Compact wheel loaders and large skid-steer loaders are both versatile tool carriers that can accomplish many of the same tasks. To gather insight into the strengths and weaknesses of each machine, we gathered four expert operators and turned them loose to complete five common tasks. Among the operators we assembled, most were more familiar with the skid-steer controls. While this made them more comfortable using the skid steer in most tasks, they also came to recognize the potential advantages a compact loader can offer.
For the test, Case Construction Equipment opened its Customer Experience Center in Tomahawk, WI, to us and provided the machines and attachments necessary for the event.
The four operators included:
Jamie Steen is a 15-year veteran who works for Haas Sons Inc. and owns SJS Excavating, Curtis, WI. His equipment includes a Case 85 XT skid steer and 621D loader.
Mark Rosenlund, Dollar Bay, MI, started his electrical contracting company 14 1/2 years ago. His fleet includes a skid steer, compact excavator, cable plow and horizontal directional drill.
Randy Passow, Minocqua, WI, has spent the past 20 years as an operator for Howard Brothers, a plumbing and heating contractor performing a variety of municipal water and sewer work. The company runs wheel loaders, excavators and dozers.
Jamie Greenberg, Stratford, WI, has been a co-owner of Greenberg Farms for 10 years, and has been operating equipment for 20 years.
Three Case machines were used for the comparison: a 21E compact wheel loader, a 465 vertical-lift skid steer and a 450 radial-lift skid steer. The 21E compact loader is powered by a 52-net-hp Deutz engine, while the 450 and 465 skid steers feature 82-net-hp Case Family III engines.
Task 1: Truck loading
In this task, operators were asked to transfer soil from a stockpile to the bed of a Class 8 dump truck. A couple weeks of wet weather meant the Northern Wisconsin soil was very heavy, with an estimated weight in excess of 4,000 lbs. per cu. yd. Underfoot conditions on the load floor were also soft.
For the test, the 21E compact wheel loader was equipped with a 1.05-yd. bucket. The unit has a 10,168-lb. operating weight and a maximum hinge pin height of 127.7 in. The vertical-lift 465 skid steer was equipped with a .72-yd. bucket. It has a 125.5-in. hinge pin height and weighs in at 8,910 lbs.
The operators were asked to complete the task with both machines, then give us their impressions.
Steen liked the increased visibility from the seat of the 21E. "You have all four views," he states. "You can see out the front, back and sides."
"There is a lot more visibility out of the loader," agrees Passow. "You are up a lot higher." This allowed for improved visibility when backing.
The increased weight and larger bucket were advantages for the wheel loader, as well. "The wheel loader was nice for the capacity," says Steen. He felt the skid steer bounced more when handling the heavier material.
Greenberg appreciated how the loader handled while entering the stockpile. "With the loader, you didn't lose power driving into that stockpile. You were able to control the power and still get your full load into the bucket," he says. He also felt it was easier to keep the bucket level. "You tend to want to dig down more with the skid steer rather than stay level."
Even though it had a smaller bucket capacity, the skid steer was able to maneuver quickly in the space allotted for this task. "The cycle times were definitely faster for the skid steer because of the short turning radius," says Steen.
"The maneuverability of the skid steer is unbeatable," Greenberg adds.
However, the added reach and lift height favored the wheel loader. Rosenlund said this made it easier to position the load over the truck.
"You had more visibility and you could fill the truck more fully with the loader than you could with a skid steer," Greenberg adds. "You could dump a little higher. Finishing off the load is way easier with the loader."