst.
“The SCR unit is so compact, that in many cases it replaces the existing exhaust,” says Tolley. “A two to three per cent ratio of additive (diesel exhaust fluid) to fuel is all we need to reach the NOx targets, depending on the duty cycle. We believe this could be the lowest in the industry.”
And the new engines offer a five per cent improvement in fuel consumption over the previous generation.
The new TM220 articulated telescopic handler uses a 74 horsepower, 2.5 litre JCB by Kohler diesel, the same engine used in some of the brand’s skid-steer loaders. Peak output occurs at just 1,500 r.p.m. and almost 90 per cent of that is still available all the way down at 1,000 r.p.m. according to Tolley. The JCB by Kohler engine uses a combination of technologies from both brands, which were developed into the current diesel by engine manufacturer Kohler.