Given the variety of compact track loaders (CTL) that are now available in the market, how do you know which is the right machine for the job? CTLs have exceptional flotation, traction and versatility and will perform well with most materials in almost any ground conditions. But not every CTL is right for every application.
Sizing the machine is only the starting point. “Selecting the proper size equipment for the application is the first step, but it’s not as simple as choosing the largest machine available,” says Mike Fitzgerald, product specialist, Bobcat. It’s important to analyze how the machine will be used, including requirements for lift height, reach, rated operating capacity, horsepower, pushing power and jobsite conditions.
“Choosing the proper CTL depends primarily on what you will do with that machine,” agrees Paul Wade, brand marketing manager, New Holland Construction. “If the machine will be used in general construction, a more rugged design is appropriate. More breakout force in the bucket will be necessary if you will be moving a lot of dirt, and a different style of boom should be considered if you will be performing more lift/carry operations.”
It’s important to evaluate the machine and all of its capabilities. “Know the CTL’s operating capacity, including tipping and lift capacities,” says Jamie Wright, product manager, Terex Construction Americas. “Ensure the CTL you choose can handle the materials you will be moving. The weight of the material and how quickly it needs to be moved will also influence the size of the bucket required. The bigger the bucket, the bigger the loader.”
Yet, bigger isn’t always better. “Higher horsepower offers more dynamic force for pushing and production, but it also translates to a heavier machine,” says Wright. “With so many different sizes and options of loaders available, horsepower and operating capacity are important, but should not be the only considerations.”
In order to select the right machine, David Steger, product and training manager, Takeuchi-US, recommends, “Look past the written spec sheets and operating capacity and test drive several machines. If you can compare CTLs side by side, you can develop a true understanding of what each machine can do in similar working conditions.
“Time spent operating each model from different manufacturers will help you determine the best machine for the application,” he adds. “A spec sheet is a great place to start, but seat time can certainly confirm your decision.”
Undercarriage is of utmost importance
Rigid or suspension track frames are the two primary styles currently offered on CTLs. Each has its advantages.
In Bobcat’s case, CTLs are available with either a solid-mounted standard undercarriage or a roller suspension system utilizing an all-steel design with steel imbed tracks for increased durability. The roller suspension includes permanently sealed and lubricated rollers suspended by steel leaf springs to reduce vibration and improve operator comfort.
“Choose the undercarriage based on what’s important to you,” Wade advises. “Rigid track frame undercarriages reduce maintenance costs with fewer moving parts. Suspension track frame undercarriages offer a smoother ride, but higher maintenance costs.”
Regardless of the style you choose, he recommends looking for a rugged undercarriage design. New Holland 200 Series compact track loaders feature a dozer-style undercarriage with a rigid track frame and fewer moving parts for added durability and easier maintenance. The heavy-duty drive motor/final drive increases component life by using an oversized bearing in line with the drive sprocket and elevating the drive assembly to keep it out of material.
“The CTL’s undercarriage is a central focus for most contractors upon machine selection,” Steger comments. “The undercarriage is a large factor in the cost per hour of the machine. A machine with a higher purchase price but a more durable undercarriage will ultimately cost less per hour to operate.”