Today's skid steers are not "your father's Oldsmobile," so to speak. They’re bigger, more productive and they come with a heck of a lot more features than the machines of yesteryear. With so much to offer, how do you determine what options to choose when spec’ing a machine for your fleet?
Fortunately, models on the market today come with a lot of pretty cool stuff already built in, but if your fleet has to meet particular demands, take a look at what’s available within some of the primary selection criteria.
It’s about performance
With any piece of equipment on your jobsite, performance is the name of the game. That’s why it’s important to consider some of the features today’s skid steers have to offer to get the job done.
Curtis Goettel at Case says one of the options that can really boost performance is a two-speed transmission. “It’s a big advantage when time is money,” he says.
Other important features that optimize performance include automatic bucket self-leveling for material retention and hydraulic quick coupler to allow changing attachments from the seat. Enabling operators to stay in their climate-controlled cabs and quickly switch work tools improves versatility and functionality. “This is becoming very popular, especially on larger machines,” says Goettel. “On a machine that costs between $50,000 and $70,000, it makes a lot of sense.”
Regarding performance, Gregg Zupancic notes that John Deere also offers an exclusive hydraulically driven variable-speed cooling fan that reverses periodically to help keep the engine and hydraulic coolers clear of clogging debris.
“We also offer a unique performance package that provides creeper mode settings that allow the operator to adjust machine wheel speed independent of the engine RPMs,” Zupancic says. “This gives the operator more precise attachment control at low speeds. For example, when operating a trencher in the ground, the operator can adjust travel speed to inches per hour and match the trencher production precisely to machine travel speed. Also as part of the EH performance package, the customer can adjust boom and bucket speed limits. So if the user is a new operator or working in a tight space, the loader boom and bucket speeds can be set to match the application.”
Leading manufacturers are also offering proportional hydraulics to allow operators to infinitely adjust the flow of hydraulic oil, Goettel says. With it, operators can infinitely vary attachment speed.
Bobcat offers an optional deluxe instrumentation panel, says Greg Rostberg. “Available only on M-Series machines, the panel intelligently monitors key loader functions, and the keyless start helps prevent theft,” he says. “The new 5-inch, full-color LCD screen offers better readability and interaction. Easy-to-read virtual sweep gauges allow the operator to quickly read and understand the machine’s performance.”
Kelly Moore at Gehl points out that for optimum engine performance and longevity, owners can choose an air pre-cleaner system that can be installed as a field kit. “Particularly in dry, dusty conditions, this can really protect the life of the engine.”
Comfort is key
Ergonomics and comfort features have been catching on as equipment owners and operators realize that comfort improves productivity. Air-ride seats are particularly adept at keeping operators comfortable and happy in a skid steer, as they absorb a lot of bumps and allow the operator to raise and lower himself on a cushion of air for better overall visibility, says Deere's Zupancic.
Simple things like heat and air conditioning are also optional. A cab enclosure with heat can cost around $2,500 or so, says Moore at Gehl, but it's money well spent in harsh winter climates.
“In hot climates, pretty much anywhere past Virginia, you see fewer machines sold with cabs. But those sold with cabs have air conditioning,” says Goettel, noting that with Case, if you choose the cab option, you get it all – heat and/or AC, keyless start, removable windows and radio/MP3 player.