Greenberg still preferred the skid steer for this task. "With the skid steer, you definitely have better visibility," he says. "You are right there and you are just so close to the equipment. You can see it a lot better. I felt I had better control over it with the skid steer."
Maneuverability was also a key issue for Greenberg. "When you start drilling, you start hitting rocks. You often have to reposition," he notes. "With a skid steer, you can turn right on the spot. You can go forward a little bit, to the side, angle it. You just don't have that much maneuverability with a loader unless you back out of the hole. If you don't have rocks, it wouldn't be a problem."
The size and condition of the work area also play a role. "If you are traveling out to the site, you are probably better in the loader, especially if you have potholes," says Rosenlund. "In a close area, the skid steer would outperform the loader."
Most of the time, Rosenlund's work is in confined areas, so a skid steer is the preferred choice. Yet, he cites a situation where a loader might have proven a better option. "I just had a job this summer - airport light bases. There, the loader probably would have been better because I had about 200 ft. between holes," he says. "The travel time would have been better with the wheel loader."
Task 5: Grapple operation
For this task, a pile of brush was moved from one side of a work area to another using a grapple bucket. Lifting capacity, maneuverability and visibility became the critical criterion.
"The maneuverability was better with the skid steer," says Steen. But he felt the wheel loader offered more capacity. "If you have a lot of material to move, the wheel loader would work best because you have way more capacity to lift. But if you have someplace you need to keep clean, I would use the skid steer because of the maneuverability."
"The visibility on the loader is a lot better, and it is a lot faster," agrees Passow. "I could cycle faster with the wheel loader."
He adds, "The skid steer would make more of a mess turning." Dumping into a dump truck could also be a challenge. "If you had to raise the load up higher to dump, I think it would be very hard with the skid steer to get it into a truck."
Greenberg felt the wheel loader offered better visibility to the surroundings. "But with the skid steer, you are closer to the material," he says. He also liked the skid steer's maneuverability. "You are able to spin and get in and get out." As a result, he accomplished the task in less time with the skid steer.
Rosenlund also preferred the attachment placement with the skid steer. "You are close to what you are grabbing," he says. This made it easier to make sure the grapple was full. "I could move over a little bit rather than pick it up and look to see it isn't there. With the skid steer, using just a little more maneuvering, I could actually fill that bucket. Being a business owner, you are looking at productivity. If I go to grab a pile of brush, I want a full load."
However, he felt the increased visibility to the surroundings would favor the wheel loader if you were working in close proximity to employees on the ground.
Clearly, both the compact wheel loader and the skid steer proved capable of accomplishing the tasks described. But their efficiency really depends on jobsite space requirements, and the operator's proficiency with the equipment.
Yet, before deciding to stick with what's familiar, you need to evaluate for yourself which machine can offer the optimum productivity given the conditions on your jobsites. The operators participating in this event were often surprised by the capabilities each machine had to offer.
Ultimately, the choice boils down to which machine can deliver the quickest possible ROI for your business. "One of the big things for me is the cost of each piece of machinery," Rosenlund asserts. "Where am I going to get the most value for my dollar?"