Skid steer loaders: Match your machine to your job

Skid steers may be the ultimate multi-function machines, but to get the most from them, it’s best to match performance specifications with how the machine will be used.
This line of thinking should also be followed when picking out options for the skid steer, as well as when choosing attachments.
Performance specifications include the rated lift capacity of the skid steer, its horsepower, lift height, and hydraulic power.
With more than 100 attachments from which to choose, contractors can equip the versatile skid steer to complete the most basic of earth-moving operations, or to take on unique, specialty tasks such as cold planing or silt fence installation.
“Let’s say your business regularly utilizes skid steers for digging swimming pools,” says George Mac Intyre, a marketing manager for Case Construction Equipment. “Then you would want to look for a productive excavating machine that can complete the work quickly and in a safe manner. The conventional style lift linkage gives it an advantage over the vertical style machines.
“On the other hand, the advantages of a vertical style machine, such as more forward reach and lift height, make this style machine the right choice in material handling-type operations — such as when a skid steer is used frequently for dumping into the back of high-sided dump trucks.”
Generally speaking, vertical machines are best suited for landscaping, agricultural, and material handling applications, while conventional machines are most appropriate for construction use, although overlapping of uses certainly occurs, Mac Intyre says.
Once a specific skid steer model is selected, the owner needs to select options on the machine that will make the operator the most productive, says Eric Kohout, a product manager for New Holland Construction.
For example, a cab heater would be an easy choice if the skid steer is to be put to work frequently at snow removal. Likewise, air conditioning would be a consideration if the skid steer is to be based in a warm climate.
“A comfortable operating environment makes an operator more productive,” Mac Intyre says.

Buying, renting both have advantages
Buying a skid steer would be preferred over renting if a contractor expects the machine to be used heavily, and to be used for a number of years, the marketing/product managers said.
“Also, when buying, the machine can be purchased to meet the exact needs of the owner,” Kohout says. “Another advantage of buying is that there is a sense of pride of ownership in the machine.”
Mac Intyre says a contractor may have tax issues in mind that would convince them to buy. “The contractor has to ask himself, ‘Do I want the skid steer to be on the books, or off?’
“Renting a machine can offer more flexibility. Renting meets short-term needs and you don’t tie up a lot of cash. Renting can be the answer during periods of peak business.
“Cyclical businesses may find renting preferable. A builder may have a side business removing snow.”
Renting a skid steer from a rental yard that is close to a jobsite could save the contractor from transporting a skid steer that they own a long distance to the work location, Kohout says.
“And with renting, you pay for using the machine only when you need it to complete work, then you return it when you are done,” he says. “You will not pay for a machine that will sit and not be used.”
However, he cautions that when renting a machine, “Your choices will be limited to what the rental yard has in inventory and you have to hope that the machine you need is not on a long-term rental.”

Buy attachments based
on frequency of use

Which attachments a contractor opts to buy, or rent, often is determined by how much the attachment will be put to work.
There is no shortage of attachments for skid steers. Attachments International, for instance, manufactures more than 60 attachments for all brands of skid steers. “There is a clear trend toward contractors buying four or five attachments and buckets with their skid steer,” says Gerry Henry, general manager with Attachments International.
The most commonly purchased skid steer attachments are buckets and forks, the marketing/product managers said. They noted that contractors usually rent attachments with a low-use rate that would not be cost effective to own.
Some specialized attachments, such as a silt fence installer, are not always available to rent.
“Owning these attachments really can make a difference for some contractors,” Mac Intyre says. “They can make a business more efficient and more profitable and you will not usually find them available to rent.”
Because they are used frequently, many contractors prefer to own hydraulic hammers, augers, cold planers, and trenchers, although Mac Intyre says the decision to buy or rent an attachment ultimately remains with the contractor.
Other attachments to consider are angle brooms, pickup brooms, snow removal blades, snow blowers, rakes, rotary tillers, stump grinders, vibratory compaction rollers, and rock wheels.

Match tires to the job
Tire selection likewise should not be overlooked. And, as is the case with the skid steer, its options, and its attachments, tires should be matched to how the machine will be used.
Case offers economy and premium general purpose tires, flotation tires, heavy-duty mining tires, and combination tires from leading manufacturers such as Galaxy, Goodyear, Solideal, and Titan, Mac Intyre says.
A tire should be chosen based on the amount of traction needed and for protection against punctures, cuts, and abrasions. Equipping the skid steer with metal tracks will increase traction and flotation.
Use of a heavy-duty tire, such as Galaxy’s King Kong, is recommended when working on hard surfaces or when extra puncture resistance is needed. Case also offers Galaxy Poly Soft Super Fill on its tires — delivering the same ride characteristics of an air-filled tire but with the benefit of 100
percent flat protection — resulting in less downtime for contractors that depend on their skid steers to perform productively day in and day out.

Keeping a skid steer strong
The marketing/product managers offered some basic, yet important tips for getting maximum productivity from a skid steer. “Don’t forget to perform daily maintenance and complete the routine service checks,” Mac Intyre says. “Keep the machine clean. Don’t let dirt or debris build up on components.”
Kohout adds, “Proper maintenance is very important to get the most out of the machine. If not properly maintained, the skid steer will not be productive and premature failures can occur.”

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