Utility Wheel Loaders Remain Market Mainstays

Sept. 28, 2010


Customers will continue to expand the use of their machines as much as possible, but let there be no hiding that wheel loaders remain primarily loading vehicles, according to some OEMs.
Situated at the very top of the 100- to 200-hp wheel-loader offering, Deere's 644J model is representative of a trend in the "core" wheel-loader market, says Deere's David O'Keeffe. Models have crept up in horsepower and size, prompting some customers to look long and hard at which machines best fit their needs.
At 168 horsepower and 28,000 pounds, the L70F represents the middle of three model sizes offered by Volvo in the 100- to 200-hp range. For 2007, these Volvo loaders boast a new D6E Tier 3-compliant engine and a new smoother-shifting, quicker transmission.
Attachments Add Versatility to Wheel Loaders


The ability to fill the bucket quickly and completely is key to any wheel loader's productivity.

It's only so, however, if the material loaded into the bucket is ultimately placed exactly where it's needed.

That is where specialized attachment makers such as the New Brunswick-based Craig Manufacturing Ltd. come in with products like the Model SDB side dump bucket.

A sequence valve allows the hydraulically operated locking mechanism to unlock and then open the bucket to a side angle discharge of 38 degrees. With less time required for machine maneuvering, the bucket is suited to material placement on water and sewer fill projects. A cushioned head dump cylinder is used for consistent, smooth dumping.

During standard use, the same attachment is designed to be dumped at 45 degrees like a general purpose bucket. In the carry position, the side dump plate is parallel to the ground.

Available in a variety of sizes, the Craig SDB comes with options common on standard buckets, such as bolt-on teeth and cutting edges. Also available are hanging adjustable L-shaped tines for fork-type applications.

Other attachment innovations aimed at the loader market:

  1. Available for wheel and track loaders of all sizes, AIM Log & Lumber Forks are available in widths ranging 60 to 120 inches, handling up to 80,000 pounds of material. A low-profile back frame maximizes operator visibility to the forks, and machine loading and unloading on rough terrain is eased through the use of vertical floating tines, adjustable to accommodate various load widths. AIM also offers pallet forks and heavy-duty GPL buckets.
  2. ESCO's Super V Tooth System, developed for all applications, features a slim-profile cast tooth for improved penetration that twists a quarter-turn onto an adapter. A new locking surface with each point change provides optimum point rentention. A smooth nose contour reduces stress concentrations for improved fatigue resistance.
  3. Coleman Scoop Forks, heritage products newly re-introduced by Techniflow Services LLC, quickly convert a loader into a forklift, mounting directly onto the bucket at any spacing. With no requirement for brackets or holes to be welded for installation, the Scoop Forks can be used on more than one piece of equipment. Maximum capacity is 10,000 pounds.

With Craig Manufacturing's Model SDB side dump bucket, placing material exactly where it's needed is much easier.

It's still a wheel loader, but the use of such attachments as a side dump bucket can make the carrier more productive.

1. AIM Log & Lumber Forks

2. ESCO's Super V Tooth System

3. Coleman Scoop Forks

Buying File Gallery:
  • Case
  • Hyundai
  • John Deere
  • Caterpillar
  • Liebherr
  • Komatsu
  • New Holland
  • Intensus
  • Terex
  • Kawasaki
  • Doosan
  • JCB
  • Volvo
  • Dressta North America
  • Changlin
  • Coyote
In this story:
  • Loading up
  • 100–200-HP Wheel Loaders

With 16 brands active in the North American marketplace, there's no shortage of choice for equipment customers in need of a "utility" wheel loader. From the world's largest OEM to the newest kid on the block, just about anyone who makes a wheeled loading vehicle is a player in the 100- to 200-hp game.

"From an industry standpoint, it's the constant," says Doug Laufenberg, a product marketing manager with John Deere Construction & Forestry.

Many OEMs have expanded above and below the 100- to 200-hp range, and perhaps none more so than Deere, but the roughly 2- to 4-cubic-yard range remains "the core" of the wheel-loader market.

"Things are growing on either side," says Deere colleague David O'Keeffe, who pointed to his own company's introduction of the smaller 244 and larger 844 models, "but this is still the heart of the line."

The core, the heart or, as Case Construction Equipment marketing manager David Wolf terms it, "the mainstay" is not dwindling away.

But this does not mean the offering in the utility market is stagnant. Far from it, says O'Keeffe, Deere's product marketing manager for 4WD loaders.

While the actual model designations have often remained the same over the years, machine horsepower and size have naturally crept up. Today's Caterpillar 924 or Deere 444 is going to be bigger than the one bought years earlier, and customers are starting to make adjustments, according to representatives of some OEMs.

"Customers have bought on the number a lot of times in the past," says O'Keefe. "And the machine has actually grown up on them and now they're kind of looking around saying, 'Hey, things are not getting any cheaper, and I'm not sure if I really need this size of machine or not.'"

Case's Wolf agrees that models have adjusted upwards, but not to the degree of a complete shift.

"We have seen a natural increase in horsepower, and probably a little bit of an increase in bucket size," says Wolf, "but I don't think it's to the point where you're taking a customer from a 621 and downsizing him to a 521. You still have to take a look at your lift capacity, your breakout forces; it's not just horsepower."

The continued development of machines does add weight, added Michael Stec, wheel loader and articulated hauler sales engineer with Volvo Construction Equipment North America, but he warns that any comparison of a new model to a previous generation's larger-sized model is not an "apples-to-apples" comparison.

