In landscaping, the projects completed daily are exceedingly diverse. The equipment used to carry out the projects is equally as varied. Choosing between a skid steer, mini skid steer, compact track loader, compact wheel loader or articulated tractor can be especially difficult due to the similarity of their capabilities.
Each is designed to assist landscapers in moving material on the jobsite as well as power attachments available for several specialized uses. In making the right decision, landscapers should carefully consider what specifically the equipment will be used for—and where.
MINDING THE TERRAIN
Many times the bulk of a landscaper's work will be done on properties with existing turf. In this case a compact track loader or articulated tractor may be the best choice. The tracks on the compact track loader evenly distribute their weight to the ground, so as not to dig into the turf. An articulated tractor sits on wheels that move with the terrain, adjusting the pressure of their weight.
"One of the main advantages of an articulated machine is that it will not damage the turf no matter how heavy the machine is," says Kristie Asbury of Power Trac. "The wheels on an articulated machine always roll; they never scoot or tear into the soil like some skid steers might."
When working on a property with existing turf, maintaining its condition can save money and time. If the lawn surface is damaged by equipment, more resources will be spent repairing the jobsite upon project completion.
If the work being done is new landscape installation, as opposed to enhancement, minding the ground condition may not be as important. With installation, priorities often lie elsewhere and the skid steer may be the most appropriate option. It can handle the heavy hauling required with most installations, while the somewhat damaging effects of the weight distribution will not matter to the ground's surface during early stages of installation.
If the user is looking for something that carries the characteristics of both the compact track loader and skid steer, they may want to turn to an all-wheel steer loader, like that offered by Bobcat. "The machine can be switched from an all-wheel steer mode, which offers minimized ground disturbance, to skid-steer mode, which offers an increase in maneuverability," explains Bryan Zent, segmentation application marketing manager for Bobcat.
Beyond the kind of work being done, the location where it is being operated is also important when choosing the right piece of equipment. If the majority of work is in a residential setting, a more compact equipment choice may be ideal. For a small space like a residential yard, the ideal piece of equipment will perform a lot of duties while taking up very little space.
"The skid steer offers the most maneuverability on the jobsite because it can turn within its own radius," explains Gregg Zupancic of John Deere. A compact wheel loader or compact track loader may also be a good option for versatility in tight spaces because of their small size.
Stand-on or walk-behind loaders can offer even more maneuverability in tight spaces, but don't offer the comfort of a seat for the operator. This may be favorable for some users. "A walk-behind is more maneuverable than a ride-on, but of course the operator has to walk," shares Zent. "Being able to get on and off the ride-on platform saves time on jobs where the operator needs to frequently check on the work being done."
Once you are in that tight space, what will you do with the equipment? All of these equipment options offer varying amounts of attachments and systems for linking them to the machine. Determining early on which attachments will be used most frequently can aid in the decision-making process.
"Skid steers and compact track loaders generally have more hydraulic capacity to efficiently run an attachment vs. a wheel loader or a compact tractor, and they have more operating weight than a stand-on mini loader," explains Zupancic. "This enables them to run a wide variety of attachments in many sizes."