Designed to be durable
Components used in smaller TLB models have also evolved. "The little compact TLBs that were made years ago were price-pointed machines," says Martin. "They were cheap - they were meant to replace a wheelbarrow and a shovel and a pick. Therefore, the components that went into them were inexpensive and they just didn't hold up over time."
Such is no longer the case. "The components that we use today are very similar to the components used on the high-end backhoes," Martin asserts. "[They] are more suitable to eight hours a day, five days a week, every day construction applications."
He notes that Terramite has added stronger grilles to protect the engine compartment, as well as plating to strengthen the frame and the backhoe boom. "There have been some changes in dimensional steel, which actually increase the longevity because it's thicker and stronger," he explains.
Yanmar has chosen to use a solid unitized mainframe on its compact TLBs. "Most ag-type tractors utilize the engine block and the transmission case as the mainframe of the tractor," says Bill Gearhart, marketing and product manager. "Having a unitized mainframe takes the torsional stresses off the engine and transmission.
"We also use solid loader arm technology similar to the larger construction wheel loaders," he adds. "This also increases visibility to the operator."
Kubota uses an integral mainframe to absorb twisting loads during backhoe and loader operation without transmitting torque and flex to the tractor chassis. Braceless loader frames improve visibility and access for serviceability.
Smaller TLBs are often targeted for the most abusive of all operating scenarios - the rental market. As such, they have to be capable of standing up to the challenges of multiple operators with varying experience levels.
"Our tractors are effectively designed for the rental industry, which could be anywhere from a homeowner who's never been on one to a contractor," says Dahlgren. "We know it's a really abusive, rough environment for a piece of equipment." Consequently, Allmand has chosen to essentially "overkill" with its component choices to ensure its machines can withstand the conditions they may encounter.
On its diesel models, the company uses double-reduction (planetary) rear axles and servo-controlled hydrostatics. "The servo control hydrostat that we use in our diesels is rated for 65-hp applications," Dahlgren notes. "The largest application we have is 35 hp. So we're using a component that has a lot of capabilities, but we're not working it that hard, and it gives us all the features and performance we're looking for."
On the implement side, the ESL (Extended Service Life) backhoe incorporates oversized pins with poly lined bushings and seals that virtually eliminate metal to metal contact. According to Dahlgren, this not only extends component life, it frees up horsepower. "Instead of having to overcome all the friction in the joints, we're using the horsepower at the bucket where it actually needs to be used to do the work," he asserts.
Sized and priced right
Obviously, if your applications involve production trenching or extended dig depths or reach, a full-size backhoe-loader is still the appropriate choice. But for other applications - particularly those in tighter work areas - a smaller TLB may be worth considering.
Dahlgren points out that 70% to 80% of the digging commercial contractors in his local area perform is less than 5 or 6 ft. "So in most of those applications, if you don't need to excavate hundreds of yards of dirt, a small compact machine for digging out access for water, sewer or gas lines or for footings, etc., is more than adequate," he states.
When you throw in a restricted jobsite, a smaller TLB becomes an even more viable prospect. "Maneuverability is the key advantage," says Gearhart. "They can get into constricted areas of the jobsite that the larger machines can't."
Owning and operating cost is another area where a smaller TLB can excel. "The popularity of the compact TLB can be attributed to a very favorable price to performance ratio," says Martin. "Contractors are finding the compact TLB can accomplish the same work at a lesser cost."