How to buy - Skid-steer loaders

The latest Skid-steer loader models offer improved performance, efficiency and operator comfort, says Sally Drury.

BobcatT320 skidsteer loader - image: HW
BobcatT320 skidsteer loader - image: HW

Q: What's new in skid-steer loaders?

A: A new generation of compact loaders from Bobcat can be matched to implements for work in grounds care, amenity maintenance, turf management, landscaping and forestry situations. Designed and built to offer performance, efficiency and operator comfort, the range includes the S650 and S630 skid-steer loaders.

The S650 is a vertical-lift path loader and has an operating weight of 3,777kg, rated operating capacity of 1,220kg and a tipping load of 2,400kg. The Premium Cab on this model is positioned forward to increase all-round visibility by 30 per cent.

Forward visibility is further enhanced by a 40 per cent larger door. Power comes from a Kubota V3307-DI-TE3 55.4kW stage IIIA diesel engine and traction has been improved by 15 to 20 per cent for greater pushing and digging power.

Powered by the same Kubota engine, the Bobcat S630 is a radial-lift skid-steer loader. Operating weight is 3,496kg, rated operating capacity 989kg and tipping load 1,978kg. It features the same forward position and improved visibility as the S650.

Q: Mini loaders are useful in confined space and especially for garden construction. What's the news in this category?

A: Earlier this year, Bobcat launched the MT55 mini tracked loader. It has an overall width of just 90cm and a length of 3.11m including bucket and standing platform.

Powered by a 17.5kW Kubota diesel engine, the MT55 has a rated operating capacity of 251kg, a tipping load of 719kg and a pushing force of 9386N. With arms fully raised, the height to hinge pin measurement is 1.8m. Dump height is 1.27m.

The MT55 has an all-hydrostatic transmission and track drive system, with forward speed recorded at 5.6kmph and reverse at 2.3kmph. There are more than 20 attachments available using the Bob-Tach mounting system.

Boxer Power & Equipment, sole UK importer of the Boxer mini skid-steer loader range, has moved to new premises in Tetbury, Gloucestershire.

Q: What other loaders have recently been introduced to the UK market?

A: The Tuchel Trac Quattro is supplied by AFT Trenchers of Sudbury, Suffolk, and is a four-wheel steer, multipurpose utility vehicle useful for accessing limited-space areas.

It is fitted with a 22hp Kubota engine, is just 90cm wide and has a low weight of around 1,000kg for work on sensitive sites and for ease of transport.

Q: Are there any new attachments useful for landscaping?

A: Yes. An improved and extended range of mixing buckets is now available for Bobcat compact loaders and the smallest T2250 telehandler. The buckets allow users to mix, transport and pour concrete and cement much more quickly than with a stand-alone mixer.

The buckets offer two types of discharge. Use the traditional method of tipping the bucket forward to empty the contents. Alternatively, the side discharge system can be used, with or without a tube, to allow the operator to place the required amount of mixed material exactly where it is needed.

The existing 250-litre Bobcat MB250SD mixing bucket has been improved and now comes as standard with a round top grate, a concrete bag cutter, a foldable side step and a strengthened auger designed to give a better balance of mix and improved discharge.

These features are also available on the 200-litre MB200SD mixing bucket - approved for use on Bobcat compact loaders from the S150 skid-steer upwards.

Another addition is the MB250SD mixing bucket with Quick-Tach to fit the Bobcat T2250 telehandler.

Q: Is there anything new to help garden centres and growers with loading and unloading deliveries?

A: Yes. JCB has introduced its smallest ever Loadall telescopic handler boasting a machine height of less than 2m. For the horticulture market, the new model is likely to appeal to commercial growers, garden centres and nurseries because it is able to perform on-site tasks that may previously have required several different machines.

The 515-40 is just 1.8m high, measures 2.97m in length and weighs less than 3.5 tonnes, making it suitable for working in and out of glasshouses, polytunnels and packing sheds. It can handle a 1,500kg payload at a 4m lift height and for added versatility can be specified with a compact Loadall or skid-steer Quickhitch to enable the use of a vast range of compatible attachments including pallet forks and buckets.

At its heart is a patented chassis design that gives the machine its low height. This offset, single-spine chassis means that the cab sits nearer the ground, not only reducing height but also making for easy access.

To cope with difficult ground conditions, the 515-40 has four-wheel drive while the four-wheel steering and hydrostatic transmission give it manoeuvrability in tight spaces. Power comes from a 50hp Deutz engine.

Q: Are there any loaders that do not run on diesel or petrol?

A: Yes. Mini-articulated loader manufacturer Avant Tecno, based in Thetford, Norfolk, has just introduced the first LPG-fuelled model to its range of machines.

The 525LPG is powered by a 17kW (23hp) Kubota three-cylinder, water-cooled engine fed from a gas bottle mounted horizontally above the engine at the rear of the machine. This opens up the possibilities of cleaner running in indoor applications.

Furthermore, being similar in size to the company's existing 520 - 2.42m long and 1.1m wide when equipped with standard wheels - the 525LPG is easy to transport. It features the same hydrostatic transmission and an ability to lift 1,350kg to a maximum height of 2.9m.

The hydraulic system on the new model is also similar to that of other Avant units, consisting of a pilot operated variable displacement pump for the drive circuit and a gear pump providing up to 37 litres/min to the auxiliary circuits. The fully hydrostatic, four-wheel drive machine is offered with a comprehensive specification, including self-levelling telescopic boom and a choice of cab and tyres.

Q: What do you think will be the main areas of development in future?

A: Manufacturers are always striving to make machines compact, powerful and fitted with more features to keep the operator comfortable. We should see equipment becoming ever more efficient and you can expect extended and improved ranges of attachments to increase machine versatility.

Earlier this year, JCB and Volvo Construction Equipment entered a framework agreement in which they will co-operate on the engineering and manufacture of skid-steer loaders and compact tracked loader products for distribution under their respective brands and through their respective global dealer networks.

New equipment is being launched in the USA this week. Volvo Construction will transition skid-steer models in its Pederneiras facility in Brazil.

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