Send a CTL ASAP: How Compact Track Loaders Get the Job Done Quickly and Precisely

Compact track loaders range from supersized to ultra-small, offering versatility on jobsites and the road to zero emissions.

The CASE TV620B tackles a mulching task on soft ground in a heavily wooded area.
The CASE TV620B tackles a mulching task on soft ground in a heavily wooded area.
CASE Construction Equipment

Compact Track Loaders Excel at Big Show Demonstrations and Events

I recently watched a Caterpillar operator nimbly zip around a signature construction yellow-hued Cat compact track loader to scoop demonstration dirt, deposit it into excavated trenches and circle around the outdoor demo area to hop into a compactor. The compactor then tamped down the soil for the next competitor round at the Edward J. Rapp Customer & Training Center during the recent Caterpillar Global Operator Challenge Regionals in Clayton, N.C.

The result was a demonstration area with freshly compacted earth that appeared to not have been touched by a previous operator.

In yet another controlled environment, a Bobcat Company operator in Munich, Germany at bauma remote-controlled a Bobcat compact track loader in reverse to set up a new demonstration of the company’s recently launched E19e electric compact excavator.

Both scenarios left me with my jaw on the ground; I was in awe witnessing these compact track loaders transform a ripped up, disheveled demonstration area to a precise, smooth one in seconds.

“The increased flotation provided by [Bobcat compact track loader] track systems makes them ideal on a wide range of jobsites with soft ground surfaces such as sand, mud and clay,” said Michael Fitzgerald, marketing manager for Doosan Bobcat. “With their weight distributed throughout the track and ground contact area, CTLs can travel across uneven ground more efficiently and are better at maneuvering through softer ground conditions. Additionally, their long ground contact and light footprint make compact track loaders a good fit for leveling work and finish grading.”

As someone who is new to the construction equipment industry, I have studied up on terminology, new product launches and equipment functionalities and features in the past six months. However, nothing beats the experience of seeing the equipment in action or, better yet, getting in the cab and operating a new machine.

While I did not operate a compact track loader at bauma or the recent Caterpillar Global Operator Challenge Regionals, I did recently get to jump into the cab of the CASE Minotaur DL550 compact dozer loader, a scaled-down dozer with compact track loader features and benefits. Even better, our IRONPROS team got an up-close look at the new Kubota SVL75-3 compact track loader, the next generation of the OEM’s flagship CTL, at Kubota’s latest event in Grapevine, Tx.

The New Kubota SVL75-3 Compact Track Loader Boasts Increased Cab Comfort

The new SVL75-3 is a compact track loader that Kubota declares will delight long-time customers of this popular machine. Updated cab comfort, increased leg room and new joysticks will all add to operator ease and efficiency.

The SVL75-3 features a sealed, pressurized, tilt-up one-piece cab design that is new for the Dash-3 generation. The Dash-2 model—the Kubota SVL75-2 compact track loader line—also had a sealed, pressurized, tilt-up design, but it was not strictly a one-piece design because the floor pan did not tilt up with the rest of the cab.

With the new one-piece design the whole cab— including the floor pan—now tilts up and out of the way, leaving an operator with wide open access to maintenance controls and needs. The move to this one-piece design should help significantly by keeping dirt, dust and noise out of the operator’s working environment.

The Kubota SVL75-3 is the company's latest compact track loader.The Kubota SVL75-3 is the company's latest compact track loader.Wayne Grayson

Kubota has also improved heating and cooling performance of its climate control system. 

One further benefit of the new design is more foot room. There’s about 2 inches or so more in this new Dash-3 cab over the Dash-2 model. 

As I might have expected, access to the cab is easy, thanks to Kubota’s wide entrance and sliding front door design. Beyond entry and exit, the door can be left open during operation, and it can be opened regardless of the position of the bucket or loader arms. 

This aspect is a popular design choice by Kubota, but even so it’s one that much of the rest of the construction equipment industry has not implemented due to the fact that a sliding door currently forces manufacturers to place buttons and other controls along armrests. However, Kubota is not swayed by that argument, and said the company feels that the entry, exit, and visibility conveniences afforded by the door outweigh any ergonomic issues that may arise. 

Upon entering the cab, it is hard to argue with that logic. The controls are not buried beneath the operator’s arms. In fact, all the needed controls are less than a foot away from an operator’s arms during operation. 

Plus, Kubota has completely overhauled its switches and control layout for this new machine. At the head of the armrests are a pair of updated joysticks. Kubota has implemented fingertip control of all major functions and attachment operations for the SVL75-3 into these sticks, which also feature backlit switches for easier identification of functions. 

