Heavy Equipment Guide Logo

This ad will close in 15 seconds

In-depth report: compact track loaders

The John Deere 325G compact track loader.

The John Deere 325G compact track loader.

Company info

519 Bonnie Valentine Way
Pendergrass, GA
US, 30567

Website:
takeuchi-us.com

Read more

One John Deere Place
Moline, IL
US, 61265

Website:
deere.com

Read more

100 North East Adams Street
Peoria, IL
US, 61629

Website:
cat.com

Read more

2000 Bamford Blvd
Pooler, GA
US, 31322

Website:
jcb.com

Read more

250 East Beaton Drive
P.O. Box 6000
West Fargo, ND
US, 58078

Website:
bobcat.com

Read more

5900 14th Avenue
Markham, ON
CA, L3S 4K4

Website:
kubota.ca

Phone number:
905-294-7477

Read more

Related products


Compact track loaders are fast and agile, and large ones can even compete with small wheel loaders and dozers. With their vast array of available attachments, they are highly versatile, productive machines and are easy to trailer. It's no wonder they have gained in popularity. Our panel of experts from several manufacturers provide details on today's compact track loaders.

Trends
Compact track loaders are popular in a variety of sectors, including construction, forestry, landscaping and rental, according to Michael Shebetka, product manager at Takeuchi-US. "With their power, versatility and so many different types of attachments available, customers are finding new ways to adapt compact track loaders into their businesses and their popularity continues to grow as a result."

Gregg Zupancic, product marketing manager with John Deere Construction & Forestry, noted that while both the compact track loader (CTL) and skid-steer loader (SSL) markets have grown, CTLs have significantly outpaced SSLs in terms of sales. "Five years ago, market sales were split 60 percent skid steers, 40 percent compact track loaders. Today, the reverse is true. While they typically cost 15 to 20 percent more to own than skid steers, customers are learning that CTLs can be much more productive and can push and lift more."

Some additional reasons for CTL popularity, according to Jeff Brown, compact product specialist at Caterpillar, is that compared to SSLs they offer notably greater traction, stability and flotation, characteristics that are true for all brands.

Randy Tinley, JCB North America's CTL/SSL product manager, said that it is customer needs that are driving the market. The result: "Today the market offers the same number or even fewer models than in previous years because manufacturers are focusing their product lines based on customer feedback. As a result, customers can now point to a specific machine and say, ‘That's exactly what I was looking for.'"

Industry data, according to Christopher Girodat, marketing manager for Bobcat Company, shows that the most popular size of CTLs are those with a rated operating capacity of  2,000 to 3,200 pounds, with 74-hp diesel engines. 

While this size is popular, Zupancic noted that Deere has seen customers opting for larger CTLs over smaller ones.

Shebetka gave a good reason for that. "Large frame CTLs have excellent dump height and reach, and with the same speed and agility [as small CTLs], CTLs can be more efficient in these types of applications, keeping operating cost down. Large-frame, high-horsepower CTLs can really change the way contractors do business."

Several manufacturers commented that CTLs are particularly strong in the rental market at present. "We're seeing more and more rental centres updating their compact equipment fleets with compact track loaders because the machines may be operated in ground conditions where skid-steer loaders might not be as effective, such as soft or wet soil, or sandy ground conditions," said Girodat. Rental customers request CTLs to maintain their schedules and stay productive. "With a tight labour market and strict deadlines, going without a machine or not being able to work because of soft soil can be critical, which is why we think compact track loaders will only continue to increase in the rental industry."

Tinley at JCB added that the CTL's extreme versatility and usefulness is also causing rental customers to keep the machines on contract for longer periods of time, which is ideal for that market.

A key advantage for rental houses is that CTLs with engines below 75 horsepower do not need engine aftertreatment and diesel exhaust fluid to comply with Tier 4 Final emission regulations.

Undercarriage, suspension and tracks
The typical SSL has always provided a faster and more cushioned ride than a CTL with a rigid-mount track system, Tinley said. Consequently, some manufacturers are migrating to suspension track systems and other new features that offer a softer, more comfortable ride, as well as easy servicing.

Zupancic agreed that there is a strong need for undercarriage systems that have anti-vibration characteristics for better suspension, as this technology dampens the vibration for the operator and more material is retained in the bucket.

