Forklift review: truck-mounted Moffett M5

By: Ricky French


With a remote truck-mounting function and one-side unloading capability, the Moffett M5 has grunt, is simple to operate and doesn’t mind a bit of rough and tumble either

Forklift review: truck-mounted Moffett M5
Moffett M5.

 

There were times while I was watching the demonstration video of the Moffett M5 where I thought maybe I was being shown outtakes from a monster truck rally. This is a machine that likes to get seriously dirty.

The test driver puts it through its paces in a deep, muddy dam, immersing it above the wheels in water, forcing it over walls with a startling gradient, throwing it round like a toy.

It’s with some understatement that Hiab product manager Steve Lelean pauses the video and tells me: "This is a 100 per cent outdoors forklift."

The Moffett M5 is a three-wheeled diesel-powered truck-mounted, one-side off-load all-terrain forklift.

Its design attempts to alleviate some of the problems with booms, such as constant angle adjustments and impaired vision.

It is trying to keep things simple. Simple also means no fancy digital display, no complicated start-up procedure, no internal monitoring of performance fed straight to the driver, like we’re used to seeing on some modern counterbalance forklifts.

It’s agricultural application here, to be blunt — old school attitude with modern innovations.

Unlike conventional forklifts, the Moffett uses negative lift to raise itself onto a truck, using a double-acting cylinder on the mast to pump oil to both ends.

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The two-way hydraulics can do more than lift the forklift onto a truck, it can also be used to extract wedged tines, pushing the forklift up and back like an excavator if the situation calls for it.

But it’s the one-side offload where the Moffett really sells itself.

When unloading a truck on site, you can reach pallets on the far side of the truck, an invaluable advantage, especially when you consider the narrow streets and various obstacles construction and maintenance vehicles must contend with these days.

Hydrostatic drive means operator control is enhanced, and a super-tight turning circle allows it to be manoeuvred with ease.

Engine

The Moffett is relatively light weight, with no counterbalance other than the body and the engine — a grunty Kubota Diesel 33kW.

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Cab and Controls

The first I noticed from the cab was the view – you’re up high, and with no enclosed cabin you get a great look at all the important stuff.

Having no enclosed cabin is also a disadvantage if the weather’s nasty.

There’s really no protection here, although Lelean explains that a rain cover or enclosed cabin can be optioned.

The seat is set to the left of the mast, meaning the mast isn’t obstructing your view of the load.

Forward and reverse is handled by your left foot, with one multi-directional pedal, in true hydrostatic form.

I liked it.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, though: please just put the horn on the steering wheel, where it falls easily to hand.

On the Moffett, the horn is hidden amongst a row of switches (park brake, lights etc…) hardly an ideal spot if needed in a hurry.

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Performance

We’re in the great outdoors of Lilydale Instant Lawn, one of Moffett’s long-standing customers, to put the Moffett to the test.

Forklift company reps, although helpful, are of course never impartial, so I ask two of Lilydale Instant Lawn’s drivers about the Moffett.

Both drivers can’t speak more highly of the machine, stressing its versatility in difficult circumstances.

One driver was recently up to the top step of the cab in mud and water and the Moffett didn’t miss a beat. Handling all sorts of terrain, as well as operating in close quarters is part of the daily job, and both drivers couldn’t imagine using any other machine.

The drivers touch on a broader point. With forklifts such as the Moffett, familiarity with operation is an important aspect.

Driver skill and experience is probably the most important slice of the pie when it comes to maximising efficiencies.

A driver with one hour’s training, such as myself, can operate forklift with safety and competency, but not with speed or confidence.

Seeing an experienced driver throw it round was like witnessing a jaw-dropping circus trick, and the forklift’s full capabilities are truly revealed.

Like horse and rider, an unbreakable bond can be formed.

Truck mounting is almost too easy, with a technique known as piggybacking, where the forklift hangs off the back of your tray. Moffett calls it the smooth ride system.

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The good thing here is that you can still take full advantage of the tray’s payload.

To load the Moffett, you drive it to the rear of the truck, raise the tines and drive them into custom slots on the rear of the truck.

Then, using a remote control, you call the negative lift into action and the forklift pulls itself upwards until the front wheels are just lower than the tray.

Then you command the tines to pull themselves in, which has the effect of pulling the body of the forklift towards the truck, tucking the wheels snuggly under the tray and the body of the forklift up against the mast.

Two chains and a couple of pins secure the forklift, which can then be lowered slightly to draw the chains taut.

The whole process takes just over a minute.

On the back of the forklift, there is an extra rego plate holder, meaning you can slip the truck’s plate easily on the back of the forklift, making things legal. And off you go.

The great thing here is that the entire operation is performed from a safe distance, using the patented remote control, so the operator doesn’t need to be in the cab.

The obvious issue with reaching over to the far side of a truck to pick up a load is stability, due to the load centre being farther away from the forklift.

It’s here where Moffett’s patented lift assist arms come into play.

After positioning the forklift you raise the tines above tray-level and drive in close enough for the two ground stabilisers to be deployed just ahead of the front wheels.

This immediately brings the stability triangle back.

Further lifting capacity is then gained by extending the two lift assist arms, resting them against the tray. It’s now going to take a lot to tip this thing over. Lift rating at full extension (1,800cm load centre) is 2,000kg, quite remarkable for a forklift with no counterbalance.

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Extending the tines out to pick up the pallet works much like an order-picker in a warehouse.

Everything is linear (up and down, forwards and backwards), unlike a boom-operated telescopic handler, so it would appeal to operators coming from a conventional counterbalance forklift background.

To move, you feather your left foot until motion is achieved, then add extra speed and power with the accelerator on your right.

This is a seriously agile and quick beast, and I didn’t even come close to flooring the gas on the test runs.

It feels more like a tractor than a forklift at times, if a tractor had a ridiculously tight turning circle.

Your right hand operates a line of levers, and it takes a bit of muscle memory to get the right one each time, but practice makes perfect.

I found the side-shift application particularly interesting.

The whole mast shifts, not just the tines as on most forklifts.

According to Lelean, this is to keep the weight down and allow for greater lift capacity.

Safe and efficient lifting means understanding your stability triangle.

"There’s a golden rule," Lelean says. "When your load is on your mast is back."

Bringing the load back into the body of the forklift means you can perch it over the front wheels, well within the stability triangle.

With no counterbalance, learning how to safely manipulate your load is the key to becoming a good driver.

The other rule is to make sure you remember to deploy your stabilisers when reaching out.

It’s a smooth drive, made even smoother when carrying weight, and despite what intuition may have you believe, the three wheels actually improve your stability triangle.

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Verdict

The Moffett is a durable forklift that should provide years of reliable service across a range of industries, especially turf, brick, construction and agriculture.

Its versatility and simplicity are big selling points.

It has everything you need and nothing you don’t. Operators will need to be well-drilled, but if time and efficiency are important to you and your business, you’ll hard-pressed to find a better all-terrain forklift.

While the remote truck-mounting function and one-side unloading capability are the stars, it’s good to know you have a machine that won’t complain when you get it dirty.

 

Specifications

Make/Model: Moffett M5

Engine: Kubota Diesel 33 kW (44hp)

Lifting capacity: 2,500kg @600mm load centre

Lift height: 3,000mm

Standard tyres: 280x60 – 15.5

Drive wheels: 3 wheel/4 way

Unladen weight: 2,380kg

Overhang: 1,200mm

Ground clearance: 220mm

 

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