The beauty of skid-steer and compact track loader attachments is that, for the most part, they are interchangeable. Attachments such as dirt buckets, pallet forks and mowers are commonly used on both machines.
"Yet with a track loader, buckets can be easily filled to capacity, typically with less effort than a skid steer would require," says David Steger, product and training manager, Takeuchi. "Pallet forks can carry supplies through the muck, and mowers can tackle slopes due to the awesome traction that these machines offer."
However, there are certain attachments that are particularly well suited to a track loader, and will perform significantly better due to the benefits tracks provide. Some of these include dozer blades, four-in-one buckets, landscape rakes and cold planers, as well as brush cutters, sod rollers and tree spades.
The key strengths of a compact track loader focus largely on the tracks. "They provide a much greater amount of rubber on the ground vs. four wheels," says Rick Harris, training manager, ASV. "That equates to a tremendous increase in traction."
For example, the largest ASV machines have as much as 2,800 sq. in. of rubber on the ground. "One of the first things you will notice about a compact track loader is its ability to push and dig," Harris states. "That's a byproduct of all that track on the ground."
This makes it particularly well suited for ground-engaging attachments that require a lot of tractive effort, such as six-way dozer blades. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find such an attachment on a wheeled loader, Harris indicates.
Tractive ability is one reason compact track loaders are becoming increasingly popular on jobsites where contractors need to move a lot of dirt to contour the ground and/or push and backfill. "When [the] loader is on dirt most of the time, it may be in the best interest of the contractor to upgrade from a rubber-tired skid-steer loader to a compact track loader for improved productivity," says Greg Rostberg, marketing manager, Bobcat.
Some of that increased productivity can be attributed to operating weight. For example, a Bobcat T300 compact track loader weighs 9,702 lbs., while a comparable S300 skid-steer loader weighs 8,448 lbs. "The extra weight allows the machine to have higher pushing forces, so compact track loaders particularly excel at grading and excavating applications," says Rostberg. "These applications may be as simple as rough grading in a new residential area, or as complex as a final grade for a new concrete pad that requires a high degree of accuracy."
That additional operating weight also gives the compact track loader the ability to lift heavier loads. "The ability to move more material in less time improves the end user's efficiency on jobsites," says Rostberg.
Low ground pressure
Although it tends to be heavier than a skid-steer loader, a compact track loader's undercarriage distributes the weight over a larger area. As a result, the loader has more flotation with less ground pressure.
"Instead of four points of contact with the ground, the operator has the weight of the machine spread out over the entire length of the track," says Rostberg. "This provides increased flotation and minimal ground disturbance. In turn, ground pressure is greatly reduced, so you can travel across finished landscapes without having to line your path with boards or mats, thus saving time and energy."
The extra flotation also gives you the ability to work in muddy ground conditions that could sideline a wheeled machine. "That means you can get out onto jobsites sooner [after it rains], and you can get out earlier in the Spring and stay out later in the Fall," adds Ron Peters, CEAttachments, "all without leaving deep ruts like a skid loader can."
A lighter footprint gives a compact track loader the ability to more efficiently host finish grading attachments such as land planes and landscape rakes. "Compact track loaders excel at finish grading or working on subbase because of the low ground pressure," says Rostberg. "That, in turn, leaves a smoother surface when the project is finished."