Tested This Week
Teupen Leo 23GT
The Review Panel
Andy Beckingham, arborist, Westonbirt Arboretum
Richard Townsend, tree team supervisor, Westonbirt Arboretum
The use of mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs) is well established in arboriculture, but finding the right one for a specific task can be tedious.
Often the decision is taken to buy or hire the one that is nearest to fitting the bill but, on site, it can be found to lack the detail and finesse to ensure the swiftest and easiest of performances. And a platform that is perfect for the job in one set of conditions may not be ideal for work in other circumstances.
That is why we asked Ranger Equipment of Chesterfield, Derbyshire, if we could borrow one of its latest-generation MEWPs for a week. Managing director Steve Hatfield obliged, delivering the Teupen Leo 23GT to Westonbirt Arboretum, near Tetbury in Gloucestershire, himself.
Conditions during the week varied but the weather was mostly sunny with little or no breeze.
- Teupen Leo 23GT
It must surely have been built with tree surgeons in mind. This MEWP has everything you could want - and some things you would not even think of - to help tree care professionals improve efficiency and productivity.
Do not be misled by the compactness of the Leo 23GT. This machine has stretch. In fact, it has class-leading outreach. And, while it is slim and nimble, it is also steady and stable. Above all it is packed with technology to help you do your job. It is a really clever machine and offers the refinement, even the delicate touch, needed for intricate tree care work. We reckon it is a winner.
Coming from German manufacturer Teupen's range of Spiderlifts, the Leo 23GT has been designed to exert low surface load and, more than that, to work in awkward situations. It has a telescopic lower boom and articulating upper boom for agility - both moving swiftly and smoothly. But you have to watch it move, see it uncurl its legs and experience the adjustments to truly appreciate the flexibility of this MEWP.
Tracking the benefits
The tracked chassis spreads the machine loadings across a larger area than wheels and provides cushioned contact with the ground to prevent damage. The low ground pressure (1.8kN/m2) helps avoid compaction of tree roots yet traction is there to negotiate rough terrain. But it is slow.
"Compared with a lot of MEWPs, this one is really versatile - it only weighs three tonnes and it's tracked, so you are not getting ruts like you might with a wheeled machine," says Townsend. "But it is a bit frustrating tracking at around 1.5mph. Ideally you would want to unload as close to the job as possible."
When the going really gets extreme, the Leo's platform-drive adjusts track width, height and the machine's balance to match the topography and, in conjunction with the multi-width stabilisers, allows the machine to sit comfortably on slopes or straddling steps. The self-levelling system receives praise from our testers.
"When you are tracking, you can have the tracks set at different heights and the width of the undercarriage can be widened so you can go along a bank without worrying about it falling - and you can have some of the legs down for extra safety," Beckingham points out.
"A nice feature is the self-levelling device - you press a button and the machine works it out for you," adds Townsend.
Beckingham is now enthused: "It is set up in moments. And tolerance is within half a degree - that's amazing. What's more, with the spider legs you can have all sorts of configurations - they could even be on banks either side and lift you out of a gully."
The arborists at Westonbirt are used to operating MEWPs, but not this type. They find the controls easy to operate and spend a short while getting used to how it all works. And when they do, they are impressed.
The Leo 23GT has an intelligent microprocessor control that ensures all operation automatically stays within safe preset parameters.
"There are sensors all over this machine," says Beckingham. "If a sensor identifies something is not quite right, it tells you on the screen. The machine protects you and itself."
Operation can be from ground level using the machine's control panel or remote system, or via the controls in the basket. A switching device allows quick change from one to another. A lock means the control box cannot be tampered with when working in streets or other public areas. Descents can be made using an auxiliary emergency system with handpump and valve, in the event of power being lost.
Beckingham is soon happily manoeuvring the booms. Both he and Townsend are impressed with the basket. "When you get used to how to configure the legs and use the boom to its best capabilities, you realise just how tight a space you can work in - especially with the pivoting basket."
The basket pivots 180 degs from one corner. "It means you can tuck yourself in behind branches and get to positions others can't reach. It almost goes round in a circle. You can lead with the narrow profile to gain access to the canopy and, once there, swivel it round so you have a greater working area. It's far more effective than a standard one," says Beckingham.
With a massive outreach, the basket can be positioned well away from the chassis, giving a good clear space for dropping timber. "The basket is literally in the middle of nowhere - it's out on a limb," jokes Beckingham.
The horizontal boom can be lowered quickly to the ground, but for lowering back onto the chassis there is a simple system to ensure it is in the right position. "There's a green light on the control panel in the basket. It stays green as you fold the booms down and then flashes when the machine is lined up correctly - that's a great help," says Townsend. When folded, the Leo 23GT will pass through standard 2m double doors.
Back on the ground Beckingham confesses the opinion he had as the machine was delivered. "Initially, because we are used to a different design, I thought it was going to be more suited to cleaning windows. When you see it coming on the lorry, you think it's not going to do much, that it's just going to wobble around. But it didn't. There is little movement with this one and no rocking at all."
Our testers weigh up the pros and cons. Against: the speed of tracking and the nuisance of having to put mats under the feet. Beckingham also worries that the cable running from the remote could be in danger of snagging on rough ground, but he notes that radio control box is available for some models.
For: self-levelling, leg configuration, adjustments, pivoting basket that twists itself into work positions, compact size, lightweight, quality of build is robust - the list goes on.
"The pros outweigh the cons," declares Townsend. "It's a really good bit of kit and I am very impressed with the height-to-weight ratio."
New from Teupen is the Leo 25T Plus. With 25m working height and 18m horizontal outreach, this Spiderlift is said to offer 50 per cent more lateral outreach (around 5.5m extra at 80kg platform capacity) than its nearest rival.
Achieving 3m more horizontal outreach than any other Leo Spiderlift, it uses elements of Teupen's 25m and 30m machines, effectively creating a new class. The design combines a toughened boom structure based on the Leo 25T, with the extra anchoring of the Leo 30T's 1.58m-wide chassis, complete with its hydraulic height-adjusting crawlers. Weight has been kept down to 3,760kg to fit on many modern 7.5-tonne lorries.
Milton Keynes-based manufacturer Niftylift is reporting export success with a recent order from Belaruslift of Minsk for Nifty 120s, Nifty 140s, Nifty 170s and Nifty 210 trailer mounts. A dealership agreement has been formalised between the two companies.
On 14-16 September, Niftylift is exhibiting at Apex 2011 at the MECC Masstricht in the Netherlands. Apex 2011 will offer buyers and users of access equipment the opportunity to discover the latest developments in the industry.
Basket capacity: 200kg
Ground pressure: 1.8kN/m2
Engine: Kubota diesel/AC motor for indoor use
Tel: Ranger Equipment - 01246 477720