Making this determination is often more difficult for the first-time skid steer buyer than the skid steer owner who is considering upgrading his unit or adding an additional unit. Fitzgerald says contractors looking to upgrade their skid steer need to evaluate their current situation. "They need to ask themselves 'What do I currently have? Does it meet my current needs? Does it fit where I want my operation to be?' They need to determine for themselves 'Am I just replacing my machine with the current model or do I need to upgrade for size or for power?" Fitzgerald says. "If they are doing more with their current machine than they'd planned on, or if they plan on doing more with it, that's a good reason to upgrade to a larger, more powerful skid steer."
2. Are you lifting material or just moving it?
Another concern is whether or not contractors plan on lifting material into dump trucks or other higher receptacles. Traditional skid steers are radial lift machines. They are designed more to move material from one area to another but they do not lift the material high enough to dump into a dump truck, for example. But most manufacturers make vertical lift path skid steers which Fitzgerald says are more accommodating if you need to lift material higher as opposed to moving it across a jobsite.
Manufacturers vary on their vertical lift designs, but vertical lift path machines are more of a premium skid steer than the conventional radial lift machines and so are more expensive. Zupancic says the radial lift machine is good for popping concrete or asphalt because the bucket it close to the machine at its lowest point which provides extra force. "But if you're loading a dump truck a vertical lift skid steer would serve you better because the bucket reaches out farther," Zupancic says.
3. Which attachments do you plan on using?
Among the attachments most common to paving and pavement maintenance use are cold planers, wheel saws, sweeper buckets, and vibratory rollers for small patches. Manufacturers suggest contractors decide which attachments they're going to be using, learn the requirements of those attachments - and then match the attachments to the skid steer.
A good example of specification contractors need to match between attachment and skid steer is the hydraulic system. Fitzgerald says that hydraulic systems are now standard on all skid steers but that hydraulics get more advanced as skid steers get larger. "The high-flow hydraulic option gives more power to the attachment, so as contractors look to machine that can do more the hydraulics become more advanced," Fitzgerald says.
According to Verdon, hydraulic power is expressed in terms of hydraulic horsepower. Both hydraulic horsepower and engine horsepower need to be considered when determining work tool performance. "It is a combination of these two elements that lead to optimal work tool performance," Verdon says. "Ignoring either factor may lead to less than desired performance."
He says hydraulic horsepower is most important when operating work tools such as trenchers and cold planers that require a high percentage of the machine's total available power. "Engine power is most important when the machine is multi-tasking, for example, while simultaneously moving the machine under load and powering a hydro-mechanical work tool," Verdon says.
Zupancic adds that contractors should consider high-flow hydraulics for increased horse power if the skid steer is going to be performing any work were the attachment is actually "engaged" with the pavement.
"They need to know the hydraulic needs of the attachment, the GPM of attachment flow, and they need to match that up with the minimum flow put out by the skid steer," Zupancic says. "A high-flow capacity hydraulic option helps concrete and paving contractors run a planer, for example. That's a pretty robust attachment."
Fitzgerald agrees that planers require high-flow hydraulics for best planer performance. "People who are looking at planing as the function of the machine for a large percentage of use pick high flow," he says. "We do have planers that work with basic or standard machines but the planer performance won't be as fast. But you can still do it."
Other attachments that need high-flow hydraulics include cutting wheel, trenchers, and snow blowers. "Anything that really engages something requires high flow," Zupancic says. "It provides more rotation to whatever is engaging the material and provides more hydraulic horsepower."