Hyster Hi-Reach RS 45-31 CH container loader

The Hyster RS 45-31 CH makes light work of loading shipping containers.

"Mate, if you want to have a look at a real good piece of equipment then you should see our new Hyster Hi-Reach container loader".

Those were some of the words that Darcy Hart, manager of transport, business development for Tapper Transport said to me over a beer. It took a few months to get around to viewing the machine which is based at the Southdown (T2) hub in Penrose, Auckland, but it proved a worthy subject. This hub is where the rail journey begins or ends for Port of Tauranga containerised freight as it waits for the daily Bay of Plenty train before heading off-shore for foreign lands, or for recent freight arrivals to this country - a final truck ride to its Auckland region de-vanning destination.

Supplied by Goughs, the 72-tonne Hyster RS 45-31 CH is one of two container loaders that feed the 38 Tappers Transport container trucks, the other machine operating at the Auckland Southdown rail site. The machines are staffed by 10 operators, being double-shifted over the working week and single shifted on weekends.

On the day I visited with transport operations manager Darryl Stewart, operator Neil Mallor was at the controls of the Hyster. With a queue of trucks waiting, it was a good opportunity to see the machine in action and Mallor made quick work of loading or unloading the trucks with their containers.

To make this happen, the machine utilises a top-loading mechanism which hydraulically adjusts to suit the size of the container being picked up. It can also side-shift left or right by up to 800mm, which means that positioning of the Hyster is not entirely critical to line up the machine for a good lift. Probably the main point of difference is that, like an excavator turntable, the mechanism rotates 360 degrees which among other time-saving benefits, enables a container to be spun so that its doors face the right direction when it arrives at its destination. This is one of its great features, says Stewart.

Another feature is the ability of the boom to angle up to 59 degrees and extend outward far enough to collect containers from a stack three deep, negating the need to move the front two containers. I see that anti-drop valves are fitted to prevent a rapid drop should a hydraulic hose on the boom decide to give out, and of which Deals on Wheels featured a story about a few issues ago.

Mallor, who has been with Tappers Transport for three years, tells me that the Hyster is "good to operate and it is easy to spend a whole shift in there". He particularly likes the electronic greasing system which makes life easier. I asked about how they know what container to pick up and was told that instructions are fed from despatch to an in-cab display system situated in the cab.

With something like 50 feet between the stacks of the containers, there is not a lot of margin for error when spinning containers around in the rows and it is always good watching experienced operators going about their business. No doubt the good vision available from the cab is a big factor in making the work day less stressful.

Noise levels inside the cab are measured at 71dB(A). Apparently, this roughly equates to a home air-conditioning unit turned up to its maximum setting. Not too invasive and probably way quieter than some of the other container lifters around the place.

Diesel power is supplied by a six-cylinder Cummins QSM11 engine, which outputs 300hp at 2100rpm. Movement around the yard is governed by a four-speed autoshift transmission, enabling a maximum travel speed of 23 kph (unloaded) or 19 kph (loaded).

Unlike the earthmoving industry, where it is unusual to see older machines in frontline roles, a drive around some container yards reveals a few higher hour machines still plying the pavement. Possibly this has something to do with cost and availability and it must have been a major research project for Tappers Transport when deciding to purchase a new machine. It looks like they have made a wise decision and I'm pretty sure the staff operating the Hyster RS 45-31 CH must consider themselves lucky to have such a nice daily work drive.

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