Many machines offer more than one control pattern so operators have a choice. One example is Bobcat?s optional Selectable Joystick Controls, or SJC, which features low-effort joysticks for controlling all machine functions with the hands. These control options enable multiple operators to easily choose their preference for using the skid-steer loader.
What does all this mean to a rental business? Should you run out and purchase a fleet of skid steers with deluxe cabs, comfortable seats and pilot controls? Maybe, says Moore with Gehl.
?It depends on what your customer base wants and expects,? says Moore. ?You?ll have to research your customers like we do ours. Some contractors might just want a basic machine to get that day?s job completed, others might want a more deluxe version for a longer rental period. You might end up with both types of skid steers in your fleet.?
Getting bigger & growing tracks
Another trend for skid steers over the last decade is the preferred size of the unit - skid steers are getting bigger. ?Contractors seem to be migrating toward larger machines,? says Moore with Gehl. ?The 1,900- and 2,000-pound-capacity machines are more prevalent now. It used to be the most popular sizes were the 1,600- and 1,800-pound-capacity units, which are mid-size skid steers. The trend is definitely toward larger machines.?
The reason for the change in size preference? More performance and more productivity, says Moore.
According to several sources, another big trend for skid steers is the growth of the compact track loader (CTL) market. ?Compact track loaders were being sold in the market prior to 1999,? says Rostberg. ?But they never gained much favor in North America.?
Their popularity has exploded and the market has been flooded with CTL models in the last 10 years. ?Compact track loaders are sometimes supplemental machines, sometimes replacement machines,? says Moore. ?We?re starting to see more brands and more varieties of models in the market today.?
Why the sudden change? Productivity.
?The tracks of the machine distribute the machine?s weight across a larger area for minimal ground disturbance,? says Rostberg. ?This weight distribution also improves flotation and allows compact track loaders to operate more productively in wet or muddy conditions, getting the operator back on the job sooner after a heavy rain or extending the work season.
?More ground-to-surface contact optimizes the machine?s pushing power and performance and increases production when the operator is either rough or finish grading a lawn,? he continues.
Rental businesses are also jumping on the CTL bandwagon. ?Rental stores are adding more and more compact track loaders to their equipment fleets based on demand from their customers who want the advantages of working earlier in the season, getting back to work sooner in wet ground conditions, and extending the working season in climates where heavy precipitation in the fall and winter can shut down operations,? says Rostberg.
Productivity outside the cab
There have been some design changes to the outside of compact loaders that enhance productivity. Some manufacturers offer units with vertical-lift booms. For example, New Holland?s Super Boom is now standard on its larger skid steers.
?This design increases productivity by providing high lift capacities, long forward dump reach and fast cycle times,? says December.
Another ?outside the cab? innovation for CTLs is the launch of Bobcat?s roller suspension system designed to offer a more comfortable ride.
?The Bobcat roller suspension system minimizes vibrations at the source - the ground,? says Rostberg. ?There is a direct relationship between operator comfort and productivity. If the operator can comfortably stay in the seat longer, they will get more work done. Here?s an example of innovation happening outside the cab to bring a more comfortable experience to the operator in the cab.?
Tomorrow?s skid steers
Skid steers will continue to be refined by manufacturers to provide a more quiet, more ergonomic experience for operators, all in the name of productivity.
?You?ll probably see skid steers with very sophisticated cabs, like those you see in pick-up trucks today,? says Moore with Gehl.