For more than 60 years, the skid steer has dominated on jobsites. However, the compact track loader (CTL) is edging its way into the equipment spotlight. In fact, sales for CTLs have surpassed skid steers three years in a row. Why, you ask? It all lies in their rubber tracks and the ability to navigate jobsites with extra flotation — especially in the wet weather months. The CTL’s dedicated undercarriage also plays a significant role.
“A dedicated undercarriage adds greater durability (great in dozing operations), while dispensing the weight of the entire machine through multiple track contact points for a lighter footprint,” says Tim Boulds, Kubota Construction Equipment product operations manager. “With improved durability, lower ground pressure and added flotation and traction, the advantages of CTLs are growing on all types of customers. This popularity is spurring manufacturers to add even more power and durability into their machines.
“Manufacturers have been making improvements on their undercarriages to extend the life of the machine,” Boulds continues. “An undercarriage that is integrated into the lower chassis, for example, is something Kubota engineered on our compact track loaders since their inception. New higher horsepower with higher lift capacity models have also been introduced into the market. Some of these displace small dozers and compact wheel loaders depending on the application.”
Although skid steers and CTLs boast similar characteristics, such as their ability to take on attachments and tackle a wide range of projects, both machines continue to find separation in specific applications. For example, track loaders tend to excel at grade control jobs because of their light footprint and high pushing power.
“Grading attachments and grade control automation systems are another hot application market for track loaders,” says Boulds. “Blades, box scrapers and landscape rakes can tackle soil preparation, restoration, leveling and even fine grading for projects.”
Speaking of attachments, whether an operator picks a skid steer or compact track loader, they are what help the machine reach its full potential. Today,heavy duty rotary cutters, advanced grading systems and hopper broom sweepers seem to be popular new categories for these tool carriers.
“The versatility of skid steers and compact track loaders continue to grow with hydraulic and non-hydraulic attachments,” explains Boulds. “At Kubota we’ve seen growth in attachments as task multipliers in our customers’ tool box. Tripling the number of Kubota-branded attachments available is ample evidence that we believe there is demand and that customers are investing more in hydraulic and non-hydraulic attachments for skid steers and compact track loaders, minimizing their need to purchase other dedicated equipment.”
When to Select a Skid Steer
While sales are shifting to favor CTLs, there are several applications where skid steers are better suited. Gains on specific markets for compact track loaders over skid steers have been in residential construction and agriculture. However, both of these markets still have a need for wheeled vehicles, since wheeled units are a better choice for hard or aggressive surfaces. Boulds offers a few more skid steer perks:
- Job surface. Harder and abrasive surfaces are not very rubber track friendly, therefore the rubber tire machine versus the rubber track machine is better suited for those conditions.
- Ground disturbance. Consider the application where ground disturbance may be important. Nurseries and golf courses, for example, lend themselves to rubber tracks where the lower ground pressure would cause less ground disturbance. On the other hand, highway roads and bridges where road speed and the use of grinding attachments are essential, it is the wheel machine that should be considered first.
- Cost and Cleanup. It is important to understand that track units are more expensive, albeit that gap is lower than it used to be. Contractors should also expect that maintaining a CTL takes a little more time and effort than a wheeled unit with proper daily cleaning of the undercarriage.
Picking a Machine
Whether you’re in the market for a CTL or skid steer, Kubota has you covered. The company entered the skid steer market in 2015 and has quickly become a core manufacturer in the category. Kubota’s two models — the SSV65 and the SSV75 — offer operators both maneuverability and power in tight spaces. With standard two-speed travel and optional high-flow hydraulics, Kubota’s skid steers will meet the needs of construction, rental and agriculture customers.
“The rated operating capacity is 1,950 lbs and 2,690 lbs, respectively, for the SSV65 and SSV75,” says Boulds. “Both models feature a unique, slide-up, front-entry door that rises overhead, a side light for better visibility and safe night operation, and a spacious cabin with climate control. Multi function control grips are standard on our high flow units while an optional upgrade for standard flow units, allowing for fingertip control of major machine and attachment functions.”
Kubota’s newest CTL introduction, the SVL75-2 with High Flow, is part of its SVL series which includes the SVL75-2, and the SVL95-2s. The SVL75-2 with High Flow offers increased hydraulic horsepower, expanding the capabilities for a wide variety of attachments on the jobsite. Boasting a 74.3-gross-hp, four-cylinder, direct injection, turbo-charged Kubota diesel engine, equipped with Common Rail Fuel Injection and a Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) system, the new SVL75-2 with High Flow meets Tier 4 emissions standards while providing plenty of power for the most demanding of jobs.
Learn more here.
Tim Boulds is a product operations manager for Kubota Construction Equipment.