Compact Equipment Solves Many Jobsite Problems

By Greg Sitek | September 28, 2010

Compact equipment has increased in popularity since its advent. Its size and weight make it easy to transport from job site to job site. Once on the job again, thanks to its size, it can often go where larger machines can't.

Today's compact machines are only small in size, not performance. Most manufacturers design and equip the machines to deliver power and performance not only when doing their regular jobs but also when used as a work platform for attachments and work tools. On the job these machines can be kept busy throughout an entire shift.

On some jobs a single machine can be used to do everything by switching attachments. This is especially applicable on landscaping projects. One machine, acting as a power source, can be a loader, backhoe, broom, fork, power auger, rake, grapple, crane, trencher, cable plow, milling machine ... the list has become endless.

One machine can do the work of a half-dozen or even more depending on the application. With the labor shortage being so intense in some areas, compact equipment becomes reasonable for some contractors.

When considering today's family of compact equipment you still have to start with the instigator, the skid-steer loader. Other machines in the grouping include: all-terrain vehicles, compact backhoe loaders, compact track loaders (also known as multi terrain loaders), compact utility tractors — 60 horsepower and under, compact utility vehicles, compact wheel loaders, mini excavators — 6 metric tons, 13,200 pounds and under, and mini skid-steer and track loaders.

In the last couple of years the categories have exploded from the original "one" to four — skid steers, mini excavators, compact wheel loader, and compact utility vehicles — to nine; and from one manufacturer to dozens; from one model to hundreds. This is not surprising considering the increase in the volume and different types of construction being done.

It wasn't that long ago when landscaping was too small of a market to be considered a market segment as it is today; the same goes for golf course construction. Today both are strong market segments in the overall construction market. There are other growing markets all using both standard and compact machines. The thing that hasn't grown is the labor force. Contractors have found that machines can help cope with this problem. Contractors can use technology like GPS and machine control to make up for the lack of highly skilled operators and compact machines to make up for the sheer lack of available people to do the work.

All-Terrain Vehicles represent a wide selection of carriers — personnel and/or tools and supplies. The selection ranges from small one-person vehicles to units that can carry four adults and some tools. They distinguish themselves because they are designed to navigate the rough terrain of a job site and can be track driven, half tracks or all-wheel drives. The wheeled vehicles can be 4×4′s, 4×6′s or even 6×6′s.

They're ideal for large job sites that are spread out or multiple job sites located close to each other. Of course, they're just nice to have so you can get quickly from the office trailer to any spot on the job quickly and easily no matter what the weather or underfoot conditions.

The following is a list of vehicles currently available. We apologize if we have left any off or have included any that are no longer in production.

All-Terrain Vehicles:

Artic Cat; Bobcat Toolcat 5600 +1; Bombardier Traxter Max; Club Car's Carryall 295 series 2006; Honda FourTrax Rancher AT; John Deere Gator, Buck; Kawasaki Prairie 700; Kubota's RTV900 introduced in 2004; Polaris Utility Task Vehicles; Ag-Chem Equipment Co.; Brown Bear Corp.; Feterl Manufacturing; Flannegan Manufacturing; Foster Manufacturing; Il-Tracker; Kootenay Manufacturing; Land Pride; Liftking Industries; P.W.C.E.; TerraTrack — RangeRunner 2005; Tor Truck Corp.; Toro; Yamaha — Rhino 660, Bruin 350

Compact Backhoe Loaders have become very popular on landscaping projects because their size makes them easy to transport and perfect for the often-confined space of many landscape projects. Other than size, they have all the same functional characteristics that you find on their larger siblings.

The beauty of these machines is that they are easy to transport to the job and on the job. You can often put these machines into tight areas that demand the versatility of a backhoe loader but lack the room for a larger machine.

The following is a list of compact backhoe loaders currently available. We apologize if we have left any off or have included any that are no longer in production.

