Today is the 40th anniversary of the launch of the first JCB telehandler, the two wheel drive, 2,000kg/6.4 metre Loadall 520 in 1977.
Since then JCB has sold more than 220,000 telehandlers, generating more than £7 billion in sales - £4.5 billion of which has come from units that were shipped overseas.
According to the company telehandler production this year has reached the highest levels since that launch, and should end the year 25 percent higher than for 2016. Around 1,200 people are now employed in telehandler production.
In the two months following its launch in 1977 JCB claim to have sold 64 units, with production levels running at almost four units a day by the end of the first year.
The original machine had its issues though, the two wheel drive often struggled to cope with the worst job site conditions, while the transmissions were not as rugged as they might have been. However the company persevered and in January 1981 the four wheel drive Loadalls 520.4 and 525 - the latter with 2,500 kg lift capacity - were launched. The 520.4 had a basic price of £11,950, although the average transaction price in 1981 was £14,423.
Almost 30 years later the company celebrated the 100,000th telehandler to roll off the production line, with the next 100,000 taking just 10 years to build.
The public launch on October 20th 1977 was promoted under the headline ‘Obsolescence Day is Coming’ as an indication that the new machine, with its ability to reach forward as well as upwards, would render the mast type Rough Terrain forklift obsolete.
Development of the Loadall began in 1974 with the first prototype appearing in 1975 when units were sent out to UK building sites for testing and evaluation. This resulted in the development of a second prototype in 1976 which also went out on test alongside a market research progamme in which 160 companies were interviewed. In all the development programme is said to have cost £4 million.