• North America Equipment Analysis: Compact Tracked and Skid-Steer Loaders

This report concerns the North American market for compact tracked and skid-steer loaders and is the first report on this subject published in Off-Highway Research’s North American Service.

The findings presented in this report are based on an extensive interview program undertaken with all major manufacturers and importers in the United States and Canada in mid-2022, and also incorporates information from Off-Highway Research’s North American Database Service.

Wheeled skid-steer loaders are the traditional compact front loader product used in North American farming and construction, having first been developed in the 1950s and 1960s by farm equipment manufacturers in the mid-west. As the name suggests, these rigid-framed machines steer by braking their wheels on one side, thus ‘skidding’ to turn corners. Skid-steer loaders are also capable of counter-rotating their wheels and turning on the spot. The Melroe Manufacturing Company, which later became Bobcat after adopting its product’s trade name as its company name, was the most significant pioneer in the industry.

The first compact tracked loaders were developed in the 1980s and started to become widely available in the early 2000s, as the major long-line OEMs started to offer them in their ranges. Compact tracked loaders and skid-steer loaders outwardly look very similar in terms of their superstructure, arm linkage and front implements. The defining difference is the wheeled undercarriage of the skid-steer loader, compared to the crawlers of the compact tracked loader.

Spreading the weight of the machine across a track with a large footprint means compact tracked loaders exert a much lower pressure on the ground than skid-steer loaders. This allows them to work in poorer ground conditions and with less risk of damaging surfaces. Another advantage over skid-steer loaders is that tracked undercarriages offer inherently more tractive effort, which is important in earthmoving applications.

The multi-terrain loader is a sub-set of compact tracked loaders. These machines offer even lower bearing ground pressure through wider tracks and lighter weight undercarriage components. The pay-off to this is that such machines are not suitable for aggressive or heavy-duty applications. Some would consider multi-terrain loaders as a different machine class. For the purposes of this report, multi-terrain loaders are considered as part of the compact tracked loader family and are included in all data without distinguishing them from standard compact tracked loaders.

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North America Equipment Analysis: Compact Tracked and Skid-Steer Loaders

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Tags: North America, Global, Compact tracked and Skid-Steer Loaders