When a John Deere 328D skid-steer loader showed up at my farm this spring, I first noticed how easy it was to get into the cab. The full cab enclosure leaves plenty of room for a bigger guy to fit inside. It also helps that the door hinges and swings to the side, which is a change from the previous overhead door system on Deere’s skid loader cabs.  

Once you sit down and close the door, the sound quality is impressive. Engine noise is minimal inside the cab. I was so impressed that I called someone on my cell phone to get his opinion. Not only could he not hear the engine running at regular idle speed, but he still could not tell the machine was running when I floored it!  

Another change Deere made with this series was to add an interlocking seat bar to the operator’s station that folds down from overhead and provides a handy armrest while operating the machine. The seat bar is also accompanied by a seat belt, both of which must be engaged for the machine to run.  

The cab has a tremendous field of view at the cutting edge of the bucket. I didn’t need to move forward in the seat to see where the cutting edge was as I started to scrape a feedlot floor. The suspension seat provided an excellent ride across the roughest terrain.

The cab comes with eight air vents for heating and cooling. All of the vents are adjustable and provide an excellent environment no matter what the weather.  

 

Controls

With several of the controls and switches moved to the left and right posts of the door frame, space on the dash directly in front of the driver is now freed up. A handy addition to that space is a rearview mirror. When loading and unloading bales and pallets, I didn’t have to crank my head around 180° to see what was behind me. Another big advantage is the large window in the roof, which allows for a great field of view when stacking and retrieving round bales and big square bales.    

The 328D I tested was an electrohydraulic (EH) machine with the optional Performance Package. Under normal operations, the left joystick operates the direction of travel of the machine using an ISO pattern. Moving the right joystick forward and back lowers or raises the boom, and moving it side to side dumps or raises the bucket. A switch on the control panel allows you to switch from the ISO pattern to an H pattern.

Another switch allows you to switch to creep mode. The display screen will show the maximum speed you can attain. It can be dialed down in increments of 5% from 100 to 10%, and in increments of 1% for anything below 10%. This is a great feature for training new employees on the machine, or for those jobs where more precision is needed.  

Another nice feature of the Performance Package is the ability to select speed settings — from production rate to precision rate — for the boom and bucket. The various rates allow you to perform some tasks more easily if you do them repetitively and still need some degree of finesse.  

A foot-operated throttle provides a quick and easy way to change engine speed. A dial on the right side of the door frame allows constant throttle settings.   

The skid loader has a huge, 29-gal. fuel tank, which is a big improvement over my current model with a 15-gal. tank and the series II model from the mid-2000s with a 20-gal. tank.

 

Design changes

Serviceability is easy on the D series skid loaders. Popping the rear access hatch allows you to get complete access to fuel the machine, as well as check the coolant level, without removing any side panels.  

Another design change is the V-plenum setup where the fan sits at the back of the machine with the coolers in front of it in a V-pattern. This allows the fan to bring air across the coolers with more space and without the stacked effect of most designs.

The reversing fan switch can be flipped in the cab to one of three positions — off, auto and manual. In the auto position, the fan will automatically reverse every 20 min. of operation for 43 sec. to blow out any dirt and debris lodged in the coolers. The fan drive is also hydraulically driven, so the fan will turn only as fast as required to keep the machine cool, improve fuel efficiency and eliminate a lot of the noise of the fan running all the time.        

Engine oil changes are easy with a removable side access door at the rear corner of the machine for the engine oil drain hose. Removing the side panel of the machine allows easy access to the oil filter. Hydraulic oil levels can be checked via a sight glass on the left side of the machine near the hydraulic oil filler cap after the left side panel is removed.   

Another new feature of the D series is the auto idle function. If the machine senses no input of any kind for 5 sec., be it boom movements or motion from the joystick controls, the machine will automatically throttle back to idle. As soon as motion resumes, the machine will return to the engine rpm it was at before.  

 

Comfort and convenience

When positioning bulk boxes of seed to unload into a seed tender, I was a bit surprised that I could open the cab door to exit the machine. I was afraid there would be a safety override of some kind that wouldn’t allow that to happen.

The combination of options, standard features and new designs makes the John Deere D series skid loader a tremendous machine to operate. Creature comforts like a cup holder, 12v outlet, iPod/cell phone holder and the luxurious cab combine to create an excellent working environment.

For more information, visit http://www.johndeere.com.