One note on the new joysticks: while they are standard on the high-flow models of the SVL75-3, they are an upgraded option for the standard-flow models. 

Along the right side of the cab is the new 7-inch color touch screen, jog dial and switch layout. The new display can be controlled by touch or via the jog dial near the switch layout and keeps alerts and machine operation statuses like fuel level, hydraulic oil temperature and auxiliary modes at a glance. 

The new display also integrates the view for the standard rear-view camera, which can be set to display constantly or only when the machine is in reverse. 

While the SVL75-3 retains the same 74.3 hp rating of the SVL75-2, overall performance is slightly better on the new machine. The rated operating capacity at 35% of tipping is up 8% over the Dash-2 model to 2,490 pounds. Rated operating capacity at 50% on the SVL75-3 is 3,557 pounds. 

Bucket breakout force and lift arm breakout force are essentially the same as the previous model at 6,191 pounds and 4,723 pounds, respectively. 

At the heart of this machine is a new engine, an updated version of the turbocharged V3307 that can achieve higher maximum torque than the version found in the SVL75-2. 

Kubota has also made improvements to the cooling system on the SVL75-3. During high-load work the SVL75-3 doesn’t require as much fan power to keep the engine cool, allowing that saved power to be used for power-hungry tasks. 

The hydraulically driven fan on the SVL75-3 pulls fresh air in from the top of the cooling package and vents hot air out of the side of the machine. It is a smarter variable speed fan than past models. Kubota has designed the fan to turn more slowly in colder weather, allowing for the engine to warm up faster. Additionally, an auto-reversing fan is an available option on this machine. 

Other new compact track loaders introduced to the market recently include the Bobcat T7X all-electric compact track loader, launched in early 2022, Bobcat’s T86 compact track loader, launched in fall 2022 and CASE's TV620B compact track loader, launched in late September 2021. The Bobcat T7X was one of the highlights of bauma for our Equipment Today and IRONPROS crews, given that the machine features a heretofore unexplored innovation—the complete removal of hydraulic power.

Bobcat Company’s Innovative T7X All-Electric Compact Track Loader Features No Hydraulics, Four-Hour Battery Use Time

“The obvious benefit of the T7X is the fact that it produces zero emissions,” said Joel Honeyman, Doosan Bobcat vice president of global innovation. “The additional benefits that operators may not immediately realize is the machine is built for power and ultra-quiet comfort.”

Honeyman shared during a presentation at the bauma FORUM stage in Munich, Germany, that the T7X will provide up to 80kW of power – the equivalent of 107hp – to the drive, lift and tilt functions of the electric compact track loader. The resulting operating costs of the T7X platform are one-tenth of its diesel hydraulic equivalent machine, according to Bobcat Company.

Joel Honeyman, Doosan Bobcat vice president of global innovation, highlighted the features of the new Bobcat T7X all-electric compact track loader at a bauma FORUM presentation in Munich, Germany, on Oct. 28.Joel Honeyman, Doosan Bobcat vice president of global innovation, highlighted the features of the new Bobcat T7X all-electric compact track loader at a bauma FORUM presentation in Munich, Germany, on Oct. 28.Bobcat Company

Doosan Bobcat partnered with Moog Construction recently to entirely remove all of the hydraulic fluid power systems in the T7X compact track loader prototype development process. Moog replaced hydraulic systems with linear, electromechanical actuators in the Bobcat T7X compact track loader and collaborated with multiple third-battery providers to make batteries for the T7X.

“It doesn’t require much maintenance, maybe every seven years or eight years,” said Aditya Karan Sharma, business development manager for Moog Construction. “If you’re running really hard, then you might need a little bit of components to be replaced.”

Depending on the application, the battery can provide up to four hours of continuous operation or longer during intermittent use on the jobsite, Honeyman said, allowing recharge with a common 220V outlet.

The T7X is up to 90% more efficient than a similar, diesel-powered compact track loader, according to Moog Construction.

“These are highly efficient,” Sharma said. “If you go with a conventional hydraulic pump unit, they are about 30% efficient. From 30% to 90% efficient is a huge jump, efficiency wise.”

Platinum Edition of Bobcat T86 Compact Track Loader Features Extended Premium Comfort and Performance

The Bobcat T86 platinum compact track loader package includes Bobcat MaxControl remote operation, auto throttle, a five-year subscription for Machine IQ, engine block heater, LED side lights, clear-sided enclosed cab with auto HVAC, 7-in. touch display screen, Bluetooth radio, a heated cloth air ride suspension seat, premium LED lights, a rearview camera installed, the Power Bob-Tach system, 7-pin attachment control, high-flow hydraulics, two-speed travel, dual-direction bucket positioning, automatic ride control and a reversing fan.

