He continues, "Basically, both machines have their place. It just comes down to versatility. There is a niche for all of these machines, but it's hard to find a job that doesn't have a TLB on site. The TLB is a complete package — with the backhoe on one end and the loader on the other — which can't be said about the skid steer."
Not just a toy
Because of their size, many people have perceived compact TLBs as toys and not for serious productivity. While compact models don't have the digging depth or capacity of their larger brethren, it's not a problem since 75 to 80 percent of jobs don't call for a 12-foot digging depth. In fact, Dahlgren says, the majority of backhoe applications are well within the capacity of a compact TLB. What's more, full-size TLBs often can't fit on a jobsite, or the bucket on the backhoe might be larger than what is needed. In this case, a compact model is more appropriate.
"Most of the people renting a machine from a rental yard are going to be homeowners, hobbyists or small contractors, and the compact TLB is going to be perfect for their small-scale improvement projects," says Dahlgren. "The compact machine's steerable front axle also makes a big difference when an operator is doing work in their yard, as it makes the TLB more maneuverable and less likely to damage the turf. Most skid steers, on the other hand, are much heavier and only go front to back, which is going to generally mean more damage to the turf."
Powell notes that there is the perception among users that TLBs are easier to operate. "Some people are apprehensive to rent a skid steer, but a compact TLB has conventional controls, which makes them more comfortable," he says.
Comfort breeds safety
"A typical customer is not going to get on a skid steer for the first time and be as comfortable and effective as he or she would be on a compact TLB," says Dahlgren, who notes that skid steers are fairly abrupt and quick. If an operator is not used to it, movements tend to be more jerky, which creates the potential for more accidents.
"The compact TLB has more of a focus on being comfortable and precise, and this is very beneficial to the customer," Dahlgren says. "Additionally, the TLB's design makes it a very safe machine. Between the four-post structure enclosing the operator's seat and the seat belt, the machine can be operated safely whether the backhoe or loader is being used."
He continues, "A skid steer, on the other hand, has a full cab enclosure, but the operator typically has to leave it in order to operate the backhoe attachment when it is added to the skid steer. Obviously, climbing out of that seat isn't going to be as safe, and the operator doesn't have any protection if the machine were to be pulled into a hole."
Powell agrees, noting that TLBs are simply easier to get in and out of because the operator doesn't have to climb over the bucket to get to the cab. And since the cab is larger on a TLB, there is better visibility and less of the "tunnel feeling" one has inside the cab of a skid steer.
TLB = ROI
Compact TLBs offer rental businesses reliable return on investment because they command a relatively high rental rate, in relation to full-size TLBs, but don't cost nearly as much.
"I recently talked to a rental center on the East Coast and they said they get $175 per day for our Allmand TLB-425, which is a compact TLB," says Dahlgren. "They also said that a full-size machine would only go for between $220 and $230 per day, even though its initial purchase price is about twice that of the compact TLB."
Overall, the future looks bright for the compact TLB, says Powell. "I see the compact TLB market growing. In order for skid steers to offer the same dig depth, they would have to get even larger, and then they lose their uniqueness."
He concludes, "People won't replace their skid steers with compact TLBs, but when considering adding a new piece of equipment to their fleet, they'll look at a compact TLB versus the larger skid steers."
- B100B, B250B and B300D range from 4,865 to 8840 lbs.
- Designed for rental centers, municipalities, utility and plumbing contractors, builders and landscapers
- Simple-to-operate hydrostatic drive transmissions
- Joystick controls with a loader-arm float function