Up-and-coming skid steer attachments

Upcoming Implements Make Loaders Even More Versatile

It’s no secret that skid steers and compact track loaders are extremely popular machines, and for good reason. The versatility of these little compact machines makes them useful in a wide variety of applications, from landscaping to demolition to recycling and just about everything in between. There’s almost no limit to a skid steer’s usefulness, thanks to the wide range of attachments available today. In fact, skid steer and compact track loader manufacturer JCB, for instance, offers more than 30 different attachments for its machines.

“Say I’m wanting to get into the landscape contracting business,” says George Chaney, JCB’s international sales manager for skid steers and compact track loaders. “I can buy one of these machines and a few attachments — trenchers, forks, an auger — and I’m ready to roll. I can use the trencher to install irrigation systems, the auger to put in fences and so on.”

Chaney says that those particular attachments are probably the most popular ones that JCB currently offers. Other popular attachments include all types of buckets (general purpose, multipurpose, landscape and light material), as well as pallet forks, manure forks, landscape rakes and brooms. Other, more specialized attachments, like stump grinders or hydraulic breakers, are more typically purchased by rental dealers because they’re not used as frequently. Contractors and other skid steer owners can rent them as needed rather than making an additional investment. When it comes to newer, more unusual attachments, the mulcher head attachment is making a splash in arborist, landscape and forestry circles.

“The mulcher head goes on the front of the machine, and it mulches up undergrowth and underbrush for land-clearing purposes,” Chaney explains. “This attachment has become more and more popular as the housing market has rebounded. Real estate developers have land that they’re trying to market, and they can get a better price if it’s cleared first.”

The mulcher head also assists utility and roadside maintenance crews in the Mid-Atlantic states that tend to experience ice storms more frequently during the winter months. These crews use the mulcher head attachment with their skid steers to keep overhanging trees and undergrowth from interfering with power lines and blocking utility easements. Another less common attachment is a polisher used to smooth granite. Chaney ran into one of these contraptions in northern Georgia.

“It’s a big attachment with multiple rotating heads and a vacuum device that sucks up the dust created as the rock is smoothed,” he says. “Interestingly, the guy using it said they needed to use the attachment with a JCB skid steer due to its single-arm boom and the need for an enclosed cab due to the dusty conditions. To secure the polisher, they had to raise the boom, and with a dual-arm skid steer, that means you can’t open the door to get out. By using our machine, they could safely enter and exit the machine while the polisher was attached.”

In some areas, spring floods can cause significant problems. Believe it or not, there’s a skid steer attachment that can even help out in that situation. Chaney was approached by an entrepreneur at a trade show who has developed a sand-bag-making attachment. “There are multiple holes in the attachment, which is attached over the machine’s bucket,” Chaney explains. “A separate device inserts individual bags into each hole and secures them with drawstrings. The operator then simply drives up the skid steer and digs into the pile of sand to fill the bags. It’s a device that helps people make sandbags 10 times faster than doing it by hand.”

What skid steer attachment trends can we expect in the future? Considering the type of unique, niche attachments already available, there’s no telling where the market could go. Chaney does emphasize that no matter which attachment a person chooses, it’s imperative to make sure the machine connected has the right weight, lift geometry, hydraulic flow and lift capacity to use it effectively.

Lynette Von Minden is senior public relations counsel for Swanson Russell, based in Lincoln, Neb.

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