Big Power, Compact Package: Ready to Buy a Compact Tool Carrier? You’re in the Right Place

Ditch Witch SK3000 tool carrier

Whether you’re an ambitious DIYer, busy landscaper or hard-working construction crew, a compact tool carrier can offer big power to your operation in a small package. Once a heavy rental favorite, compact tool carriers — a.k.a. stand-on skid steers, compact utility loaders or mini skid steers (depending on the manufacturer) — are gaining the attention of buyers thanks to their versatility and productivity.

“Compact tool carriers, or what we at Ditch Witch call stand-on skid steers, are some of the most versatile machines on the market,” says compact equipment product manager Brant Kukuk. “With their compact design, high level of visibility and growing power levels, stand-on skid steers can be used for traditional construction jobs but also irrigation installation, landscaping, tree care and even nursery tasks. And, with many contractors running smaller crews due to the workforce shortage, the hop-on/hop-off trait of a stand-on machine is ideal because it helps machine operators easily jump in on manual tasks. A stand-on skid steer is a good investment for any contractor that is looking for accessible and versatile power on their jobsite.”

The search for a new compact tool carrier begins with two important criteria: Working with a reputable dealer and providing them with as much info about the expected applications and jobsites the machine will be operating. Kukuk explains that equipment dealers are not only experts in their products, but they have years of experience working in the local area. The more detailed info you provide will allow the dealer to spec out the right unit.

“That experience gives them insights into the typical jobsite specifications, local regulations and what to expect when working in the area,” he says. “Taking advantage of that knowledge can give you the best ROI on a stand-on skid steer purchase.”

It’s Electric! Heading Indoors? Consider the Toro e-Dingo 500

Toro eDingo 500 tool carrier

Toro’s e-Dingo 500 allows end-users to realize all the benefits and power of a standard compact utility loader with no fuel costs and zero exhaust emissions. Ideal for indoor construction jobs that require fast completion times and reduced overall costs, the e-Dingo is available through Toro’s extensive network of trusted dealers and rental partners. It’s powered by lithium-ion battery technology designed for tasks that require heavy or continuous operation for indoor applications. The maximum operating capacity of 515 lbs reduces labor and hauling time. The e-Dingo allows operators to utilize several power modes to conserve energy. The Auto Idle feature automatically conserves energy by powering off the motor after it’s been idle for a certain amount of time. The machine also shifts to low idle after five seconds of non-use and shuts off when not in use for over 30 seconds. The operator can then instantly restart the machine by simply double-tapping the traction control lever.

With models from many manufacturers such as Ditch Witch, Vermeer, Toro and Bobcat — plus newbies like Kubota and Wacker Neuson (see the sidebar) — renting a unit can help in the decision-making process.

“We suggest that contractors either rent a unit or ask the dealer for a demo of one, before investing in a mini skid steer loader,” says Trevor Koolmees, environmental equipment sales manager at Vermeer. “While many models look similar in photos and on spec sheets, a closer inspection of the manufacturer’s attention for product quality and the overall operator experience is essential. Taking some time to try the machine before you buy it is critical to being happy with your investment long term.”

Aside from price, contractors should consider product support after the sale which includes ongoing service, parts and support from a robust dealer network and quality manufacturer. Warranties are also important. For example, Vermeer mini skid steer loaders come with a 3-year/3,000-hour limited warranty on the loader’s arms. Koolmees points out there is the option of adding the Vermeer Confidence Plus asset protection program anytime within the standard one-year warranty period. This allows contractors to finance their maintenance expenses upfront.

Speaking of maintenance, Kukuk says to ask your dealer about a machine’s required downtime during the purchasing process. With contractors working on such tight deadlines, it’s especially important to find a machine with durability and minimal daily maintenance to maximize uptime.

After finding the right dealer, it’s time to consider the site and task at hand to make sure you pair the right machine with the right application. Kyle Cartwright, marketing manager for Toro, offers some questions to answer when finding the right compact tool carrier.

  • Is the space tight or are there hard-to-reach places that create a need for maximum maneuverability through features like true spin-turn or four-wheel drive?
  • Are tracks or wheels needed?
  • Is there a need for zero engine exhaust emissions?
  • Would a ride-on or walk-behind configuration be a better solution?
  • What operating capacity and lift height is required?

Cartwright emphasizes the importance of having enough power to carry out your work. Luckily, CTCs have evolved over the years to become even more powerful while maintaining their compact footprint.

“Up until recently, CTCs were considered a rental-heavy option for weekend warriors looking to revamp their backyard or for use in niche applications like tree care or utility work. This was in part because they simply couldn’t deliver the power that skid steers or compact track loaders could,” he says. “Now that CTC technology and performance has caught up with their bigger cousins. Contractors are understanding that investing in a CTC does not necessarily mean sacrificing power or performance.”

New Skid on the Block: Wacker Neuson Enters the Compact Tool Carrier Market

Wacker Neuson SM100 tool carrier

Big news for the CTC market: Wacker Neuson is here with its SM100 utility track loader. The versatile, stand-on SM100 is the perfect fit for landscaping projects, light site work, grading and more. The standard 9-in. wide tracks provide low ground pressure, reducing turf disturbance and repair work and the overall machine width of 35.5 in. fits through doorways, gates and other tight spaces. Wacker Neuson’s SM100 is powered by a 24.7-hp Yanmar turbocharged diesel engine. It offers a 1,000-lb rated operating capacity at 35 percent with a tipping load of 2,857 lbs. The optimized radial-lift path provides vertical-lift performance with a hinge pin height of 85.7 in. for dumping into high-sided trucks and has the reach for loading into truck beds. The durable undercarriage with triple flanged rollers reduces wear and de-tracking, maintenance and total cost of ownership.

