The visibility and breakout force of the wheel loader impressed Passow. "The visibility out of the rear and sides of the machine is excellent," he says. "You could see the bucket very well. It has the breakout forces I thought it would have. It was a comfortable machine to dig with. Going into the hole, it was real snappy and it offered really good speed for the size of machine it is."
Visibility proved a little more limited with the skid steer. "The visibility was not there when you are backing up," says Passow.
Steen also notes, "Getting out of a hole with a skid steer was very difficult. You dig deeper and you get your back end hopping up and down. With the loader, you have your weight dispersed; you can go in and out [of the hole]."
Steen attributes this partially to the weight of the material and to the skid steer's shorter wheelbase. "If you have a short hole that has to be deeper, you are better off with a loader because you can't get out of there very easily with a skid steer," he says.
He also reports that the skid steer rips up the ground a little more while maneuvering due to the nature of the steering. However, he appreciated its visibility to the bucket cutting edge. "With the skid steer you can see the cutting edge. That is really handy," he says.
Rosenlund actually felt more comfortable using the skid steer. "Part of it was getting comfortable with the loader. But for digging and backfilling, the skid steer was faster," he says. This can be attributed in part to the difference in throttle control. "With the full power all of the time [on the skid steer], I can slow down my travel speed and work my bucket. With the loader, I am looking for a hand throttle to get the [engine speed] up and be able to have full loader function."
Visibility to the bucket was also considered. Rosenlund felt the skid steer offered a better view to the cutting edge. "I can actually see the lip of the bucket," he states.
Consequently, Rosenlund was able to work more efficiently with the skid steer. "I dug and backfilled that hole in about half the time it took with the loader," he points out.
He admits his impressions might have changed if the dirt was being placed further from the hole. "There might have been some advantages to the wheel loader," he says. "But with the skid steer, I can get in and out of there. I spin sideways and dump. I don't have to back out and go forward."
Greenberg also touts the benefits of added maneuverability. "With the loader, you have to back out a little bit further before you can turn and dump," he says. "With the skid steer, when you get to the edge of your hole, you can turn and dump."
Again, transport distance factors into which machine operators would choose for the task.
The skid steer was Greenberg's choice based on how the task was laid out. "If you are not just digging, but digging and transferring that material a longer distance, the wheel loader might be a more comfortable machine," he adds.
He also noted a difference in visibility. "With the skid steer, you end up looking around the arms sometimes," he says. "With the loader, you always have good visibility. You don't have anything to obstruct your view."
Task 4: Auger operation
A 24-in. auger was used for this task. Both units proved to have ample power for digging the holes.
Because the wheel loader arm places the auger further away from the machine, pinpointing the auger on the ground proved a bit more challenging. "That was a little more difficult because you were a little farther from it," says Passow. The skid steer places the auger right in front of the operator. "You were right there and you could see it nicely."
While the single arm on the wheel loader provides good visibility to bucket edges, it did appear to obstruct the view to the auger. However, once the auger was positioned on the target, it worked well.
Most of the operators agreed that visibility to the tool was an issue with the wheel loader. "You could not see how straight the auger was. You were always looking around the arm," Greenberg comments.
Steen shared the others' concerns about visibility to the tool. Yet, he also saw benefits to using the loader in this task. "You are out further and you can get deeper with it," he says. "You are so close with the skid steer that if you want to get deeper, you are constantly pushing material back in [the hole] with the front end."