With a top speed of 20 mph, most backhoe loaders are
unlikely candidates for the passing lane.
The HMEE (high-mobility engineer excavator) is different.
Developed by construction-equipment manufacturer JCB for the
U.S. military, this vehicle is slated to be the new workhorse
of military engineers worldwide. It has a top speed of 57 mph
and packs a fully independent suspension, antilock brakes, and
It can dig, too. Really dig. Powered by a 5.9-liter
turbo-diesel engine, the loader boasts 2 tons of breakout
force; its rear-mounted hoe can reach depths of more than 12
feet. The machine shares the same chassis design as JCB's
Fastrac tractor, which was conceived to reduce travel time
between farm fields. (The company also makes a high-speed
telescopic forklift, which offers similarly jaw-dropping speed
Despite a drab exterior color scheme, the HMEE's interior
is quite plush. Joystick controls and cloth air-ride seats with
adjustable armrests ease the fatigue of long hours spent
loading and digging.
JCB expects its HMEE contract with the military to be worth
more than $140 million.
Now that the loader has made it through the product development
and testing phases, you may start seeing civilian versions
racing around job sites. Perhaps one will even pass you on the
highway when you're chugging along in your pickup with a
trailer full of tools. — Patrick McCombe