Skid steers and compact track loaders (CTLs) traditionally fall at the smaller end of the construction equipment size spectrum. They are, by design, compact units capable of fitting into tight spots and maneuvering around obstacles that can stop bigger machines in their tracks.
Yet, the perspective on size is changing as both manufacturers and contractors strive to get more performance out of these already highly productive, versatile machines. Both wheeled and track models are being introduced in larger size classes that are pushing the boundaries of the compact equipment classification.
Take Gehl’s V400, for example, which the company bills as the world’s largest skid loader. The unit weighs in at just over 11,000 lbs. with a 4,000-lb. rated operating capacity (ROC) and a lift height of 144 in. This model and others rated at 3,000-lb. ROC and above are targeted to meet the demand for greater productivity, while retaining the advantages only a skid steer or track loader can offer.
“As operations become larger, there is more work to be done. The higher capacities allow for more material to be moved in less time, increasing the operational efficiency,” says Kelly Moore, product and training specialist, Gehl skid-steer and track loaders. “In addition, the higher performance machine also means higher productivity in utilizing high-performance attachments, leading to more work output on the jobsite.”
Several factors contribute to the demand for larger skid-steer and CTL size classes.
“Over the last five years or so, you see customers moving up in sizes from small to medium or medium to large. What’s been driving that is folks are realizing a lot of the productivity advantages,” says Gregg Zupancic, product marketing manager, skid steers and compact track loaders, John Deere Construction.
Productivity is definitely a factor, agrees Mike Fitzgerald, loader product specialist at Bobcat Company. “The larger machines are still not large dimensionally,” he comments. “A slightly bigger machine will have increased operating capacity, more pushing power, more lifting height and more capacity to lift heavier loads.”
They also deliver power outputs ranging from roughly 80 to 100 hp. “The higher horsepower lends toward a lot of pushing power,” says Zupancic. “The bigger machine sizes are highly desired for applications where you’re grading or excavating because you have that power.”
Longer wheelbases and more track on the ground equal added stability. “You have a more stable machine,” says Zupancic. “If you’re doing a lot of lifting of concrete blocks in the housing market, or pallets of sod or stone in the landscaping market, these machines are better lifters.”
This makes them well-suited for projects requiring frequent movement of materials. “You regularly see a demand to unload building materials and serve as a general utility machine on site for everything from loading and unloading to grading/backfilling operations,” says Warren Anderson, brand marketing manager, Case Construction Equipment. “Lifting capacity with the fork attachment is a primary driver.”
The bigger machines are able to accommodate current trends in truck sizing. “In the past, you had tandem-axle gravel trucks with an 8- or 9-yd. box. Today, you have quad- or five-axle trucks that have 14-yd. boxes on them,” says Fitzgerald. “They can haul more material with one driver and one machine, which is more cost effective, but you have higher sides to load. So a machine with higher lift and farther reach is better for that.”
“Stretching job capacity is an increasingly important factor in securing new work,” Anderson adds. “And as trucks get bigger and stronger, and require faster loading with bigger buckets and stronger skid steers, models in this operating class will help support that.”