A long list of options and features allow a backhoe-loader to be spec'd to closely match your customer's needs. "The most important thing a rental business can do when adding a backhoe-loader to its fleet is fully understand the application need," says James Blower, senior product manager, JCB. "The type of application will determine the spec of the machine."
One specification that relates to application would be backhoe dig depth. "Often this spec is used more for determining reach rather than depth, but this will determine which size class to shoot for," says Bob Tyler, product marketing manager, backhoes, John Deere Construction & Forestry Division. "For example, if the application is to dig a 4-foot trench all day, then the rental customer may want to start with the 14-foot size class such as the Deere 310J, rather than the 15-foot 410J. If the application involves, say, placing stones for embankments, then the longer reach may be a consideration for some customers."
Another specification relating to application would be lift capacity. "Will the contractor be picking up manholes, or placing Jersey barriers with the backhoe?" asks Tyler. "Will the loader be used extensively for material handling? If so, higher lift specs may be an advantage. In many rental situations, the customer may already have heavier lifting equipment, so again, the [14-foot size class] may be the right solution."
Generally, a backhoe-loader is picked for its versatility. "Their advantage over other types of equipment, like tracked excavators and skid steers, is mobility," says Bargellini Marcello, Volvo Construction Equipment. "They can travel upwards of 20 mph and higher.
"Much like the skid steer, the backhoe is essentially a 'tool' that, depending on which attachment is fitted to it, can be used in a variety of applications," he continues. "Almost all backhoes are equipped with hydraulic circuits to enable installation of loader-backhoe quick-attach systems. This allows the customer to couple the machine with different attachments, like multipurpose buckets, fork frame and tines, sweepers, grapples on the front loader, and hydraulic hammers, thumbs, augers and jaw buckets on the backhoe."
Mechanical and hydraulic couplers add to the versatility. For instance, Case offers an optional factory-installed integrated hydraulic backhoe coupler.
"The Case coupler increases productivity by reducing the time required to change attachments, because the non-hydraulic attachments can be changed from inside the cab," says Joyce Szulc, marketing manager, Case Construction Equipment. "The coupler is easy to operate with push-button operation, and it maintains breakout force, unlike aftermarket couplers."
Versatile tool carrier
The loader end can come in a standard or tool carrier configuration. "Generally, a tool carrier configuration is more expensive because the loader must feature parallel lift, higher lift capacity, etc.," says Marcello. "Hence, the loader linkage is usually stronger, with extra links and probably larger cylinders. It pays for itself if used a lot in material-handling applications."
Tyler with John Deere, agrees, noting, "Tool carriers will pay for themselves when the customer is looking for maximum versatility from a piece of equipment," he says. "Being able to unload pallets from a truck, or sweep the road are just two of a variety of tasks that can be performed with a tool carrier. However, if the customer is content with just digging with the backhoe all day, then the extra cost of a tool carrier may not be justified."
But the versatility of even a standard loader design can be enhanced with a self-leveling loader control valve. "The hydraulic self-leveling loader control valve improves pallet fork work, and is easily shut off for normal operation," says Keith Rohrbacker, product manager, construction equipment, Kubota Tractor Corp.