Loads of work

As worksites get tighter, the compact dimensions of the skid-steer loader are popular with plant buyers, but what features offer benefits for the owner?

SHOVEL HEAD: Buy the right skid-steer loader and you will have a versitile tool at your disposal.
SHOVEL HEAD: Buy the right skid-steer loader and you will have a versitile tool at your disposal.

As worksites get tighter, the compact dimensions of the skid-steer loader are popular with plant buyers, but what features offer benefits for the owner?

Today, there are a multitude of skid-steers on building sites throughout the world. PMV managers are drawn to the usefulness of the compact machines on building sites.

No production skid-steer still uses the three-wheeled model. In fact, modern skid-steers can broadly be put into two categories: wheeled and tracked. We all know the benefits and disadvantages of each drive system, but for the most part the drive remains the same.

The beginnings of the loader are a little more messy, however. Back in the beginning, a farmer needed to clean out a turkey shed, and rather than use the traditional shovel method, he employed a pair of brothers to build him a machine to help with the task.

The machine they came up with had two driven front wheels and a single caster at the back. As the rear wheel went through 360 degrees.

The machine could turn on it's own footprint. While still quite far removed from the modern skid-steer, the concept was born, as well as the foundations of the Bobcat company, which the brothers would later be part of.

Now part of the Doosan Infracore group, Bobcat still controls a large part of the skid-steer market. The latest machine to come from the company is the tracked T320, which boasts a significant increase in power over the model it replaced.

Power is, of course the main consideration when looking for a skid-steer as greater hydraulic pressure means more attachments can be used safely.

Gaby Rhayem, sales manager, Bobcat said; "The increased engine power provides11% more hydraulic power in the T320 compared to the T300, and this significantly boosts the performance of attachments on the T320.

The T320 is equipped standard with a hydraulic system that produces 80.2 1/min of hydraulic flow, but customers can choose a 151 litre per minute high-flow option for powering a wide range of high flow attachments such as the wheel saw, road planers, rotary cutter, mowers, flail cutters, stump grinders and wood chippers.

Application

It might come as no surprise, but the exact spec of a skid-steer will depend on what it is going to be used for. "The application is number one - what kind of payload capacity is the primary driver" said Sudhir Tripathi, marketing, Al-Bahar.

"Also if you are going to use it for work tools, consider what kind of hydro-mechanical or hydro-electrical attachments you have, and what kind of power they need. Ask, will the machine be able to supply that?" He added that working on tight sites can be a factor when choosing a machine.

"In certain cases, you have to go in to a tight area and the width and weight of the machine makes a difference, but that doesn't often apply here (in the UAE) It is more about the payload and bucket capacity."

"Skid-steer loaders are a combination of workhorse and gopher at most jobsites," says Jim Hughes, brand communication manager, Case Construction Equipment. "In fact, they're often the most productive and versatile machines on a jobsite.

Throw in the fact a skid-steer loader is less expensive than other construction equipment and you've got a winning combination for many contractors."
 

Transmission

"You may want to ask about a two-speed transmission if you need to drive long distances when the machine is unloaded from a trailer," says Gaby Rhayem. "Using two-speed transmissions allow our skid-steer loaders to travel up to 12 mph in high speed, saving contractors valuable time."

In addition, Rhayem says, Bobcat pioneered the development of four-wheel-steer skid steers, with independently articulating wheels.

"They're excellent machines for applications where turf damage is a concern because the skidding motion is eliminated during turns," he explained.

Rubber

Minnesota-based ASV, now part of Terex, has a solution that doesn't involve steel tracks or wheels. The range of machines offered by the company have rubber belts instead. Rick Harris, sales manager for the company said "For years, rubber tracks have been out-performing conventional tracks and wheels.

"Our latest machine, the PT-100, for example, has 42 wheels to distribute the ground pressure accurately."

Lift capacity, along with the width and height of the machine, should be examined as well. Remember that wider chassis machines offer increased stability in applications where lifting and loading is a priority.

"Make sure the machine performance features fit the specific task needed to complete the worksite job in the most efficient fashion," says Harris. "Good stability directly affects performance and should be a major concern when evaluating a potential machine.

Chopped limbs

In the early days, getting in and out of the machine was as much of a hazard as operating it. Older machines didn't have the enclosed ROPS cab with a protective mesh grille.

This meant the operator was vulnerable to assorted limb-lopping machinery. Besides the cab, different manufacturers have tackled the problem in different ways. Perhaps the most extreme solution is that employed by JCB's Robot range.

he usual twin arm arrangement has been replaced with a single joint, meaning the operator can get in and out from the side, just like a regular loader.

"Some asked us about the arm when we introduced it" said Dan Thomstone, regional manager JCB "But we have never had one fail. It really is a much safer system."

Comfort

More skid-steer manufacturers are now placing a greater emphasis on cab ergonomics and offering a all sorts of cab comfort options.

It is also worthwhile checking how easy a machine is to perform regular maintenance and daily checks. Most skid-steers have a transverse engine, and on some, but not all, it is possible to reach all of the service parts from the same side.

Some machines now adopt sight gauges rather than relying on a dipstick to check the oil level, to speed up the checks and to prevent dirt getting into the closed crankcase system.

In summary, if you pick the right skid-steer for your worksite, you will be reaping the rewards of these efficient and compact vehicles for many years to come.

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