Efficient operators

Features - Equipment

Upgrades in the skid-steer market focus on ease of use and productivity.

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Whether they’re updates or completely new models, the latest skid-steer improvements focus on three areas: operation, performance and service.

Contractors are rolling skid-steers on average of 5,000 hours before trading in or selling, according to product experts. So the latest tweaks and makeovers were made to make those hours more comfortable and more productive.

The updates, manufacturers say, come directly from speaking to contractors and business owners about what skid-steer options have made their must-have and like lists.

For example, Terex Construction Americas relied on customer insight and competitive positioning when designing its skid-steer line, says Jamie Wright, product manager.

“We polled a variety of different customers that use competitive loader models and found that many of these attributes are extremely important during the buying decision process because they contribute to higher productivity and a lower cost of ownership,” he says.

Here are a few of the upgrades you’ll find in the latest skid-steer models.

Operation.

Operator comfort is of huge interest for the owner of the skid-steer and his contractors. Presumably, the more comfortable the operator is, the longer they’re going to stay in the cab and work.

Manufacturers have made the cabs larger and quieter and added pressurized seals, better heat and air conditioning systems and clearer visibility.

For example, Bobcat M-Series loaders allow for individual comfort with the option of a factory installed air ride seat and a radio. “There are items inside the cab like storage compartments, cup holders, power port accesses, that customers have requested along the line,” says Mike Fitzgerald, loader product specialist for Bobcat Co.

Mustang’s 3300v model comes with more elbow room and an adjustable sidemount restraint bar. “The comfort was really accentuated because of different operator sizes,” says Kelly Morris, product manager for Mustang skid-steer loaders. “If you’ve got a younger guy, smaller guy or a larger, tall, heavy guy, there’s comfortability because of the adjustments that are built in.”

For contractor comfort, JCB made its 225 wheeled skid-steer cab 17 percent larger. It also made the entrance door, which is on the side, larger. “Because of our single-boom design, we offer left-side entry where the operator does not have to enter though the front, over, around, through, large cumbersome attachments,” says George Chaney, global product manager for JCB skid-steers and compact track loaders.
   
Performance.

Contractors want and need to use their time efficiently, which has meant an increase of speed and ease of use for updated equipment.

Manufacturers have made skid-steers more versatile from how attachments can be added to how much weight it can carry.

For example, Caterpillar’s B-Series 3 is equipped with a 71-hp engine that provides a 27 percent increase in horsepower and 28 percent increase in torque. “(It) provides quicker lug recovery, more aggressive digging and better performance on grade, especially with a load,” says Kevin Coleman, senior project engineer for compact loaders.

Many skid-steer models are changing to a hydraulic quick hitch for removing or connecting most attachments. “Now the operator has the ability to change attachments going from buckets to pallet fork or other things without leaving the interior of the cab,” Chaney says.

Also in the performance category has been improvements for joystick power controls to make the machine easier to maneuver and drive.

The new Alpha Series introduced by Case Construction Equipment incorporates an electric hydraulic control system, which allows the driver to switch the control pattern from H or ISO, whatever they prefer. “If you have different guys on the job site that are use to running one type of machine, or another guy is more comfortable with another one, they can literally get in, hit a button on the dashboard and it will change how it drives,” says Curtis Goettel, marketing manager for Case.

Service.

When there are jobs to be done, contractors can’t sit around waiting for a machine to be repaired and maintained.

Many manufacturers have made service a priority by granting easier access points to the skid-steer’s inner parts.

For example, Bobcat’s M-Series loaders feature improvements to the hydraulic system, including longer-life filters, easier access to filters and a hydraulic oil sight gauge, Fitzgerald says.

Case moved its maintenance to the back of the machine. Unless a line is being replaced or there is a full repair, the mechanic can access the maintenance point from one entry and doesn’t have to lift the cab.

“The easier you make maintenance the better chance it’s going to get done,” Goettel says. “We did a lot of things to make it simple so people could check the oil every day, check the hydraulic every day, check your engine and filters, look for leaks – all of the things you’re supposed to do every, day but a lot of times people don’t.”