Going Big

Despite the small size of these machines being one of their best features, compact tool carriers are getting larger to tackle even more jobs. Today’s operators are requiring more power and higher lift capacities but still want the size, visibility and simple accessibility of a CTC.

“Over the past several years, the performance capabilities within this category of tool carriers have expanded with much of the focus on lift capacities,” says Koolmees. “The mini skid steer category has gravitated to larger-sized units to accommodate heavier loads, which may not be suitable for every jobsite and application. So, contractors need to determine the appropriately sized unit to maximize productivity.”

The larger compact tool carriers in the market are finding their potential in residential construction, landscape and tree care jobs. These bigger machines are especially useful for those crews working with less people as many contractors are struggling with labor shortages while the demand for work is booming.

“This need for efficiency has led many contractors to look for more power in their machines,” says Kukuk. “More power means machines can carry more per load and potentially cut down on time per jobsite. For example, the Ditch Witch SK3000 was released in 2020 with a rated operating capacity of 3,100 lbs and a tipping capacity of 8,863 lbs. With these more powerful machines on the market, contractors are also increasingly using stand-on machines for jobs usually reserved for traditional cabbed skid steers.”

In addition to Ditch Witch’s SK3000, other larger models on the market include the CTX160 from Vermeer and the Toro Dingo TXL 2000. Vermeer’s CTX160 was introduced in late 2019 and features a vertical-lift path design, an operating capacity of 1,600 lbs and a hinge-pin dump height of 88.75 in. The unit is powered by a 40-hp turbocharged Kohler KDI diesel engine that does not require a diesel particulate filter (DPF). The Toro Dingo TXL 2000 is the company’s largest model and was released in 2018. It is available with both non-telescoping arm and telescoping arm configurations. The telescoping arm configuration allows the operator to reach over obstacles, dig below grade and extend the hinge pin height to 123 in.

Vermeer CTX160 tool carrier

Vermeer’s CTX160 was introduced in late 2019 and features a vertical-lift path design, an operating capacity of 1,600 lbs and a hinge-pin dump height of 88.75 in.

Remember the Attachments

When making that initial machine purchase, it’s important to consider what attachments you’ll need on the job, as well as the hydraulic flow the unit will need for those tools. Some attachments require more flow — like augers and trenchers — so be sure to check the gpm and psi on a machine prior to purchase.

The most popular attachments for compact tool carriers tend to be the traditional ones, such as buckets, forks and grapples. Koolmees says that beyond that, attachment needs vary by the type of work being performed. Vermeer offers 20+ authorized attachments for its mini skid steer lineup.

“Tree care contractors will typically invest in a log grapple and/or a grapple bucket to move material around,” he says. “Landscape contractors tend to add more ground-engaging attachments like a Harley rake or a soil cultivator, as well as digging attachments like an auger or a vibratory plow.”

Toro offers more than 35 attachments for its Dingo product line with everything from multiple styles of buckets to forks, trenchers and more. Two noteworthy tools include a power box rake and a cement bowl.

Get to Know the Kubota SCL1000 Stand-On Compact Track Loader

Kubota SCL1000 tool carrier

Kubota Tractor Corp. entered the stand-on track loader market in March 2020 with its highly anticipated SCL1000. The stand-on track loader features a wide 9.8-in. track that comes standard on the overall narrow 36-in. machine. The integrated track design is engineered for durability with the undercarriage welded to the mainframe of the body. Kubota’s SCL1000 boasts a powerful 24.8-hp turbocharged Kubota diesel engine with quiet operation, high altitude performance and no diesel particulate filter requirement. The loader arms reach high and far with a hinge pin height of 84.7 in. and a reach of 25.9 in. at a 45-degree dump angle. The SCL1000 has a best-in-class travel speed of 4.9 mph.

“The Toro power box rake is the perfect tool for seed bed and sod bed preparation,” says Cartwright. “The rotary drum on the power box rake pulverizes rough soil, cuts high spots and fills low spots in one pass while removing rocks and debris. Pure carbide teeth design produces the best possible seeded sub-soil, which promotes superior moisture retention and rapid seed growth.”

Toro’s cement bowl is a unique attachment that can mix and pour up to 200 lbs of dry cement. It boasts a specially designed auger flighting inside to keep the cement in the bowl during mixing. The auger design allows operators to pour cement into fence post holes with the posts in place.

Kukuk notes that microtrencher attachments are gaining popularity thanks to stand-on skid steers being used more and more in fiber installation work — a job typically reserved for larger types of compact equipment.

“The typical rule of thumb is that you should have three industry-specific attachments to succeed in a particular industry,” he says. “For example, if you’re buying a stand-on skid steer for fiber underground road work, you should invest in microtrenching attachments, coring attachments and vacuum lifting attachments in addition to the standard buckets and forks.”

Pam Kleineke is managing editor of Compact Equipment.

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