Features essential to Klima Drainage’s applications include operating weight, smooth operation, a smooth ride and dealer reliability to keep equipment working. A powerful hydraulic system is also important to ensure the backhoe-loaders are “reliable, smooth but fast, and powerful.” This is one reason the company turns to the Cat machines. “They’re smoother, more powerful and they just seem to last a little longer, as well,” says Klima.
The desire for smoother control makes pilot-operated joysticks for the backhoe appealing. “They seem a lot more up to date,” Klima says. “The old ones are wobble sticks up in front of you. [With the joysticks], you get more room for your feet and beside you. It’s just more comfortable to run them.” And contrary to some operators’ opinions, he argues there is no sacrifice in “feel” when digging. “You eventually get used to it.”
Because of the extensive amount of time spent in the machines, operator comfort is a top priority. Klima Drainage looks for a comfortable, roomy cab, air conditioning, heat and a good radio.
A ride control system is also a necessity. “It’s just a lot more comfortable for the operator,” says Klima. “The front bucket will float up and down while you’re driving. If you drive across the field and you hit a bump, it will absorb a lot of shock. Or if you’re driving down the road, it will absorb a lot of that shock, as well.”
Heavy-duty Machines for Tough Applications
Attila Varga and his wife Christina started Varko Excavating Inc. in 1997 with the purchase of a new John Deere 410E backhoe. Now serving the entire Calgary, Alberta, metropolitan area, the company began operation as an owner/operator doing small jobs primarily for a concrete curb and gutter contractor.
“We were contracted on an hourly basis to break out and remove concrete sidewalk, curb and gutter which needed to be replaced,” says Attila Varga. “Fast forward 15 years, and Varko Excavating is still working with that same concrete contractor supplying two removal crews, each consisting of a wheeled excavator, backhoe-loader and gravel trucks.”
The company has expanded the scope of its services substantially. Its primary focus is now complete earthwork for new commercial, institutional and residential buildings, including site grading, site services and foundation excavation/backfill. Its fleet includes in excess of 20 pieces of heavy equipment, including excavators, dozers, loaders, compact track loaders, ride-on compactors, gravel trucks and, of course, backhoe-loaders.
“We currently own four backhoe-loaders and at one point we had as many as six in our fleet,” says Varga. “All of our backhoes have been John Deere 410 models in three different series (E, G and J).”
When shopping for a backhoe-loader, there are several factors Varga takes into account. “I’ve always elected to go with the 410-sized machines for their extra weight and power advantages over their smaller counterparts,” he says. “The extra weight and breakout force is desirable for the conditions in our area. We have a wide variety of soil conditions ranging from dry sand to granite, and hard clay to cobble. In the winter months, the ground freezes to average depths of around 4 ft. and can occasionally reach down to 7 ft. or more. Digging through this frost requires a strong and heavy machine.”
Varga’s operators appreciate the creature comforts available on the machines. “Our operators like the John Deere backhoes for the large comfortable cab. We always buy them with all the deluxe comfort features available, such as heater/air conditioning, stereo, pilot control,” says Varga.
Other “must haves” include four-wheel drive and an extendible dipper. “I only buy backhoes that are four-wheel drive (front-wheel assist) and have extendible dipper sticks with auxiliary hydraulics,” he states. “The extendible dipper must be an outer box extension, most common in John Deere, Case and the new Cat machines.”
The backhoe-loader must be able to accommodate multiple attachments, including 12-, 18-, 24- and 36-in. backhoe buckets, a hydraulic breaker, hydraulic vibrating plate tamper, ripper for frost and/or rock and front forks.
“We consider our backhoes to be the Swiss army knife of equipment,” says Varga. “Typically, our backhoes are only used for digging or trenching around 25% of the time. They are more commonly used for breaking concrete and/or rock and most commonly used for backfilling and compaction along foundation walls and utility trenches.”