On a recent job, the loaders were traveling almost 70 miles a day. “We were running them down the road part of the way, then running right out into the dirt,” says Baker. “With that suspension, you are up and down the road at 25 mph.
From the operator’s standpoint, you have taken all of the shock out of it.”
The suspension system can also be turned off for better productivity in specific applications. “We do a lot of back dragging to smooth out the work site,” says Baker. “When you are back dragging, you have to kick it out of that mode.”
Ritschard Brothers Inc. is also interested in how the machines handle both on the jobsite and on the road. “We work in close proximity, so we normally have our operators run our loaders around and move from job to job,” says Reinhold.
Fuel efficiency is a critical factor for many contractors in wheel loader selection, including Hard Rock Excavating. This excavating contractor does site development, utility and demolition work for Arlington County, VA. The company has three loaders for truck loading, including a Liebherr 538 and a JCB 426.
“Fuel economy and power are important on the jobsite,” says Charles Sweeny, owner. He says the Liebherr unit has proven very fuel efficient while still providing impressive power. He also appreciates the way it transfers power to the ground. “It has a limited-slip [differential], which doesn’t spin the wheels.”
Performance also tops the list for Indianapolis, IN-based Milestone Contractors Inc., a heavy highway firm with four Volvo L70 and two Caterpillar IT 28 tool carriers in its fleet. These loaders are generally used to backfill for the pipe utility crews. “We look at the versatility, the power and the quickness of how they handle material and the traction,” says Ron Rapp, equipment manager.
Built for longevity
Longevity is the most important selection factor for Richards Corp. “Last winter, I just went through a 530 Dresser that was bought new in 1987,” says Doyle. “It is still a very productive loader.” Ten years is the normal life expectancy for a loader in the company’s operations.
Articulation pins can be an Achilles’ heel for a wheel loader. “The center hinge wears out fast,” says Doyle. “With the new machines, the manufacturers are finding better parts to put in them. They are lasting longer and longer.”
Baker adds that it is important that the articulation and bucket pins be well sealed. If grease can escape, the pins will constantly wear out.
It’s about support
Even with the productivity features mentioned, all of these contractors say selection really boils down to support from the local dealer.
“You have to know that if you have a problem there will be someone to help you right away,” says Doyle. “Know who you are buying from. W.I. Clark [the local John Deere dealer] is a great company for parts and service. Any problems that we have had, they have jumped on the problem and solved it. Komatsu has done the same thing.”
Sweeny agrees that dealer support is critical, noting, “We have a great Liebherr dealer that is out there right away to fix the problem.”
Ritschard Brothers Inc. has tried other brands, but according to Reinhold, they have not had the quality of service provided by Rudd, the local Volvo dealer. “We get great parts support from Rudd,” he states. “It has just worked out real well.”