Bob Horrell uses just two primary pieces of equipment for his dirt moving business in Acton, CA — a "skip" loader (utility tractor) and a skid-steer loader. But he's equipped them in such a fashion that they act more like four machines. He is able to use them for digging foundations and footings and finish grading for new homes, barns and horse arenas. He also uses them to dig pools and clear land, and is currently building a sled pull track for diesel pickup trucks at a local racetrack.
The skip loader uses backhoe, bucket and box scraper attachments, while the skid-steer loader utilizes Loegering's Versatile Track System (VTS), a complete rubber track undercarriage system that can be bolted onto virtually any skid-steer brand.
"I was trying to find ways to make my Bobcat more versatile," notes Horrell. "I was using my skip loader more than my skid steer, so I wanted to balance things out. This track system allows me to have a skid steer with wheels when I need it, and one with tracks when I need it. I've found it's helped me to use my skid-steer loader a lot more in my business."
Flexibility to operate
in varying conditions
Horrell purchased the VTS last December for his two-year-old Bobcat S250. The purchase arrived just in time for California's 100-year rains.
"There were a lot of jobs during that rainy season that I just couldn't have done any other way," he says. "The tracks allowed me to work when I would have otherwise been sitting. There were weeks where I was out in the rain helping people who were getting flooded out."
In one situation, an entire septic system was washed out. Leach lines were gone, leaving nothing but a tank sitting in a hole in the ground.
"After they redid the septic system, I had to fill in the crater from a steep hill that was adjacent to it. My large bucket holds about 1 yd. and I was pushing an additional yard in front of it into the hole," Horrell says. "As I got down towards the bottom of the hill, I had to make a 45° turn. Making turns with a loaded bucket while on a slope can run the tracks right off. But I did this repeatedly for several hours and had absolutely no problems."
The extra weight of the track system proves a plus in such challenging conditions. "The tracks weigh 1,595 lbs. a side for their 18-in. width," Horrell notes. "That adds a lot of weight to help push dirt without slipping and sliding. It also makes the machine more stable with more lifting power. It makes it seem like a little dozer."
The ability to quickly switch between wheels and tracks is another advantage, particularly given Horrell's location between the San Fernando and Antelope Valleys, just north of Los Angeles. "I can be working in sandy desert or hills and mountains," he states. "I need something that is versatile. With these tracks, I'm not stuck with a dedicated machine. I can use it two different ways. I can take the tracks on and off, and it's not that difficult."
Horrell devised a dolly and blocking system that allows him to mount the tracks in a little more than an hour; dismounting takes even less time. "If I had another person helping, I could definitely put them on in under an hour," he adds.
But for the most part, the tracks stay on the machine. Horrell actually sold the tires that originally came with the skid steer, but is in the process of replacing them with high-flotation tires for working in sand.
Benefits built in
According to Horrell, he prefers the VTS over the various dedicated track machines and over-the-tire steel tracks he has used or demoed. "I have a suspension with this system," he says, referring to the independent bi-directional torsion system. "Most machines don't have that so they make for a rougher ride."
It took a few jobs to get used to the front suspension. "As you start to get into the dirt, it puts pressure on the front and it will start to sink in, so you have to back off a little as you start to load the bucket. It's just more pronounced with suspension because it will start to do that sooner. There's just a learning curve," Horrell explains. "The first couple of finish grading jobs I did I wasn't quite as proficient. But now that I'm used to it, I can do anything I could do before."
Cleanability is another benefit Horrell appreciates. "It is an open design," he says. "With just a hose — not even a pressure washer — I can clean them up."
The tracks have needed little, if any, adjustment since they were purchased. And with a mechanical adjustment, Horrell says it will be a simple task to adjust the tension when and if he needs to.
Because of their design, Horrell feels the tracks have the potential to last a long time. "There are two things that tear up tracks. One is hard use on asphalt; another is that the tracks stretch and start to deteriorate internally," he relates. "With most drive systems that feature embedded metal in the tracks, the drive sprocket is about half the diameter. This one catches twice as many holes, so there are more teeth engaging at a point in time. That means it spreads the force out over twice as many teeth. These tracks just aren't stretching and I think that has to increase their life."
Researching the purchase
Before investing in the VTS, Horrell spent two months researching the purchase. "I looked at every job I was currently doing to see if I could do them, or do them better, with tracks," he says. "I also looked at jobs I couldn't take on and asked myself if I could have done them with tracks."
With a price tag of about $15,000 (excluding tax and shipping), the decision to purchase the VTS was not one Horrell took lightly. "I have to admit I was a bit hesitant about buying something that wasn't tried and true. But I did my homework. And I've made my investment back already in jobs that I wouldn't have otherwise been able to do. In less than a year, this track system has paid for itself," he says. "It was a steep investment, but essentially it gave me another machine."