Key appreciates the tracks’ ability to move through sand, pea gravel and wet soil conditions. “They’re especially useful in sand because wheels spin and get stuck,” he says. “And in the dirt, you just can’t beat the tracks. We use them to move a lot of material we couldn’t do with a skid steer equipped with tires.”
Key also uses the tracked machines on hard surfaces. “These are the only Bobcats we have,” he says, “so we need to also use them for jobs such as street cleaning with sweeper attachments. These tracks work fine. And since they’re rubber, they don’t damage sidewalks, curbs and foundations.”
Matt Winfree, owner of ForMatt Bobcat Service, Inc. in Durham, NC, uses a mix of tracks and wheels to move his fleet of Caterpillar compact loaders. His full--service landscape construction company offers a variety of services -- grading, landscaping, retaining walls, grounds maintenance, etc. -- for high--volume (about 800 to 900 houses a year) residential construction.
“We use compact track loaders every day,” Winfree says. “They’re the backbone of our business. A lot of the houses and areas where we work have finished surfaces so the rubber tracks give us the ability to run over the concrete without damaging it.
“If we could get away with it, we’d have nothing but tracks,” he continues, adding that six of his 10 loaders are equipped with rubber tracks. “But we do quite a bit of work on asphalt, so having rubber tires is a necessity. The friction between asphalt and tracks would wear them too fast.”
Room For Both
Loula finds that many of his customers are equipping their fleets with both tracks and tires. “There are definitely certain applications in which each has a benefit,” he notes. “Once you know the end use of the machine, it’s pretty well cut and dried as to whether tracks or tires are better. It’s important for contractors to ask questions before making a final decision.”
Hrabe has seen a similar trend in his area. “Contractors who are going to track units aren’t necessarily trading out of all their wheeled machines.
Tracks are a nice complement,” he says. “A lot of guys will keep a wheeled unit or two for when they run on asphalt, even if they’re totally sold on tracks. Running on asphalt is hard on rubber, so I steer contractors who are doing mostly paving or concrete curb work to tires because maintenance costs will be lower. To replace a set of tracks can cost anywhere from $3,800 to $4,000 compared to $600 to $800 for tires.
“Plus, on hard surfaces, you just don’t gain much performance with tracks so it makes more sense to go with tires,” he adds.
Wheels also make more sense in demolition and recycling applications where sharp objects such as rebar can slice through rubber track.
“It really boils down to application,” says Hrabe. “The harder the surface, the more I tend to steer people to rubber tires. For softer surfaces, I tend to steer them toward tracks.”
For those in between jobs, where you have a greater percentage of time in soft conditions, yet work on some hard surfaces, Hrabe offers suggestions for lengthening track life. “Avoid track spin,” he says. “If you have a pile of gravel on the edge of the road, don’t hit the pile and keep pushing to get a little extra in the bucket. That spins the tracks and can cause premature wear to the rubber. It really boils down to the operator and taking care of the tracks.”
Be Prepared Before You Buy
Dealers recommend asking yourself these questions: