It is very difficult to classify the role of the backhoe-loader. "They are one of the most versatile pieces of equipment you can own," says Bob Garber, Dixie Excavating. "The only thing that limits what you can do is your time."
This multipurpose nature makes it difficult to optimize one machine to match every need. Each end user's application is going to emphasize different performance criteria.
"For example, if a customer only uses his front loader for loading loose, stockpiled material, breakout force would not be as critical as perhaps bucket capacity and lift force," says Kevin Hershberger, senior project consultant, backhoe-loaders, Caterpillar. "A customer doing production backhoe trenching would be more interested in hydraulic pump flow, hydraulic system design, specs and backhoe bucket design."
Diverse demands, different views
Dayton-OH-based Dixie Excavating performs commercial development work, including underground utilities and streets, land clearing, sanitary sewer and water. To gain maximum versatility, the company uses the IT integrated tool carrier version of the Caterpillar 430 equipped with ride control.
"Right now, I am mainly using it to fill ditches behind the sanitary and water main lines," says Garber. "I am basically using it as a loader."
In addition to the front bucket, the company owns forks. Rental houses provide brooms and other attachments on an as-needed basis.
An extendible dipperstick also comes in handy for trenching. "You can get dirt farther away from the trench," says Garber.
Garber doesn't place much emphasis on spec sheets during the decision-making process. Instead, dealer support and resale value are primary considerations. Dixie Excavating is currently on a four- or five-year replacement cycle.
Art Tucker Excavating, a sewer and water contractor in St. Clair Shores, MI, based its decision to purchase a JCB 215s backhoe-loader primarily on its lifting capacity. "When we set catch basins and manhole sections, we have no problem," says Art Tucker. The 215s handles this task better than previous models the contractor has owned.
Tucker compared specs from several manufacturers. One of the competitors offered decent lifting performance, but it was too heavy for his application. "Sometimes we do get into soft terrain," he explains.
H.M. Environmental, Mt. Clemmins, MI, is an environmental contractor performing underground storage tank removal, site remediation, exploratory excavating, site demolition and miscellaneous cleanups. Lifting performance helps drive its backhoe-loader choice, as well. The machines must be able to handle some of the underground storage tanks the company encounters.
Currently, H.M. Environmental owns two backhoe-loaders, including a JCB unit, as well as an excavator. Due to the diversity of its work, the company regularly rents equipment for larger jobs to minimize the amount of iron sitting in the yard.
H.M. Environmental counts on its backhoe-loaders to help it remain cost competitive by minimizing the use of larger equipment where possible. The rubber tires also reduce disturbance to the existing environment compared to steel track.
Varko Contracting and Excavating Inc. in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, performs residential and commercial foundation work, excavation and backfilling and sidewalk and curb and gutter maintenance. Due to this wide range of projects, the company demands maximum versatility from its five John Deere 410 backhoe-loaders. "We utilize them completely — we use the whole machine," says Attila Varga, president.
To get optimum productivity, the contractor equips its 410s with extendible dippersticks, auxiliary hydraulics on the backhoe and ride control.
The City of Rock Hill, SC, currently owns 11 backhoe-loaders, including five New Holland LB 75s purchased last year. "We are in the utility business — electric, water and sewer," says Marty Burr, performance manager. "We repair streets, sidewalks and curbs. We use it for so many varied operations."