Compact Backhoe Loaders (less than 14 feet):

Allmand Bros.; Badger/C&W Equipment; Challenger; Compact Power; Coyote Loader Sales; Cub Cadet; Ditch Witch XT1600; Flannegan Western; Ingersoll Equipment; Ingersoll Rand; JCB; John Deere; Kioti Tractor; Kubota; Land Pride; Lay-Mor; Power House Equipment; Power Trac; Terramite; Toro; Yanmar; Volvo

Compact Track Loaders are considered by some as a byproduct of skid-steer loaders. They are actually compact renditions of the old track loader. The big difference is that they, for the most part, use rubber tracks. They do strongly resemble a skid steer with tracks, and those are available either as an attachment that fits over the tires or as replacements for the tires. There are other numerous differences between these machines and skid steers. And there are other similarities as well. The controls and drive systems are usually similar to what you will find on skid steers but the compact track loaders are designed to be track vehicles and operate in those underfoot conditions where there is no substitute for tracks.

From the original manufacturer, ASV, the market has grown considerably. The following is a list of compact track loaders currently available. We apologize if we have left any off or have included any that are no longer in production.

Compact Track Loaders:

ASV — 3 models; Bobcat — 3 models; Case — 3; Caterpillar — 6; Ditch Witch — 1; Fecon — 1; Gehl; JCB — 2; John Deere — 2; Komatsu — 1; Mustang — 1; New Holland — 7; Polaris; Rohmac; Takeuchi — 1; Thomas Equipment — 1; Toro — 2

Compact Utility Tractors were introduced to the construction market in response to demand for this type of machine. There are some things that a utility tractor will do better than any other machine and these were designed to fill that need. They are available with various types of hitches designed to tow attachments and are probably most commonly used in landscaping projects.

The following is a list of compact utility tractors currently available. We apologize if we have left any off or have included any that are no longer in production.

Compact Utility Tractors (less than 60 horsepower):

Allmand; Ditch Witch; Kioti; Kubota; Yanmar

Compact Utility Vehicles are kissin' cousins to the all-terrain vehicle in that their applications are pretty much the same except that they are not as sure-footed. They work better on flat, "well groomed" job sites or in urban jobsite environments. They are designed to carry personnel and/or tools and equipment around the jobsite quickly and easily. They became a lot more popular immediately following the cleanup at Ground Zero. You could see them being used extensively whenever there was coverage of the cleanup activity.

The following is a list of compact utility vehicles currently available. We apologize if we have left any off or have included any that are no longer in production.

Compact Utility Vehicles:

Allmand 8435, 8435 HST; AUSA; ASV Scout SC-50; Bobcat 2300, Toolcat 5600, 2200; Bombardier Traxter XL; Club Car Carryall 295, XRT 1500, Pioneer 1200; Cushman; Ditch Witch XT850; E-Z-Go ST 350, Workhorse ST 480; Feterl Manufacturing; Flannegan Western; John Deere Gator, HPX 4×4, Worksite Gator; Kawasaki Mule 610, Mule3010; Komatsu; Kubota RTV900; Land Pride 4419, 4219; Polaris Ranger TM, Ranger 4×4, Ranger 6×6; Recreative Industries; TerraTrack; Toro 4300, 4000, Twister; Yamaha Rhino 660; Z Loader 300dx

Compact Wheel Loaders are a smaller version of the full-sized machines. Most of them are rigid frame but there are some articulated models on the market. The compact wheel loader can easily get into areas that are not accessible by a full-sized machine. With a quick coupler they offer the same versatility as do most of the compact machines. There are a couple IT models available.

These machines are great loading tools as well as scaled-down production tools. If you need to do load-and-carry work in a confined space you might want to look at one of these. There are a large number of manufacturers producing a variety of sizes and power options. There are also a large number of attachments available from the manufacturers as well as independent manufacturers.

The following is a list of compact utility vehicles currently available. We apologize if we have left any off or have included any that are no longer in production.

