Several manufacturers offer skid steers with over 3,000-pound rated operating capacities (ROC) and approaching 100 hp. These units cross the boundary from utility to production machine yet offer a relatively compact package.
“The largest skid steers are most appropriate for applications in which compact size and the ability to work in confined spaces aren’t particular advantages,” says Curtis Goettel, marketing manager for skid steers, Case Construction Equipment, “for example, working out in the open on construction site prep jobs or in agricultural settings, where a large skid steer can prove its versatility on a number of demanding applications. The largest skid steers deliver the most benefit in demanding applications like breaking and removing concrete and digging in hard soils.
Larger buckets equate to faster production. For loading dirt, excavating or loading trucks, you can work with a 1-yard bucket as compared to, say, a 12-yard bucket.
Gregg Zupancic, product marketing manager for skid steers and compact track loaders, John Deere, notes that the largest skid steers are mostly used for outdoor operations. “The benefit will come in the form of more performance in a more stable platform with the ability to load high sidewall trucks and hoppers,” he says. “Typical applications might include larger excavation projects and high loading applications in the construction or ag segments.”
Higher hydraulic output
Large skid steers also make optimal platforms for hydraulically intensive attachments. “You have a tremendous amount of hydraulic performance when you have the bigger skid loader,” says Kelly Moore, product manager for skid-steer loaders, Gehl Company.
For example, the Gehl 7810E with the high-flow option offers more than 40-gpm flow, so the hydraulic horsepower is sufficient for any high-performance attachment. “A cold planer would be ideal; so would a larger trencher or auger. The big skid steer really performs because you have the engine power and torque,” Moore says. “You couple that performance with high flow from your auxiliary hydraulics, and you get an amazing amount of productivity with a high-flow attachment.”
Bobcat took a different approach that also leads to greater hydraulic output. “The standard hydraulics have increased approximately 15 to 20 percent when compared to the next largest Bobcat machine,” states Mike Fitzgerald, Bobcat Company. “These larger machines with extra engine horsepower have the capability to run that hydraulic horsepower longer and more consistently. So your actual net performance at the attachment is better.
Based on internal testing, the customer should see a 30 percent increase in performance at the attachment, Fitzgerald says. “So it is a balancing setup. It is not just hydraulic horsepower that gives you the performance,” he says. “For those attachments that require a lot of power to run them, this machine has the hydraulic power to work the attachment as well as the engine horsepower to back the hydraulics and keep it working.”
Heavier attachments also favor the use of the larger skid steers. “It is a larger machine, so it has a higher rated operating capacity,” Fitzgerald says.
Drawbacks of upsizing
Of course, there are downsides to larger machines. As Zupancic points out, larger, heavier skid steers require a CDL to tow around, they burn more fuel and they have higher ground pressure, which decreases flotation.
Maneuverability may also decrease as machine size increases. “Using the largest models may require sacrificing some of the maneuverability advantage of skid steers,” Goettel says. “A good rule of thumb is don’t buy more machine than you need. It might be a better choice to take some of the money you would spend on the biggest skid steer and use it for more attachments and operator comfort options on a mid-size machine.”