The skid steer is a uniquely American machine, and its sales numbers are a good barometer for the health of the U.S. construction equipment industry. The skid steer is a multifaceted attachment-taker born out of the Midwest farming industry in the 1950s. Today, it’s the benchmark for the compact hydraulic tool carrier category of equipment, migrating into an abundance of applications with its ability to run hundreds of attachments off its high-pressure hydraulic power system.
Today’s skid steers are going where no tool carriers have gone before — in comfort, ruggedness and versatility. Anyone who has operated a skid steer within the past 15 years should be familiar with the universal quick-attach system. You simply scoop the top of the attachment frame under the attachment’s top flange, curl the bucket up to pick up the attachment and flip the pins to secure the attachment to the machine. To power the latest and greatest attachments, the skid steer’s hydraulic system needs to provide an ample amount of hydraulic oil flow and pressure. High-flow hydraulic systems originated in the 1980s to power larger niche attachments and today are an option on nearly every skid steer. Spanning flow ranges from 16 to 40 gpm, the hydraulic system pulls hydraulic fluid from a reservoir, using fluid under pressure to power the attachment.
Horsepower, operator usability and comfort have been priority upgrades for all of these manufacturers over the past several years (along with Tier 4 engines). Skid steers also boast more creature comforts and automation features. In the cab, pressurized cabins, adjustable seats, backup cameras and ergonomic controls make operators feel like they are in the driver’s seat of their own cars. Routine tasks such as boom settings and wheel speeds can be automated with electro-hydraulic (EH) joysticks. Choices abound in style, brand, size and power, but the most important choice might be a vertical or radial lift machine. After all, matching the machine to your tasks is the path to a wise investment. For forklift-type and loading applications, the vertical lift does a great job, but heavier digging and attachment applications tend to be better suited for radial lift.
Today, the 1,750- to 2,200-lb rated load capacity is the most popular size category, which generally runs in the price range of $33,000 to $35,000. To learn more about the expansive skid steer industry, just read on.