Bobcat actually has a history with skid steers larger than those currently available. “In years past, Bobcat Company manufactured machines that were physically larger than our current S850,” Fitzgerald says. “While the machines were viable, the overall market for those machines was more limited. As a manufacturer, you look at what fits the majority of the customers. We ceased production of those large machines and stepped back into the mainstay of what the market wanted.”
“The general construction industry is finding that smaller, compact equipment is doing the kinds of work they need to get done,” Fitzgerald states. Demand for larger compact units is on the rise.“
For example, Bobcat introduced the S850 to address a specific need. “Our customers are requesting a piece of compact equipment that has additional horsepower to do more work in the same amount of time, yet fits into small space projects,” Fitzgerald says.
Moore has also seen a shift in the size of skid loaders. “There is definitely a slight shift upward,” he acknowledges. “Customers are looking for just a little more horsepower, a little more load capacity and machine performance.”
The trick is to instill more performance while maintaining a compact package. “Skid steers offer the advantages of compact size, extreme versatility and relative affordability,” Goettel points out. “It’s possible that a large skid steer could sacrifice maneuverability, for example, which would limit its value.”
Moore believes the industry has already reached its practical size limit with models such as the Gehl 7810E, which offers 99 hp and a 3,850-pound ROC. “If you go any larger, you are encroaching into the territory of wheel loaders at that point,” he states. “If you go to the next level — for instance, maybe a 4,500-pound-capacity skid loader at 120 hp — you have to upsize the components. Your costs to build a machine like that are going to escalate. They are going to get closer to what a wheel loader is. At that point, a wheel loader is a more practical machine.”
Curt Bennink is the senior field editor for Equipment Today, a publication of the Cygnus Construction Network.