If you want something, don't be afraid to ask. Essentially, many of the features found on today's skid-steer loaders are standard because enough people requested them.
Take cup holders, dome lights, cargo compartments and 12-volt power ports for MP3 players, cell phone chargers and small electrical air pumps, for example. Now typically standard features, they were options just five years ago, and unheard of 10 to 15 years ago. But think how nice they are to have, and how much more comfortable and productive they can make you and/or your operators.
Skid steers have admittedly lagged behind some of the larger construction equipment in availability of ultimate comfort features/options. Wheel loaders and excavators have had enclosed, climate-controlled cabs and cushioned seats for years. But in defense of the smaller loaders, the higher cost of larger earthmovers means added options represent a smaller percentage of total machine cost, making them easier to justify.
Now, operators used to the creature comforts of larger equipment are beginning to want more in their smaller utility machines. "Operators want to have an increasing level of comfort in a skid steer," says Kelly Moore, Gehl. "It's a natural progression because of the familiarity with the larger machines. If you can improve the ergonomics and the comfort level, it makes for more satisfied employees. The machine is less fatiguing to operate, and some options, such as a cab enclosure, give operators the ability to work comfortably for a longer period of time, year round."
Certainly, any skid steer with a seat and aired up tires will get the job done, including "plain jane" models equipped with the standard ROPS/FOPS and rear and top glass. But one with an enclosed cab, climate control and a radio will be more enjoyable to operate.
"We believe that a comfortable operator is a productive operator," says Pierre Verdon, marketing, Caterpillar. "Features such as a comfortable and quiet cab with air conditioning, air-ride seat and good visibility allow the operator to feel less tired, better focused and overall much more productive. Those options will also help contractors retain employees by making them more comfortable on the jobsite."
"Operator comfort is a critical aspect for skid-steer loaders," adds Jim Hughes, Case Construction Equipment. "The options being offered today are being driven by creature comforts in your car and in your home. The days of having a seat and some controls are gone. If you have operators sitting in a machine eight to 10 hours a day, you need to keep them comfortable or they will find something else to do."
Benefits of cozier cabs
Upgrading to even a basic cab enclosure gets you sliding windows, curved glass, frameless doors and more overhead glass, so there's less stress and strain to view what's going on outside the cab. But for those who want more, there's a laundry list of options for "tricking" out a skid steer that includes just about everything but the kitchen sink.
At the top of most operators' wish list is an enclosed cab with heat, defrost and air conditioning. This comfort comes with a cost - typically several thousand dollars. Even a basic cab with sliding windows for ventilation will set you back a couple thousand. But by many accounts, either option pays for itself in a short amount of time.
"An enclosed cab with heat and/or air conditioning helps keep operators comfortable, clean and at the right temperature while working," says Greg Rostberg, marketing manager, Bobcat Co. "[Contractors can work] all day without breaking a sweat, and they can stay warm and dry in a
Gregg Zupancic, John Deere, indicates about half the loaders the company sells go out with a cab option that includes heat/defrost and/or air conditioning. And that number keeps going up, especially in larger models where contractors feel they can better afford to splurge.