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    No matter for how long I will work in this business, no matter how many judgments, defying common sense in most unbelievable ways I will come across -  I'll never say "NOW I've seen it all!" since there will always be someone willing to challenge the current champion of the "stupidity" race...

    Some years ago I was asked to "give a hand" with a malfunctioning tree stub removing machine (don't even remember now what the problem was, only that it was one of those "solved on the spot" ones), and as I was driving away from the "ground zero", pleased with the work that went well, a large truck  parked along the road caught my eye. The front part of the truck was damaged real bad, as if something very heavy had smashed into it. When I asked the machine's operator, who was taking a ride with me, what'd happened, he told me this very amusing tale, which proved yet again that  boundaries of ignorance were never to be discovered!

    The story went like this - a heavy Volvo wheel loader (the picture is for sample purposes only) was one of the many machines the owner of the stub removing machine and the mutilated truck was regularly using in the area - which was an enormous homestead, consisting mainly of steep hills - so the machines often had to work on inclined terrain. Everybody knows - heavy machinery plus uneven ground is a dangerous mix unless an efficient and reliable braking is present.

   This loader like any respectable machine was "armed" with two independent braking systems. One of them -  active, foot controlled braking system, powered by a gear pump, and equipped with a pair (for extra reliability) of bladder accumulators to store hydraulic energy for braking in emergency engine stall situations. The other one was a parking disc brake, locking the transmission gear box when activated. The whole system was supposed to be bullet-proof, but NO system is fool-proof...

    I got to see the loader a couple of hundred yards down the road - a simple glance at the machine from a distance would make you think "you poor thing...", and  give you the desire to put it out of its misery. It looked like the whole "service mumbo-jumbo" had been completely discarded, with multiple oil and other work fluid leaks coloring the rusty frame with cheerful dust powdered spots. The whole picture spelled "abandonado", and according to the man it had been like this since as long as he could remember...

   The story went on - coming to the part where the brakes failed. The first one "to go" was the parking brake, which stopped working properly due to oil leaks, and was dismounted to "get rid of the problem". Some credit must be given to the logics applied - "no part - no malfunction", how can you argue with that?! No parking brake? The front blade on the ground is much better than any parking brake!..

    Next thing to go were the accumulators, first one, than the other. One day the engine stalled on a relatively flat surface and the operator noticed that the loader suddenly lost brakes! A mechanic was consulted and the word was to throw away the accumulators and replace them with new ones. The damaged accumulators went to scrap, BUT, instead of putting the new accumulators in place, the pipes were plugged (because the accumulators were expensive). The service procedure was rescheduled to uncertain future (better) times. The machine seemed to be braking fine, at least when the engine was running... Naturally, taking extra caution was advised to the operators.

    Of course, along with the working hydraulics, the poor diesel engine was also kept maintenance-virgin, and one day it stalled due to the completely clogged fuel filter  - which was the exact moment the real fun began as the loader was descending a steep hill side... There was no steering at all - for an articulated frame loader it would take two Schwarzeneggers from the "Commando" period to steer without the engine assistance. There was no parking brake  - oh yeah, we got rid of that. There was no active braking - should've replaced them accumulators a year before. There was no control of the front blade - the pilot pressure pump was not working, and, oh yes, the pilot pressure accumulator had been long-long gone, too. Attempts to start the engine were futile - no fuel could pass through the clogged filter. The machine slowly but inevitably started to accelerate downhill, proving once again that gravity was the one basic force that couldn't be turned off. The poor driver saw his life pass before his eyes, made peace with God, and, just like his favorite action hero Spiderman, bailed out of the two meter elevated cabin of the runaway vehicle.  Luckily the loader was stopped by the relatively soft front of the large truck that's parked at the bottom of the hill. The Spiderman was not killed...

   According to the operator, it was actually not the first time this happened! Only before the slopes weren't that steepy and the fuel filter that cloggy, so eventually the engine would start before the "ejection" point. All of the operators had refused to work with the machine except for that fearless fellow, so the loader was kept in service until that day...

   As much as I sympathize hydraulic machinery owners who apply doubtful maintenance practices (it's them who keep us in business, remember?), I still believe that life threatening brake-tampering situations should be avoided at all costs!  Machine owners, please, do not let your machinery come to this! If you feel the compelling desire to threaten lives of your employees, you should call the emergency psychiatry ambulance with restraining jackets and everything and check in a mental hospital as soon as you can! If you do not want to provide your hydraulics with adequate service, consider contracting someone who will!

    If you are not an equipment owner, but work for a company with such negligent practices, two ways of action are possible. Either it can be a great career opportunity for you, if you invest in your hydraulic self-education and convince your boss to implement some sort of preventive maintenance program, which will be supervised by you (read - a better pay-check) and will save him money. Or you can start looking for a new employment, as most likely this company will treat you the same way they treat their hydraulics - like crap. Leaving things as they are is a dead-end path, unfortunately taken by many... I sincerely hope that IH contributes to changing this state of things.