Skidsteer, wheeled and tracked loaders are increasingly used in commercial operations because of their versatility. Cabbed, ride-on, stand-on and even remote controlled power units are available. The latter have an advantage when working on banks, close to water and other situations where you would rather not send an operator for safety reasons.
Whereas the focus with the handheld tools largely originates from cutting and trimming, the main aspect of the skidsteer and loader machines is construction. But customers purchasing the power unit with a shovelling bucket are usually quick to appreciate the benefit of other attachments - rotary brushes, cultivation equipment, flail mowers, trenching kit and even tree spades.
The major players in the skidsteer and compact loader market include Bobcat (www.bobcat.eu), JCB (www.jcb.com), New Holland Construction (http://con struction.newholland.com), Finning UK (www.finning.co.uk), Marubeni Komatsu (www.mkl.co.uk), Avant Tecno (www.avanttecno.co.uk), Kanga Loaders (www.kangaloader.co.uk), schaeffer Loaders (www.schaeffer-loaders.co.uk) and Boxer mini-skids available in the UK from Greenmech Machinery (www.greenmech.co.uk).
Tracked machines tend to be preferred where traction is likely to be an issue. Wheeled machines are ideal where travel has to be addressed. Power will range from around 13hp to 100hp and should be chosen to reflect the work involved, site conditions and, importantly, the requirements of the attachments.
Coupling is particularly important if you use a lot of attachments. JCB has introduced a telescopic loader and offers customers the choice of a pin system of attachment or a back-plate mounting system that means this Loadall can be matched to equipment normally the reserve of skidsteers.
Two-wheeled or walking tractors can be as versatile as their four-wheeled brothers but are usually sold as part of a system that begins life either as a cultivator or as a cutterbar or scythe mower. Italy and the alpine countries provide the majority of manufacturers.
The big players include Goldini (UK supplier BSG Supplies - www.bsg-supplies.co.uk), SEP (Bunce - www.bunce.co.uk), Erreppi (Enginetech - www.enginetech.biz), Kombi, Volpino and Castoro (Riko - www.alpinetractors.com), Rapid (Rapid Tractors - www.rapidtractors.co.uk), Ferrari (Kilworth Machinery - www.kilworthmachinery.co.uk), BCS (Tracmaster - www.tracmaster.co. uk), Aebi (www.aebi.com), K-Line (Kersten - www.kersten-machines.com) and TurfTeq (Groundscare Products - www.groundscare-products.co.uk).
Opting to use multifunction kit has a number of advantages - notably that you spread the cost by purchasing the attachments as and when you need them. They also take up less space so they are easier to store and transport.
However, you have consider what you would do should the power unit fail. Spares and repairs must be readily available. For the same reason, it is essential that the equipment is kept secure and covered by insurance for speedy replacement in the event of theft.
- Sally Drury has reported for HW and its forerunner GC&HTJ for 27 years and has spent more than five years testing machinery for HW and What Kit? The advice in this helpline is independent.