Manitou manufactures telehandlers of all shapes, sizes and capacities for the construction and agricultural sectors.

Within the firm’s range of agri-machines are three distinct telehandler categories: compact, mid-range and heavy-duty. Manitou provided me with the opportunity to drive two of its machines that are at the upper limit of agri-telehandler capacity.

The smaller of the two was the flagship of the firm’s mid-range series, the MLT1040. From Manitou’s heavy-duty range was the firm’s agri-goliath, the MLT960. Both are relative newcomers to the market and while the market may be small for such machines in Ireland, we had a look to see what they could do.

In common

The MLT1040 and MLT960 are very different machines. The MLT1040 weighs in at a little over 9t, while the MLT960 clocks in at nearly 11.5t. Different machines for very different tasks.

One of the key things they share is engines. Both use the same four-cylinder Deere Power System (DPS) engine which develops 137hp in the MLT1040 and is tweaked to develop 141hp in the larger MLT960.

In both machines, the DPS engines meet Stage IIIB/Tier4i emission regulations. To comply with emission regulations, DPS uses exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), a diesel oxidation catalyst (DOC) and a diesel particulate filter (DPF).

Both have considerable height and reach capabilities, but as agri-spec machines, they are not fitted with cumbersome front jacks or stabilisers like construction-spec machines are. The cabs used on both, on the other hand, do come from Manitou’s construction-spec machines.

These are very large cabs with a generous amount of room for larger operators and plenty of storage space. Behind the driver’s seat is a shelf with enough space for probably two small square bales.

The rear window is now so far away it has its own cable control to operate it. Gone is the two-piece door, replaced by a single-piece door with an electric window.

There are three levels of cab spec available: classic, premium and elite. Manitou UK brings in just the elite version for the Irish and UK markets. Air seat boom, suspension and other comforts are standard on elite variants.

Standard across all three is radiator auto-cleaning which, when selected, will reverse the cooling fan for 15 seconds every three minutes to keep the cooling package free of debris.

Inside the cab, design is very sleek and modern, with Manitou’s slightly intimidating joystick switch and move (JSM) lever to the driver’s right. Manitou’s JSM is one of the best in the industry.

It may look a little alien and intimidating, but incorporates all the features and is in the right position for telehandler operation. Among the controls on the JSM are forward/reverse shuttling switch, boom extension/retraction and third-service buttons.

On both models, there were ample features on the dash from displays to buttons and various other controls. Without a little bit of guidance from some of the experts on hand, it would not have immediately been clear what everything was for.

Most four-wheel-steer telehandlers, regardless of manufacturer, feature three steering modes; four-wheel-steer, crab-steer and two-wheel-steer.

An interesting feature on both machines was an extra steering mode I had not seen before – the partial crab-steer. This allows the operator to offset the rear wheels and steer with the front wheels – ideal for scraping against a wall or feed barrier which can be very tricky to do in crab steering mode.


Down to machine specifics and the mid-range MLT1040 has a maximum lift capacity of 4t and maximum height capabilities of 10m.

The MLT1040 replaces the firm’s MLT1035 and has evolved from the MLT840 with the same axles, hydraulics and a two-stage boom.

Transmission is a conventional torque-convertor, power-shift unit, which Manitou calls its M-Shift gearbox. This provides five forward speeds and three reverse speeds, plus a lock-up facility in fourth and fifth. Top speed is 40km/h, and with lock-up plus 137hp under the hood should be easily capable of maintaining that speed.

Driving impression

The MLT1040 is considerably smaller than the MLT960 in all respects – the boom chassis is smaller, it stands shorter and is in the region of 2.5t lighter.

It is more typical of an agri-spec machine. It proved itself to be a very nimble and agile telehandler, considering it is a 10m-reach machine. Steering was very much lighter than its heavyweight sibling, reflective of the frantic pace often required in farming.

It features the firm’s powershift transmission with auto function.

This was a really nice transmission to use, with just the right balance of control and responsiveness for the bale handling we were tasked with.

Visibility at height did require a bit of neck craning as the two telescopic boom extensions reached for the clouds.

Boom visibility was pretty good all-round for a side boom machine. Overall, it’s an excellent machine in a farming scenario that requires a bit more lifting capacity and reach.


The MLT960 was born out of the need for a telehandler with serious lift capacity, while also having excellent height and reach characteristics. This need has largely been driven by the growth of anaerobic digesters in Europe, particularly in Germany.

The MLT960 is designed for some serious loading. It has a 9m height capability and a massive 6t maximum lift capacity. To do what it was designed to do, it has to be big, and it is.

Manitou uses a Dana 318 CVT transmission. This is essentially a hydrostatic transmission, but with a twist.

A single variable displacement hydraulic pump drives two motors, but not all the time.

In handling mode, the hydraulic pump drives both motors to provide maximum torque for pulling or pushing. Above 12km/h, where less torque is required, it supplies just one motor with oil.

According to Dana, its design potentially provides increased efficiency at high travel speeds of more than 20% over standard hydrostatic transmissions.

Setting up and using the transmission couldn’t be easier. Simply set the desired maximum speed on the transmission dial and the telehandler won’t go over that speed. The speed control dial is graduated as a percentage for some reason, but easy to get to grips with.

Telehandlers have to conform to various safety regulations regarding their safe usage, so manufacturers employ a number of methods to meet these.

As the MLT960 (and MLT1040) reaches its design load limit, Manitou’s control systems slow the boom function hydraulics to defined safe operating parameters.

Manitou has fitted an axle-stabilising ram on the rear of the MLT960. On level ground, this ram comes into play when the boom angle reaches 55° (full range of 66°) to stabilise the machine and make it safer.

Driving impression

With few anaerobic digesters in Ireland and even fewer geared up to sell electricity back to the grid, the market may be a bit limited for the MLT960.

Grain handling is one potential market and that is something we got to do while in the UK. When I say some, I mean 4t at a time. A 4t scoop is quite a mouthful, but the 960 is certainly more than able for the task.

The MLT960 has the feel of a big machine, plus all the sensations that go with operating such a goliath.

It would be unfair to describe this as sluggish, but big machines seem to move slower.

The CVT transmission was easy to set up and even easier to use.

Operation of the 960 was nice and steady. It had loads of power to push, to the point where the bucket was slower to tear out from the pile of grain because it was simultaneously trying to push the entire pile. The cab was excellent and the electric window easy to quickly operate to keep the dust out.

Manitou’s JSM control lever we praised earlier, while dash display and some controls require a little figuring out.

It is a side-boom machine and has a big boom, so RH-visibility will never be as good as centre boom machine or loading shovel.

What it does have though that a shovel doesn’t is reach on tap, and that’s what may win it a few customers among big handler users.