"With any manufacturer of heavy equipment, it is a challenge to improve our machines through technology, longevity and innovation," says Stec. "Many times, this can add weight to a machine, but ultimately it will improve many buying criteria that customers drive and demand, such as productivity, reliability, lower operating and owning costs, operator comfort, etc.

"Firstly, our customers help drive the demand for a prospective higher horsepower and/or heavier wheel loader. Secondly, our competitors drive the demand — we keep one another honest. We all strive for designing strong and reliable machines without pushing ourselves out of one size class and into another, and possibly be weak."

Deere's O'Keeffe senses that "customers are getting not as dependent on the size, the 'number' they've always bought, but more so on, 'What's the operation I need to fit my machine around and what's the one that delivers the best to my bottom line?'"

Dave Hardwick of JCB has seen that trend, too.

"Today's wheel loader has grown from previous models," says Hardwick, "and will likely continue to do so as Tier 3 and then Tier 4 emissions legislation come into force."

In the case of JCB, the 426 and 436 models now includes as standard the formerly optional extra-duty counterweight, as well as more powerful engines, giving the customer "more machine" than before.

"A good site survey is more important than ever when specifying replacement loaders," says Hardwick, JCB's heavy-line product manager. "Just because an older 436 loaderis being replaced doesn't mean that this isautomatically the model that should replaceit. A 426 may now be capable of doing thistask due to the increased lift capacity and power, or a new 436 may allow for increase in output of the operation, assuming there iscapacity available."

The municipal sector is one where this adjustment is evident, says Deere's O'Keeffe. Towns and city works department officials are discovering their needs today are adequately met by a machine formerly considered too small, he says. This is a reflection of both the "creeping up" of machine sizes and the overall product enhancements made throughout various OEMs' product lines.

"Personally, I don't see that," says Wolf, "not in the Case lineup anyway."

Loading up

As the "mainstay" of the wheel-loader market, the varied products of the 100- to 200-hp range remain primarily loading tools, says Case's Wolf.

"We now see the demolition contractors using wheel loaders, we've seen some on the ag side with dairy farms," he says, "but the applications I don't think have changed all that much.

"They're loading vehicles basically — that's your main number-one thing with these — or backfilling trenches for residential."

Deere's O'Keeffe sees variances in the use of these machines.

"You've got to be able to service a lot of different customers," he says, "and the needs may be a little bit different. Some customers may use it on underground or pipe jobs, where they backfill some trenches and also use it to move some piping, but they also may only use it three or four hours a day. Whereas, there may be a guy who works in a cement plant who might use it all day long."

While attachments are used by these vehicles, this is mostly limited to "third-function" tools, says Laufenberg, Deere's product marketing manager for attachments and compact wheel loaders. Hydraulic attachments requiring one circuit, such as a side dump bucket, pick-up brooms or snow blades, are most commonly put to work.

"Couplers are becoming more common, probably over the past four to five years, so being able to have various buckets and other attachments just allows even more versatility with these machines," says O'Keeffe.

Volvo's Stec, whose company recently rolled out three new F-Series models, has advice for customers sourcing wheel loaders.

Instead of checking spec sheets for machine horsepower, "they should concentrate on the loss between gross power and net or working power." A small loss, he explains, will result in lower fuel consumption and a maximizing of the entire power train.

100–200-HP Wheel LoadersCore Models*Net Engine HorsepowerOperating Weight (lb.)Bucket Range (cu. yd.)* Many brands offer additional model variances, including tool carrier and waste-handler configurations.Source: Spec-Check Xpanded SpecsCase   521D11022,1932.0 – 2.5621D13626,2422.5 – 3.0721E17230,9103.0 – 3.5Caterpillar   924Gz12924,0292.3 – 2.7928Gz14327,2452.5 – 3.0930G14928,7182.6 – 6.5938G II16029,5003.0 – 3.92950H19740,4353.25 – 6.75Changlin   ZL30H11722,4872.22ZL40H16929,1013.0Coyote   C17-410015,6001.5+C20-411516,5301.63+C2810117,6002.0+C2913018,3002.0+Doosan   DL20013724,9122.35 – 2.62DL25015330,8643.1 – 3.5Dressta   515G12020,0401.75 – 2.0520G14223,1812.0 – 3.0530E19536,5083.7 – 5.9Hyundai   HL730-711921,4002.4HL740-713325,3502.3 – 2.7HL757-716430,4203.5Intensus   WL30G11423,1502.2JCB   416 HT11620,8231.8 – 2.2426 ZX14229,1672.0 – 2.8436 ZX16531,9723.0 – 3.5446 ZX17639,2863.7 – 4.3John Deere   444J11522,6452.0 – 2.5544J14527,4892.5 – 3.0624J16531,6913.0 – 3.5644J18538,8764.25 – 4.5Kawasaki   60ZV11920,0102.1 – 2.565ZV13423,6102.6 – 2.870ZV-217431,4373.25 – 4.080ZV-219839,3084.0 – 4.75Komatsu   WA200-512021,8702.2 – 3.1WA250-513424,8462.5 – 3.5WA320-516630,6003.0 – 4.2WA380-619138,7603.8 – 5.2Liebherr   L 524 2plus111722,8252.6L 528 2plus111723,7752.9L 542 2plus114328,7503.5L 550 2plus217736,4504.2New Holland   W11011022,9152.0W13013625,7252.56W170B18330,7073.0 – 3.5Terex   TXL 200-214325,6732.5TXL 250-217030,8653.25Volvo   L60F15424,2502.2+L70F16828,0002.6+L90F17233,0703.0+