Track suits soft surfaces

Rubber tracks offered as solution to sensitive surfaces.

ANALYSIS, PMV

The rubber track loader is the fastest growing segment in the construction industry ... In ten years we have grown thousands of percent.

Building sites up and down the UAE and wider Middle East have plenty of soft surfaces and sandy slopes to contend with.

Moving materials, earth or other goods around these sites is often the job of a small loader. These loaders have to be swift, nimble and stable to do the work required, while also managing to stand up to high levels of usage stress. Established market leaders in this segment of the market tend to be skid-steer wheel loaders, but there are other options available that may offer additional stability and traction in some of the trickier situations.

One option trying to gain more traction in the local market is the SV Series of rubber-track loader from ASV. Established in the US in 1983, ASV is a construction machinery engineering company that works in the Middle East with through local dealer the Trading and Industrial Equipment Company (TIECO).

"The rubber track loader is the fastest growing segment in the construction industry," said Rick Harris, international sales manager, of ASV. "In 1997 there were 700 units sold worldwide, and the estimate for this year is 26000 - 30000. In ten years we have grown thousands of percent. This market is outstripping the growth of compact hydraulic excavators, which is fast moving market as well. In the Middle East there is not the exposure to the products as there is in the US, so we aim to market in a variety of geographic areas.

A track loader costs more than the more traditional wheeled skid loader, but their makers claim they also offer performance advantages.

"These SV rubber track motor loaders are our latest model," said Shahid Ijaz, branch manager, TIECO. "This is a new concept because similar machines have already been used all over the world - but rubber technology has not been previously used. We are trying to educate customers that this concept is more
productive.

One of the main selling points is the increased ground pressure a track-loader offers over a wheeled skid steer, which in turn leads to greater traction. The tracks have 24 contact points with the ground, distributing just over 4% of the machine's weight through each one. This means that even if the machine is fitted with a smooth tread for use on turf, it will still be able to produce 90% of the tractive effort of a treaded track, assuming the conditions are dry.

"It's one of the questions we face on a day-to-day basis, why tracks over tyres?" said Harris. "One of first reasons is the ground pressure gained over the total track surface area, with zero ground penetration. This gives greater flotation, an increase in traction and enhanced mobility and stability, especially on slopes.

"All this leads to an enhancement of productivity and performance for the end user. The longer track base gives a smooth stable rise and low ground disturbance, so the tracks are good for soft sand and other sensitive surfaces. Also, there are no flat tyres."

ASV also claims the long track base allows extra stability, allowing loads to be carried at a higher speed, increasing a job's cycle time and decreasing spillage potential. The machines have a roughly 50/50 weight distribution and a minimum of 305 mm ground clearance, up to 381 mm. The machines also include an element of suspension, which ASV says allows greater operator comfort and increased component life on the machine.

"Comfortable workers will be more productive," said Harris. "There's also the health issue. One of the things you get as the owner of a track loader is operators who are healthier, without neck or back problems. The impact savings also add to the useful life of the machine and can increase its residual value when you go to trade in."

"We will continue to work on new technology - ASV is the only undercarriage company that manufacture rubber track loaders, and are investing in rubber track technology. Many of our competitors use OEM parts so we will continue to work on the technology to provide greater life and efficiency in our products," he added.

In addition to the introduction of the SV Series of rubber track loader, ASV and TIECO are also undergoing major plans for expansion - within both, the Middle East and around the world.

"Our group office is in Kuwait but we also have offices in Dubai, but As long as our company is concerned, since we are related to the construction industry we defiantly aim to find great partners such as ASV so we can bring better productive equipment for this industry - we will soon have an office Qatar also to add to this growth - we hope it will be there very soon," said Ijaz.

"We are launching our product in Europe soon, as well as looking at other area of the Middle East and the African continent. We have been in business for a long time - its an educational process - every time we go in to a new region we learn new things - we have some very rapid growth going on with good products. It's about finding good partners in different regions to help communicate your message,"
said Harris.

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