Little Buggies, Big Advantages

The act of hauling seems like a pretty basic application. It’s just moving large quantities of a material from one place to another. And in the construction industry, you can choose from all types of equipment for your hauling needs — skid steers, backhoe loaders, wheel loaders, telehandlers and even compact utility loaders. But when it comes to maneuvering through tiny spaces, your options soon dwindle. That’s when you often see a power buggy. It looks like a motorized wheelbarrow, carrying a worker and a bucket full of concrete, mulch, scrap or soil.

These are compact carriers that offer plenty of pros over bigger loader units.

“The power buggy offers a variety of advantages over skid steers, compact utility loaders or compact tractors,” says John Gibbons, product manager at Terex Light Construction. “They’re easier to learn to operate, they have lower acquisition costs, lower maintenance costs, run on standard gasoline and can get into small areas such as standard 36-inch doorways.”

Power buggies can carry a variety of materials, but most are still widely used for transporting and pouring concrete. But other industries are also discovering the value of these vehicles. Those involved in construction debris removal, landscaping, agricultural operations, cemetery work and grounds maintenance have all found new uses for power buggies.

“Power buggies are used primarily by concrete contractors for pouring concrete, transporting jobsite materials and tools and for removing debris,” says Michael Saad, commercial marketing manager for Ingersoll-Rand.

“Power buggies, when used for pouring concrete, are commonly used in the construction of driveways, sidewalks and patios and in areas where pumping and trucks cannot access. Landscape contractors enjoy the benefits of power buggies in hauling soil, gravel, sod and trees, for example.”

Buggy Basics

When compared to other pieces of equipment used on jobsites, power buggies are rather simple machines. Power buggies don’t have gearboxes, transmissions, drive shafts, chains, U-joints or clutches to break down or wear out. It’s basically a rigid steel frame with front-wheel hydraulic drives. You can choose a steel or poly bucket for delivering the payload and pick a walk-behind or stand-on configuration. Prices can range from $6,500 to $12,000.

Today’s power buggies are classified by their bucket size, which is measured in cubic feet. The general range for bucket size is 10 to 21 cu ft, with 16 cu ft being the industry average; these units can carry about 2,500 lbs of cargo. Buggies are also categorized by their bells and whistles.

“Buggies are segmented by bucket size, payload capacity, transmission type [hydrostatic or gear-type], 2- or 4-wheel drive and recoil or electric start,” says Saad.

Though not an official way to categorize buggies, there is another method of classification that manufacturers use — the bucket material type. While early power buggies were only available with steel buckets, today’s buyers can choose from a selection of steel, polyethylene or polymer buckets. It’s an array that makes power buggies more versatile, and therefore more applicable for use in a variety of industries.

“Steel is still used in buggy applications. It is usually found in landscaping or debris removal applications, since it would be harder to puncture a steel bucket versus a poly bucket,” says Gibbons. “The poly bucket is typically used in concrete applications due to the ease of cleanup of the bucket vs. the difficulty of cleaning concrete off steel.”

The vast majority of contractors use polyethylene buckets, which is preferred due to its easy cleaning capability and its ability to resist rust and dents. According to the manufacturers CE spoke with, few steel buckets are sold except for special requirements such as transporting hot asphalt. Along with the popularity of polyethylene buckets, power buggies are also preferred with wheels —

as opposed to tracks.

“Wheels are by far the most common application on power buggies; however, there are some manufacturers offering tracks. The advantage of wheels over tracks is that they are easier to maintain, can come in flotation or foam-filled, don’t tear up the jobsite as much and are smoother to drive and easier to steer,” says Gibbons.  

Buying Buggies

As with any piece of equipment, a power buggy is a substantial investment. So before purchasing one, buyers should always consider the basics: what will you be

hauling; what is the application; what is the jobsite; what is the price; what is the cost of ownership? You will definitely want to try before you buy.

“I would recommend a potential buyer rent a power buggy and try it out before purchasing,” says Brian Wilcox, engineering manager at Crown Construction equipment.

“The bucket size and payload capacity should be of foremost importance, followed closely by the bucket material. However, you should also engage the dealer in a discussion of the features that most closely match the benefits you seek,” says Saad. “Not all power buggies are equal in quality and value, and there is much more to buying a power buggy than capacity. If you value superior maneuverability and braking control while simultaneously driving and pouring, and excellent durability and serviceability, then you should choose the appropriate brand of power buggy based on these factors rather than price alone.”

Obviously, quality is important to the purchasing formula. Unfortunately, a lot of power buggies look the same and come with same basic features, so how do you tell quality? Well, take a closer look. Buyers should look for a rigid, robust frame. The machine should be able to move with a load while operating in forward or reverse. The operator should have the ability to operate all of the features on the machine without releasing the steering handles. And you should have the ability to lift the unit from the sides. Good manufacturers incorporate forklift pockets into their buggy designs. Located on the bottom of the buggy, these metal devices plug into a holder, allowing an operator to lock the buggy onto the forks and lift it onto a truck.

Maintenance is also an important consideration. As these machines work in harsh environments, the ease or difficulty of performing repairs is a big issue.

“Because power buggies are used in rugged conditions, they will require proper maintenance to stay in top working condition. Ease of maintenance and service should therefore be a factor in purchase decisions,” says Saad.

There is a wide variety of other features that can help improve a power buggy’s performance — tub splash protection, dumping reach, ground clearance, hydrostatic drive and easily accessible controls are a few examples. But above all, the general sturdiness of the unit is the most important factor to consider.

“Again, the most important feature in any power buggy is a rigid and very robust frame. Everything else on the buggy relies on the structural integrity of the frame,” says Gibbons. “If it breaks, the unit is useless. After that, look for features that make it easy to operate.”

