Tracking Softly

March 1, 2000
Gx Bug Web

While steel is the predominant material for tracks, in certain settings a softer footprint can be obtained through the use of either rubber or polyurethane track pads.

Steel tracks have the ability to provide adequate traction for a piece of equipment but literally leave a significant impact on any surfaces that the machine operates on. “If someone is always working in dirt, they wouldn’t need to protect the surface,” says Barry Stoughton, president of BLS Enterprises in Elk Grove Village, IL. “If you have an application where you need to protect the surface of the area you’re working on, that’s the key to the use of polyurethane or rubber pads. If you’re working in an area of paved streets, on asphalt or concrete, or even on grass, the steel tracks could tear up the surface that you’re working on. With polyurethane-covered steel tracks, you can walk on the surface without damage.”

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While rubber pads have certain applications, they have a tendency to chunk out in rough environments, Stoughton observes. In contrast, polyurethane has a longer life, lasting two to three times longer than rubber pads. “The polyurethane pads wear like they’re being sanded down versus chunking out.” While polyurethane has a longer life expectancy, it is also significantly more expensive. Contractors evaluating their needs for a softer footprint might need to evaluate whether the additional cost of polyurethane is warranted or whether rubber may be acceptable. Not all job sites need the advantages of rubber or polyurethane pads, so a contractor should look at frequency of use as well.

Depending on the specific equipment needs, another option is specifying the use of rubber tracks instead of metal. Similar to a rubber band, these tracks provide comparable features to either rubber or polyurethane pads but have the distinctive disadvantage of requiring a complete replacement if the track is damaged. With pads, the individual pad can be replaced if damaged. Also, the rubber tracks limit the machine’s applicability at other job sites.

Contractors who might be working in a sensitive environment on an occasional basis can obtain temporary pads that provide the same kind of function that permanent pads achieve. “Where you have a temporary requirement, we have a clip-on pad available,” Stoughton says. The clip-on pads are particularly useful at job sites where the contract needs the advantage of the pad, but only on a temporary basis. According to Stoughton, the clip-on pad is easy to install or remove. “It’s got an L-shaped clip that you pull on one side, and then you attach the same kind of L-shaped clip on the other with a couple of bolts or a fastener.”