When selecting a CTL, it’s important it have the capacity to handle the types of material you will be moving. “The weight of the material and how quickly it needs to be moved will influence the bucket size — the bigger the bucket, the bigger the loader,” says Wright. “Miles per hour and boom speeds also affect productivity. Boom speed will determine how fast the loader can load and unload material, whereas travel speed will indicate how long it will take to get from point A to point B — both of which impact cycle time.”
“Drawbar pull and hydraulic horsepower determine overall machine power,” says Bifani. “Drawbar pull is the ability of a track loader to push through loads without stalling or losing traction. Hydraulic horsepower, measured by flow and pressure, determines the overall performance capability. More flow and/or higher pressure integrated into the design of a model increases the amount of work a loader can complete, and how quickly.”
In addition to hydraulic pressure and flow, consider the design and capacity of the cooling system. “Larger coolers and high-capacity steel hydraulic tanks have the ability to dissipate heat from the oil much more effectively than a machine with smaller coolers or small hydraulic reservoirs,” says Steger. “Cooler oil means cooler components for both the machine and attachments being operated, and that relates to longer lubricating oil life and the life of the machined components they are meant to protect.”
Size to the task and jobsite
When sizing a CTL, take into account the heaviest load it will have to handle at any point during the job. Then choose a machine that can effectively manage that load based on ROC, Graham advises.
“A machine can always pick up a lighter load than the one for which it is rated,” she comments. “But if you try to pick up a load that is too heavy for a particular machine, the CTL can become unstable and unsafe.”
Having the right-sized CTL increases productivity, as well. “Upsizing to a larger machine allows operators to carry heavier loads (and more material at once) and run larger attachments. This leads to jobs being completed faster,” Graham asserts. “Contractors who can perform jobs in less time can contract for more jobs overall, ultimately leading to great profits.”
She prefaces this by adding that bigger is not always better. “There are not only towing limitations to take into consideration, but jobsite limitations, as well, especially if contractors are usually working in smaller areas such as residential backyards,” she states. “Operating a large machine may make it difficult to maneuver around buildings, fences and other obstacles.”
Do you need to push or lift?
CTLs are available with radial or vertical lift arm configurations.
“When comparing the performance of radial and vertical lift machines, think geometry,” says Bifani. “On radial lift configurations, as a load is lifted or lowered, it will arc slightly outwards at the mid-point of the lift cycle. Compare that to vertical machines, where additional linkages and pivot points provide more vertical movement of loads. As loads move straight up and down, vertical lift geometries tend to have more forward reach at full height.”
These differences make each configuration better suited to certain tasks. “Radial lift machines are best suited for doing work such as pushing, prying and digging,” says Curtis Goettel, brand marketing manager, New Holland Construction. “Their configuration ties the rear of the arms directly into the chassis and rests the front of the boom against the lower chassis. The downside is that the lift path retreats over the cab as the bucket goes up.”
Radial lift machines are also well-suited for applications that require more reach at the mid-point of the lifting path, says Graham, such as loading and unloading a flatbed trailer. In addition, any harsh applications such as waste removal, recycling or demolition typically favor radial-lift machines, as they have fewer pins, bushings and pivot points that are affected by wear and tear.
Vertical lift machines, on the other hand, are designed for “lift and carry” and loading applications. “Their design has two pivot points, allowing the bucket to stay forward as it goes up,” Goettel explains. “Some even extend further out as they rise. This allows much better ‘reach’ at full height, ideal for tasks such as loading high-side trucks.”