Equipment Focus: Loader Lowdown

Features - Products & Equipment

Choosing the correct wheel loader for a recycling job or facility goes beyond horsepower alone.

May 14, 2013
Amber Reed

Specifying a loader for maximum productivity isn’t as simple as choosing the loader with the most horsepower. With so many different sizes and options of loaders available, horsepower is only one consideration. Some of the decisions you’ll have to make when choosing a loader can include: Tires versus tracks, vertical versus radial lift, enclosed versus open cab, compact or mini versus midi- or full-size versions.

“These decisions are dependent on three factors,” says Jamie Wright, product manager, Terex Construction Americas, Southaven, Miss. “First, the type of work you are doing; second, what ground conditions you’ll encounter on the job; and third, the time of year you are operating.

“Loaders are not created equal,” continues Wright. “They come in all different sizes and styles, including a variety of skid steer, track loader and wheel loader models to choose from. To get the quickest cycle times and the best productivity, you need to match the loader to the jobsite conditions.”

According to Wright, choosing the right loader involves the three As: analyze, assess and appraise.

Analyze the Type of Work
The first question to answer when choosing a production loader: What type of work will it be doing? From site preparation to excavation work, from landscaping jobs to demolition projects, a loader is capable of doing it all.

To get outfitted with the right loader, Wright says you will need to analyze the specifications of the project: What type of material will you be moving? What is the density of that material? How much material needs to be moved? Are there any space restrictions on the jobsite?

The answers to these questions will help you determine the loader you need. “Selecting the right loader is based on the amount of material (measured in cubic yards) that needs to be moved per hour, the weight of the material and the area that the loader will operate in,” says Wright. “It is important that you know how the loader will get the material, how quickly the material needs to be moved and where the material needs to go.”

Horsepower and operating capacity of the loader are two important factors. Higher horsepower offers more dynamic force for pushing and production but also translates to a heavier machine. If there are weight restrictions on the project site, you may need to opt for a smaller horsepower unit.

And, says Wright, “Know the loader’s operating capacity, including tipping load and lift capacities, when spec’ing the unit for a job. You need to make sure the loader you choose can handle the materials you’ll be moving. The weight of the material and how quickly it needs to be moved will also influence the size of the bucket you need—the bigger the bucket, the bigger the loader.”

Also, Wright says, “Spec’ing a loader with higher travel speeds can increase productivity: The more miles per hour it can travel, the quicker the cycle times you can achieve. Boom speeds, how fast the boom goes up and down, also influence cycle times. Boom speeds will tell you how fast the loader can load and unload the material.”

Boom design also influences productivity. Loaders engineered with a radial lift path, meaning the loader arms raise in an arc pattern, are better suited for digging applications. Vertical path loaders excel at loading applications because the boom stays the same distance from the loader through the entire lift.

Size does matter when choosing a loader. If you will be working in space-restricted areas, you will need to consider a small machine, such as a skid steer loader or compact track loader. If the operating area is more open, a larger wheeled or track loader is an option.

Assess the Ground Conditions

Once you know what the loader will be doing, it’s important to assess the site conditions where the loader will be working.

“Because skid steer, compact track and many larger loaders use the same attachments (buckets, dozer blades, mulchers, augers, trenchers, levelers, box rakes, snow blowers, etc.) and perform in the same applications (construction, landscaping, rental, forestry and agricultural), the type of surface you will be working on significantly impacts the productivity and cycle times of the loader,” says Wright. “When working in soft underfoot conditions, a loader with tracks will be more effective. When working on harder surfaces, a wheeled loader is better suited.”

“It is generally acknowledged that skid steer loaders perform best on firmer ground conditions, such as rock, asphalt and concrete as well as in developed areas,” says Wright. “Skid steer loaders are designed to travel quickly and to complete tight ‘spin’ turns in space-restricted areas.”

Compact track loaders are built to handle wet, soft, snowy, sensitive and muddy ground conditions, such as those found in more undeveloped areas, and on slopes. These loaders distribute the machine’s weight evenly over the length and width of the tracks, allowing them to “float” over uneven terrain. This flotation results in lower ground pressure, more traction and better performance on sloppy surfaces.

“Tracks can make all the difference,” says Wright. “Terex is the only compact track loader manufacturer to offer three different track options to customers. These include general purpose tracks that provide excellent traction in most conditions; the smooth turf track provides ultimate care and protection on sensitive surfaces, like turf or finished landscaping; and the extreme terrain tracks, with aggressive track treads and 10 percent more width, give additional gripping action for use in dirt, snow, mud or other extreme conditions.”

According to Wright, you know it’s time to graduate up to a midi- or full-size wheel loader or track loader when you need the higher payload and larger bucket capacity. The wider and longer wheelbase of these larger loaders offers enhanced stability in all ground conditions, as well as a smooth ride for the operator over rough terrain.

Time of Year
Weather is an important consideration when spec’ing a loader. It not only affects the cycle times of your loader, but it also influences the productivity of your operators.

“For the loader, the weather impacts whether you will be more productive with tires or with tracks,” says Wright. “During rainy months, when the wet conditions cause muddy and sloppy ground conditions, a track loader is the better option. In the drier summer months, the choice of tires versus tracks is more determined by the application.

“Loaders are built to work in extreme temperatures,” continues Wright, “so they can remain productive to keep sidewalks, driveways, cul-de-sacs and parking lots cleared. Track loaders perform well in snowy conditions, but loaders with wheels can be quite effective on paved surfaces.”

If you are using your loader throughout the year, you may want to consider optional over-the-tire track attachments to get the maximum versatility with your wheeled unit. Terex gives you the option to choose between tracks or tires at the time you put a machine to work. Over-the-tire tracks are used in a variety of applications, such as general construction, landscaping, land clearing, side hill work and agricultural, and these attachments are best suited for applications in mud, sand, dirt and clay—anywhere you require traction and flotation. With that flexibility, you can take on jobs that you normally wouldn’t with your current skid steer.

“Over-the-tire track attachments not only give you the increased traction and flotation necessary to maneuver in different soil and working conditions,” says Wright, “but, these attachments also add some ground points of contact, increasing stability and bettering the ride.”

Terex offers the F and Z Series over-the-tire track solutions, says Wright. The F-Series steel pad track offers both traction and flotation to cover the widest range of applications and materials in the construction industry. The Z-Series steel bar tracks are designed for traction and aggressive terrain.

With the Terex Versatile Track System (VTS), skid steer operators have the ability to run a loader with tires or as a full rubber track undercarriage system with suspension. The VTS is extremely stable when digging and backing out of trenches, as well as when hauling and dumping heavy loads, according to the company.

A final consideration to get the most productivity out of your loader: Make sure your unit is properly equipped for the operator’s comfort during the long hours on the job. The more comfortable your operator is, the more productive your operator will be, says Wright.

Options like an enclosed cab and heat keep the operator comfortable and productive during long hours in winter applications, and air conditioning is appreciated while operating during the summer months. When working in dusty conditions, like on land-clearing projects, a sealed and pressurized cab is a must. A suspension seat makes all the difference in reducing operator discomfort and fatigue. The set-up of the machine’s operating controls, the noise level inside the loader’s cab and the visibility out the cab’s windows also contribute to a more comfortable and, therefore, productive, operator.

“It is important that whatever loader you are considering that you test it in actual working conditions,” according to Wright. “Matching the loader’s design and capabilities to the application is vital to productivity: analyze, assess and appraise.”


The article was submitted by Signature Style PR, Coppell, Texas, on behalf of Terex Construction Americas, Southaven, Miss.