Compact Wheel Loaders (less than 109 horsepower):

Atlas Weyhausen; Buhler Manufacturing; Case; Caterpillar; Challenger; Cheetah; Finn Corp.; Gehl; Ingersoll Rand; JCB; John Deere; Kanga Loaders; Kawasaki; Kenco; Komatsu; Kubota; LeTourneau; Massey Ferguson; MultiOne; MultiTrac; Mustang; New Holland; Power House Equipment; Power Trac; Shinheung Industry Co.; TCM America, Inc.; Takeuchi; Terex; Toro; Volvo (Ingersoll Rand); Waldon/LayMor; Yanmar

Mini Excavators have become a common tool on most job sites. Their versatility and maneuverability have made them essential tools on many job sites. They are designed to do far more than dig. In reality they are work platforms for attachments. There are hundreds of attachments that can be put on these little workaholics and they can be answers to numerous jobsite problems. Easy to transport and easy to operate, they are very desirable jobsite companions.

The following is a list of mini excavators currently available. We apologize if we have left any off or have included any that are no longer in production.

Mini Excavators (less than 6 metric tons or 13,200 pounds):

Bobcat; Boxer; Case; Caterpillar; Coyote Loader; Ditch Witch; Doosan Infracore America; Feterl Manufacturing; Gehl; Hitachi; Hyundai; IHI; Ingersoll Rand; Ishikawajima Construction Machinery; JCB; John Deere; Kenco; Kobelco; Komatsu; Kubota; LBX; Mini-Ex; Mustang; New Holland; Powerhouse Equipment; Takeuchi; Terex; Thomas; Toro; Vermeer; Volvo (Ingersoll Rand); Yanmar; Yuchai

Mini Skid-Steer and Track Loaders are another breed of machines born out of necessity and demand. Again, they are easily transported, easy to operate and very labor saving. They are designed to be attachment power supplies and as such do an incredible job of being versatile. A single trailer loaded with one machine and half-dozen attachments can do the job of a whole fleet of machines. They are great for project finishing and cleanup, landscaping, and working inside buildings.

For the most part, they are people replacements. Maybe if the demand for labor had not become so acute these machines might not have appeared on the commercial market but they have and they have made a place on many job sites. Many of the power sources are walk behind and/or ride on. If you haven't test driven some of these, you should.

The following is a list of mini skid-steer and track loaders currently available. We apologize if we have left any off or have included any that are no longer in production.

Mini Skid-Steer and Track Loaders:

ASE; Bobcat; Compact Power Boxer TL-224-34; Ditch Witch; Finn Eagle; Gehl; Kanga; Komatsu; Mertz; Powerhouse Equipment; Power Trac; Ramrod Equipment; Shinheung Industry Co.; Thomas; Toro; Vermeer

Skid-steer loaders helped launch the compact equipment explosion when they were first introduced by Bobcat. Their value comes from an unbeatable combination of power, size and versatility: no other machine can bring as many different types of tools to bear in so many tight spaces.

Often, a skid-steer purchase is driven by size limitations: people want them to be able to fit through specific narrow spaces, or to be maneuverable on small suburban lots. In these cases, the physical dimensions and turning radius are two of the most important specs to look at.

Some skid steers are used as single-tool machines: they use the bucket they were delivered with for dumping, scraping, lifting, and carrying, and they can easily be worth the investment. However, most skid-steer buyers take advantage of their ability to use dozens of different attachments.

The following is lists of skid-steer loaders currently available. We apologize if we have left any off or have included any that are no longer in production.

Skid-Steer Loaders:

Bobcat; Case; Caterpillar; Compact Power; CWS Industries Ltd.; Dae Han Machinery Co.; Ditch Witch; Doosan (Daewoo); Fecon; GCS Western Power & Equipment; Gehl; Gehl/Arnco; Gravely; Hydra-Mac Industrial; Hyundai; JCB; John Deere; Komatsu; Loftness/US Attachments; Mustang; New Holland; Patriot/HECLA Industries; Power House Equipment; Thomas; Thomas/Hyundai; Toro; Town & Country; Volvo