There has been a progression toward larger, more powerful skid-steer loaders and attachments. “Customers want the biggest possible machine that will fit into and operate in a confined space, and the greater the versatility through options and attachments, the better,” says Tim O’Brien, brand marketing manager, Case Construction Equipment.
Larger skid steers tend to have more options. “The bigger machines are becoming more of a productive piece, where an operator sits in them six to 12 hours a day,” notes Mike Fitzgerald, Bobcat Company.
These premium features and options add to the initial cost of the machine, but performance gains may quickly offset this investment. As such, it’s important to investigate the available options and then weigh the potential benefits vs. the costs.
Adapt to the Task
The most important options depend on your application. Kaiser Skid Steer Services LLC, Rigby, ID, performs site prep, concrete removal, laser grading, residential and small commercial excavation, utility installation, demolition, mulching and landscape grading and hardscape installation.
“We have run Case skid steers for the past 17 years,” says Shane Kaiser. “The most important options to me are the enclosed cab, ride control, two speed, hydraulic quick coupler and high flow.”
J.T. Russell & Sons, Inc., Albmarle, NC, is a third generation DOT-certified contractor that provides grading, milling, utilities and environmental erosion control services. It also performs paving services such as parking lots, airports, commercial site development and highways. The company has 10 skid steers, including Case, Deere and three Caterpillar models. “We started with skid steers in the early ’90s,” says James Russell, CEO.
Skid steers are placed with the paving crews. Equipped with brooms, they are used behind milling machines for cleanup, as well as for cleanup in front of the pavers.
J.T. Russell & Sons has found Caterpillar’s optional Advanced Machine Information and Control System (AMICS) very useful. This system is being used on a Caterpillar 272D XHP that runs a 36-in. milling head.
“You can dial variable speed down to creep,” says Russell. It allows you to feather speed down while the milling head remains at a constant speed. “Many times, when you are in very tight quarters, having the ability to dial it down a little bit makes the job safer, especially when you are working around utilities.”
Hydraulic Options Add Versatility
Large skid steers often serve as attachment carriers. Therefore, high-flow hydraulics can dramatically boost performance. “When we look at performance upgrades, the No. 1 item customers buy is our high-flow hydraulic option so they can be more productive with attachments,” says Fitzgerald.
“High flow is mandatory for my operation,” notes Kaiser. “I need a high-flow system that can run high-demand attachments [like mulchers] at high altitude and in tough terrain. The ability to keep the hydraulics cool is huge in a mulching application. As far as features, I like the ability to vary hydraulic flow from the joystick. Having the ability to run multiple hydraulic functions from the hand controls is also very important.”
Both flow and pressure are important when you calculate the available hydraulic horsepower to run attachments. “The Cat High Flow XPS hydraulic system offers both increased flow as well as high pressure, which provides more speed and torque to the work tool,” says Kevin Coleman, Caterpillar. “This hydraulic system maximizes productivity when used in applications utilizing high-torque tools such as cold planers, wheel saws or mulching heads.”
Having both standard-flow and high-flow capability on one machine can increase versatility. “Yanmar offers a standard-flow auxiliary option along with a high flow,” says Jake Jeffords, product marketing manager, Yanmar America Corp. “If a contractor orders a high-flow machine, the standard-flow couplers are still standard with the machine.” This allows a choice between the two hydraulic flows to run different attachments.