The Bobcat T86 edition compact track loader excels on grassy sites and features premium comfort and performance features.The Bobcat T86 edition compact track loader excels on grassy sites and features premium comfort and performance features.Bobcat Company

“The Bobcat platinum package machines were designed for the customer who appreciates the latest and greatest features, along with unique styling to stand out amongst the crowd,” said Rob Otterson, Bobcat Company vice president of product management.

CASE TV620B Compact Track Loader Largest Ever Built

Launched in late September 2021, the CASE TV620B compact track loader is a 114-horsepower, 6,200-pound rated operating capacity (at 50% tipping weight) machine, and it comes with a 1.25 cubic-yard heavy-duty bucket designed specifically for the TV620B.

“The TV620B is built to simplify heavy work such as cold planing, mulching, heavy material handling, and loading high-sided trucks,” said George MacIntyre, product manager for CASE Construction Equipment.

The TV620B offers a selection of buckets, including a heavy-duty 84-inch 1.25 cubic-yard bucket with SmartFit teeth, and is designed for use with other heavy-duty attachments such as mulching heads, cold planers, and the new CASE grading blade.

The CASE TV620B tackles a mulching task on soft ground in a heavily wooded area.The CASE TV620B tackles a mulching task on soft ground in a heavily wooded area.CASE Construction Equipment

“The rubber tracks, lower ground pressure and the overall stability it provides are really the core operating advantages of this machine category – matched with hundreds of attachments that make it extremely versatile,” said Jeff Jacobsmeyer, product manager for CASE Construction Equipment.

CASE will be releasing additional heavy-duty attachments designed for use with the TV620B and has engineered the hydraulic cooling capacity of the machine to support use of high-capacity attachments.   

“The combination of strength, performance and stability of the TV620B is unmatched by any other machine and provides a robust platform for working with larger buckets and high-capacity attachments,” MacIntyre said. “Heavy pallets, loading larger trucks, and running attachments that require enhanced-high-flow hydraulics are all handled with ease by this machine. The combination of track-on-ground, hinge pin height and reach at maximum dump height specs really make this a machine designed for loading trucks of all sizes.”  

Compact Track Loaders A Good Fit for Palletized Projects

Aside from zipping around demonstration rings and arenas, compact track loaders also do serious work. From loading yards with potentially soft underfoot conditions to a residential site that needs grading, CTLs are versatile machines.

“Compact track loaders really excel in environments where achieving a lower ground pressure with your machine is desired. This could be on finished turf surfaces so as not to disturb the grass and the ground underneath it, or it could be on jobsites with softer underground conditions that could bog down a machine with tires,” Jacobsmeyer said. “That’s the beauty of a compact track loader – the tracks help disperse the pressure of the machine to create minimal disturbance.”

Compact track loaders can be doing any number of jobs on a site, the most obvious of which are loading, grading and moving materials, according to Jacobsmeyer.

“But these machines are also compatible with hundreds of attachments that allow them to do so much more on site,” Jacobsmeyer added. “A set of forks allow them to unload and move palletized materials.”

From building materials to agricultural, a compact track loader comes in handy on softer ground where pallets need to be loaded and unloaded.

Backyard Dreaming: CTLs make Work on Sloped Lawns a Cinch

In my quest to understand the full range of possibilities of compact track loaders, I interviewed at least three OEMs, all of which said that CTLs make landscaping projects much easier, particularly on sloped ground and turf.

Because CTLs have low ground pressure, they are better at traveling over lawns and other improved surface areas with minimal ground disturbance, according to Fitzgerald. This can be a significant advantage when projects require traversing established lawns or other landscaping.

“When working on a “backyard” project, a CTL can move materials across the front and side yards with minimal damage to turf and other landscapes, minimizing damage and repair costs,” Fitzgerald said.

“It’s as much about improving performance as it is about minimizing rework at the end of the day,” Jacobsmeyer added. “The wide tracks and lower ground pressure helps the machine move easily across any number of surfaces, and to do so with stability and confidence — especially on slopes or grades. But that low ground pressure also minimizes the amount of ground disturbance, avoiding the rutting that can sometimes happen when working with a true skid steer on turf or softer surfaces. That rutting always has to be cleaned up and returned to the way it was found at the end of the job, which takes up additional time and resources.”

What’s more, according to Jacobsmeyer, landscape attachments for compact track loaders like lawn preparators help achieve final grade and a great seed bed. Healthy plants, great-looking landscaping and spring flowers are all satisfying ways to see the fruits of the operator’s labor.

From muddy sloped ditches to yards that simply need a fine-tuning, compact track loaders shine.