Lastly, buyers should be prepared to ask their dealers plenty of questions in order to determine which machine is right for them.

“Explain your application and the way you intend to use the power buggy. Ask the dealer to suggest the appropriate power buggy for your application,” says Saad.

Buggy Breakdown

Every manufacturer wants to offer you the best power buggy. They all tout unique features, well-built designs, easy operation and a great price. So how do you cut through the marketing clutter? Well, you take each manufacturer and break down its product line. You lay out their models before you and you choose one. To help

you sift through the spin, CE tracked down what makes each competitor in the power buggy industry unique and interesting.

Crown Construction Equipment

Crown started producing power buggies in 2000 and currently offers a 16-cu ft model that is available with either a poly or steel bucket. The machine can be used for pouring concrete (poly bucket) demolition and/or work with asphalt (steel bucket). One of Crown’s most popular markets is rental yards with companies such as Hertz, United Rentals and RSC Equipment Rental.

Crown buggies offer several features for both convenience and safety.

“Crown offers a handlebar-mounted emergency stop switch and fully enclosed drum brakes,” says Wilcox. According to Crown, the company’s enclosed brakes

are as reliable as automotive brakes; shielding the brake mechanism from concrete and dirt helps to prevent failures. The buggy’s steel frame keeps the front wheels on the ground even when climbing inclines with an empty bucket. The bucket’s minimum dump height of 6 in. helps ensure that the operator does not

accidentally damage a form when backing up with the bucket down.

Another unique feature for the Crown buggy is a provision for “free wheeling.”

“This is usually in the form or a knob or valve that you turn on the pump that allows the unit to be moved around if you happen to run out of gas,” says Wilcox. “The Crown buggy has this feature, in a handy, well-labeled fashion.”

Ingersoll-Rand

Ingersoll-Rand’s power buggy is a relatively new addition to the industry. The 16-cu ft model, introduced in 2003, is available with a polymer or steel bucket, as well as other options like recoil and electric start.

“Ingersoll-Rand’s power buggies offer customers the sturdiest bucket, the best UV rating, a 20 percent greater dumping angle and a unique bucket design that minimizes splashing,” says Saad.

Ingersoll-Rand touts that its brakes work better on steeper grades than any other competitive brand, even with a full bucket. Not to mention, two different cooling systems help prolong the life of the machine overall.

“Ingersoll-Rand offers an innovative cooling system that utilizes a large fan on the motor and a fully vented engine shroud to increase air flow,” says Saad. “In addition, there is an on-board hydraulic fluid cooler to lower temperature and prolong the life of the hydraulic components and the engine.”

Lastly, the Ingersoll-Rand bucket hinge design and increased discharge slope allows material to flow better while dumping, eliminating the need for manual operator assistance such as shoveling and scraping. Like the Crown buggy, the Ingersoll-Rand machines have a minimum discharge height of 6 in.

“This means the operator cannot accidentally pull the forms apart by backing away with the bucket down,” says Saad.

Multiquip

Multiquip’s place in the power buggy market dates back to the 1950s, when it was first made by the company’s Whiteman division. Today the company offers a 16-cu ft model that is available in both standard and all-wheel drive.

“In adverse soil conditions we offer our all-wheel drive version [of the buggy],” says Warren Faler, power buggy product manager for Multiquip. “This machine is unique to Multiquip.”

The machine’s tub — available exclusively in polyethylene — is heavy-duty and sports an 8 to 10 percent greater dumping reach and a 5 percent greater dumping angle than competitive models, according to Multiquip. The power buggy meets all ASME safety guidelines, including braking, parking brake, longitudinal stability and lateral stability requirements. Other features include hydraulic breaking and an engine shutdown switch.

Multiquip’s power buggies are available with two different engines, depending on the configuration of the machine. The company’s standard machine, the WBH-16, comes with an 11-hp Honda engine. The all-wheel drive variety (WBH16EAWD) comes with an 18-hp Briggs & Stratton engine.

Terex Light Construction

When Terex acquired Amida in 1999, it also acquired a line of screeds and power buggies to go along with it. Amida became known as Terex Light Construction, and the rest is history. Apparently, the move paid off in just a few short years.

“While 2003 grew slowly vs. 2004, we have seen tremendous growth in 2004, almost 50 percent,” says Gibbons. Although the company offers both 16- (PB16) and 21- (PB21) cu ft models, “the 16-cubic foot power buggy is by far the most popular size,” says Gibbons.

Both the PB16 and the PB21 models are built to maximize performance.

“We offer the lowest dump height and feathering of the load, both in forward and reverse. Both dump and brake foot pedals allow load and control while maintaining both hands on the steering handle. There are side and rear forklift pockets, a center lifting assembly to lift the unit onto delivery trucks or up into high rise applications and the industry’s largest and highest efficiency wheel motors that allow higher speeds and accurate braking,” says Gibbons.

Terex safety features include a stop release lever on the steering handle that stops the travel of the unit when let go, a hydraulic braking system and foot-assisted dump levers that allow the operator to dump and return the bucket and payload without letting go of the steering handle.

More Markets and Bigger Buggy Growth

As niche markets continue to change and expand, power buggies are expected to grow in popularity. Their ability to increase efficiency in a variety of industries and small jobsites makes them valuable additions to fleets. Each machine’s compact size combined with its superior hauling ability allows a power buggy to go just about anywhere and haul just about anything. With more and more contractors coming to learn of the distinct advantages of power buggies, expect to see them tackling new tasks on a jobsite near you soon.

Katherine Fulton is editorial assistant of Compact Equipment.

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