A skid-steer loader, also known as a skidsteer or skid loader, is an engine-powered machine with a small rigid frame and lift arms used to attach a wide variety of components and labor-saving tools. They are usually four-wheel vehicles with the wheels locked in synchronization on each specific side. Since the wheels are locked in place, the machine turns by skidding, hence the name. They operate in a similar fashion to tracked vehicles, as the high ground friction produced by the skid steers can rip up fragile or soft road surfaces.
Like all heavy machinery, John Deere is one of the most popular manufacturer and distributor of skid-steer loaders. In North America, however, skid-steer loaders are often referred to as Bobcats because of the Bobcat brand. The Bobcat brand has been around for half a century, and offers more than a dozen skid-steer loader models, including the very popular M-series. They have some of the most comfortable cabins on the market, equipped with heat and air conditioning to help combat any weather conditions you might be working in.
The conventional bucket that the skid-steer loader offers can be easily replaced with many different attachments or specialized buckets. Some popular attachments include a wood chipper, cement mixer, wheel saw, snow blade, snow blower, trencher, tree spade, stump grinder, mower, auger, or backhoe. Skid-steer loaders can be used in the place of a large excavator, or it can be used to help flatten and smooth terrain. They are most effective for digging in a small area, because they can turn very easily, unlike other tractors. They are also used to help push material from one location to another, or carry material in its bucket and load it into a trailer or truck.
Safety Features & Guidelines
What makes Bobcat one of the most popular skid-steer companies is the fact that they provide numerous safety and training resources to their customers. They provide a safety brochure, a service safety training course, an operator training course, and a safety video. Like all tractors, it is important to follow the necessary safety procedures when operating a skid-steer loader. Make sure you are fully aware of any potential obstacles or hazards while driving, such as uneven terrain or large rocks or logs. These can be dangerous if you accidentally drive into them. Also be careful when operating on uneven surfaces, and make sure the terrain and weather are good enough to operate in.
Pros & Cons
Skid-steer loaders are extremely helpful for small excavation and landscaping projects, because they are easy to drive and can maneuver in tight areas. This is ideal for backyards or small construction sites where you might not have a lot of room to operate.
The rental price of a skid-steer loader depends on where you rent from and for how long you need the machine for, while a used one generally costs over $20,000 to buy. Skid-steer loaders aren’t ideal for larger projects, however, especially if you need to excavate a significant amount of dirt or soil. A large excavator is needed for those kinds of projects.