Versatility and job diversification have become the main goal of many utility professionals looking to keep their businesses profitable. According to Jamie Wright, Product Manager for Terex Construction Americas, utility contractors’ go-to tools are the ones that will help them do their jobs more efficiently — speed and ease can translate into greater profitability. Because of this, many have come to rely heavily on the more compact equipment in their fleets, particularly compact track, skid steer and wheel loaders as these machines are designed for versatility and ease of use, to be able to do more with what they already have in their fleet.
Loaders are extremely valuable tools for utility contractors because of their ability to maneuver in tight places and to use a variety of attachments to increase their productivity on utility jobsites.
To increase jobsite efficiencies, utility contractors need to be able to best determine when it makes sense to use a tracked loader and when to utilize the abilities of a wheeled loader. Wright mentions that because these loaders can utilize the same attachments and perform in many of the same applications, the type of surface a utility crew will be working on significantly impacts the productivity and cycle times of the loader.
Wright says that applications in certain ground conditions, such as hard surfaces like concrete or rock, can be done at a reduced cost when using a skid steer loader. For instance, putting compact track loaders into a demolition application, such as breaking up concrete to access underground utilities under a sidewalk or driveway, could cost a customer up to 25 percent more per hour of usage over a skid steer loader, because of excessive track wear in this type of operating environment.
“It is generally acknowledged that skid steer loaders perform best on firmer ground conditions, such as rock, asphalt and concrete as well as in developed areas,” continues Wright. “Skid steer loaders are designed to travel quickly and to complete tight ‘spin’ turns in space-restricted areas.”
Compact track loaders are built to handle soft or sensitive ground conditions, such as those found in more undeveloped areas and on slopes. These loaders distribute the machine’s weight evenly over the length and width of the tracks, allowing them to “float” over challenging terrain.
And, says Wright, it’s time for contractors to graduate up to mid- or full-size loaders when their utility crews need the higher payload and larger bucket capacity. The wider and longer wheelbase of these larger loaders offers enhanced stability in all ground conditions, as well as a smooth ride for the operator over rough terrain.
Utility contractors have limitless utilization opportunities with these loaders — main applications are tasks related to loading, picking and carrying, back dragging or material-removal jobs.
For example, says Wright, “Compact loaders are also hard to beat for grading work during the site cleanup and restoration phase, as well as for working on and around existing landscapes throughout an installation or repair project, because of their low ground pressure. These loaders are also extremely stable on slopes or uneven ground, and they have excellent traction in many types of ground conditions. The narrow profile of the smaller machines also help utility crews gain access to tight, space-restricted jobsites, like fenced-in backyards.” And because these types of loaders are built to work in extreme temperatures, utility crews can work year-round.
Increasing Asset Utilization
Whether a utility contractor is using compact equipment, equipment management is the key to success. “Contractors are not only looking for a compact loader that can do as many tasks as possible, but also one that will last, increasing their return on investment and reducing the cost of ownership,” says Wright.
Wright advises contractors wanting to increase the utilization and productivity of their assets that it comes down to selecting the right piece of equipment. “As owners and operators are assessing their current and future equipment needs, they need to consider factors such as: scope of jobs that are ahead of them, new tasks that need to be performed, existing transport available to haul equipment, dealer proximity to jobsites, fuel economy of their fleet and the operational expense of existing equipment.”
Amber Reed is a Public Relations Specialist for Signature Style PR based in Huntersville, N.C.