About three years ago, Steve Myers of Myers Excavating in Bridgeman, MI, replaced his 54-hp skid-steer loader (1,400-lb. rated operating capacity) with a compact track loader. For more than 20 years, he had used skid-steer loaders on projects ranging from basement and septic systems to water- and sewer-line repairs and small commercial jobs. Often work sites included sand dunes and beaches along the shore of Lake Michigan. Even steel tracks, however, which fit over the tires of the skid-steer loader, couldn’t keep the machine from bogging down in the soft conditions.
“The steel tracks worked well in clay, but there was no flotation on sand,” Myers recalls. “As long as the skid-steer loader was on level sand, the tracks worked. But on any kind of incline, the loader would spin itself down and get stuck.”
Then he tried a 61-hp Takeuchi TL 26 compact track loader with rubber tracks and a 1,310-lb. rated operating capacity on a lakeshore job, carrying 300 yd.3 of dirt down a hill of sand.
“I could get down and back up the hill with no problem at all,” he reports. He bought the compact track loader the next day.
“It’s unbelievable,” Myers remarks. “I can do 50% more work with the track loader in the same amount of time as the skid-steer loader.”
Also, unlike the steel tracks of the skid-steer loader, the rubber tracks don’t have to be removed for running on sensitive surfaces such as asphalt. The compact track loader is also saving his back. When he couldn’t use his skid-steer loader, he had to do all the work by hand.
Myers notes that his compact track loader is more stable than his skid-steer loader when dumping into trucks. It also offers several advantages over his tractor-loader-backhoe.
“It’s a real pain to maneuver the backhoe up a hill because rubber tires don’t work in sand,” he explains. “Visibility to the sides and back with the track loader is better for working in tight areas, and it’s better when backfilling because I can see the bucket lip. Also, the track loader doesn’t tear up yards like the backhoe does.”
Myers estimates that he uses his tractor-loader-backhoe about 60% of the time, mainly for digging deep sewer lines and swimming pool holes. The rest of the time, the track loader goes to work.
Recently he upgraded to an improved version of his first compact track loader; it features more traction and smoother, easier-to-operate hydraulics.
He uses his compact track loader with several different attachments. They include a trencher for excavating water lines up to 4 in. wide and 4 ft. deep, a backhoe for digging as deep as 5 ft. in tight areas where he can’t maneuver his tractor-loader-backhoe, a six-way dozer blade for final grading around houses where there’s no room for a bulldozer, and a brush cutter for clearing trees up to 3 in. in diameter.Myers’ advice to skid-steer-loader owners thinking about switching to a compact track loader? “The sooner, the better. A compact track loader costs a little more money than a skid-steer loader, but the increased production more than makes up for the difference. I just love my track loader. I wish I would have had it 10 years ago.”