"You can do more finish work with attachments mounted on a track loader," agrees Peters. "It won't leave tire prints because it can essentially float over the ground with less pressure."
For an especially light touch, some manufacturers offer smooth tread turf tracks. "You can use these on a unit as heavy as 6,300 lbs. and counter rotate on golf course turf without making a mark," says Harris. "That's because of the low ground pressure. It allows you to work on sensitive jobsites, which is important because site repair at the end of the job can be a big consideration when bidding a job."
Traversing tough terrain
Another benefit of a compact track loader is higher ground clearance, which makes attachments such as brush mowers and mulchers more productive. "Our smallest track loader has 12 in. of ground clearance. Many skid-steer loaders provide just 7 to 8 in. of clearance," says Harris. "The PT80 offers 15 in. of ground clearance, which is more than a pickup truck."
This added clearance is a benefit when you consider departure angles and the uneven terrain encountered in vegetative management and land clearing applications. "If you have low ground clearance, you usually have a small departure angle, which means you usually hit your bumper when you go up a hill or across a ditch, uneven terrain or large rut," says Harris. "A large departure angle will allow you to traverse uneven or hilly terrain without catching your bumper or hanging up your machine."
The balance and stability provided by a track loader's large footprint also makes large attachments such as mulching heads productive. "A skid-steer loader can handle a mulching head that might weigh up to 2,300 lbs.," says Harris. "But because of a wheeled machine's short wheelbase, you can be limited in the areas you can work in."
A compact track loader's stability adds to its value when working on slopes, regardless of the attachment used, indicates Steger. "Many attachments benefit from the stability gained by the solid contact between the ground, frame and undercarriage components," he says. "And this is just comparing the same soil conditions. When you factor in the ability to work in soft, muddy or sloped terrain, it's easy to see why track loaders consistently get the job done, while their counterparts are often stuck or unproductive due to the conditions."
This ability makes compact track loaders particularly attractive for landscaping tasks, such as laying sod. "Traditionally, sod is cut into 2' x 4' sheets to be laid by hand," says Harris. "But with an attachment such as a sod roller mounted on a compact track loader, you can roll sections as large as 48 in. wide and 30 ft. long. Imagine the amount of labor that saves. Now imagine it being done on slopes or on uneven terrain along highways or along off-ramps. It can eliminate the need to hydroseed.
"And with a compact track loader, you have more operating capacity, stability and accessibility compared to a skid-steer loader," he adds.
Another application where compact track loaders are gaining in popularity is cold planing operations. "Many contractors have found a benefit for using compact track loaders for asphalt milling due to the solid connection the tracks give to the paved surface," says Steger. "It keeps the planer in the cut with less opportunity to wander or bounce out of the cut."
Traditionally, cold planer applications have been dominated by skid-steer loaders. "But this attachment requires a lot of hydraulic flow and high cooling capacity. It's also very fatiguing to the operator," Harris points out. "With the suspension and high-flow capability of our track loaders, you can be more productive and cost effective. You can turn on hot asphalt, because the track loader's weight distribution doesn't tear it up like a wheeled machine would."
Attachments Downsize Labor Costs
John Perkins, Orono, MN, started in the landscape business in 1968. He eventually started Perkins Contracting, first using tractors, then skid-steer loaders. In the early 1990s, he began the transition to compact track loaders and currently has an ASV RC30, RC60 and SR80 in his fleet.