In terms of some specifics, Brown explained that the Cat undercarriage is equipped with torsion axle suspension. "This means that the roller frame that supports the rubber track is not rigidly mounted to the chassis; it is mounted with four individual torsion bars that isolate the operator from vibrations of the terrain." The torsion axles act as dampeners or shock absorbers that greatly improve ride comfort and extend track life by as much as two times compared to rigid types, he said. Traction is also improved because more track is kept on the ground.

Another approach is offered by Bobcat, who introduced their 5-Link torsion suspension undercarriage in 2017. An additional fifth link on the rear axle stabilizes the undercarriage to increase machine stability and performance when grading. As the torsion suspension undercarriage absorbs stress and vibrations on rough terrain, it provides a smoother ride that the operator can feel throughout the machine, explained Girodat. "The new undercarriage provides increased durability with a 15 percent increase in diameter to the drive shaft inside the gear box, a continuously lubricated outer bearing in the drive motor . . . and solid cast spindle mount which eliminates welds and distributes stress across one seamless piece that has additional metal and strength precisely where it is needed."

Kubota has taken a different approach, using a rigid undercarriage that has fewer components and requires less maintenance, which results in lower operating costs, according to Jonathan Gardner, CE product specialist at Kubota Canada.

Depending on the application, the type of tracks on a CTL can also be extremely important. Caterpillar offers two factory-direct tread types for customers to fit on their CTLs, Brown said. The first is a block tread, the most common tread on the market. The second is the bar tread; this tread design delivers lower ground disturbance, provides higher traction in the snow and offers a smoother ride due to narrowly spaced bars. Wear life of the bar tread is similar to a block tread and the bar tread offers customers an all-season track that is ideal for landscaping in the summer and grips snow in the winter.

Deere is seeing increased customer demand for various tread patterns on machine tracks to best suit jobsite applications. They offer two different tread patterns: the block-lug which is more durable and holds a slide slope better, and the zig-zag which provides more traction when pushing and has a smoother ride, said Zupancic.

CTLs vs. dozers, graders and wheel loaders
"CTLs have more flexibility than dozers or wheel loaders because the functions of both machines have been combined," said Gardner. The CTL can be used across the jobsite to grade, plow snow, clear brush, drill post holes, and much more, he noted. 

Shebetka made the point that large CTLs are more agile than a small dozer when moving, grading and spreading material. While crawler dozers have excellent pushing power, they have relatively slow ground speed and much higher cost per hour to operate, while CTLs have higher ground speed and excellent tractive effort, cycle times and breakout forces.

With recent advances in grade control technology, CTLs can easily be used in many of the same grading applications as small dozers or wheel loaders, especially in smaller areas like driveways, housing sites and commercial building sites in urban areas.

"Installing a grade control system on your equipment makes a novice operator into an expert," Gardner said. "Operators simply program the layout and grade control takes over, eliminating multiple passes." This saves money in time and material; all the operator has to do is drive.

"Today's GPS grading capabilities mean that CTLs can now be used to finish grade," said Tinley. "In the past, they were not used for this application nearly as often. The use of a CTL for this task eliminates the need to use a dozer or motor grader."

Deere is also contributing to the trend of using grading attachments and grade control technology on CTLs; for example, helping operators optimize the precision of their flat work before pouring concrete. "With grade control they're able to be more accurate on the jobsite," said Zupancic. "This technology will automatically adjust the attachment blade height to the desired grade, eliminating the number of times an operator needs to get in and out of the cab to measure the slope of the land."

Deere recently introduced their Level Best box blades, available in 2D and 3D options, for customers of compact track loaders and skid steers. When attached to trailerable, maneuverable pieces of compact equipment, these tools can change how contractors level out concrete subgrade, athletic fields, parking lots, golf courses and more.

Tinley added other advantages a CTL has over a dozer or wheel loader, including the wide range of attachments available for all types of jobs. Dozers are normally stuck with just a blade. He added that CTLs are more easily transported, and they're faster to move on or off a jobsite than dozers or wheel loaders. 

Purchasing advice
Girodat recommended "Before deciding on a specific compact track loader model, consider what attachments may be used and how large of a load the machine will need to lift." This consideration helps buyers make a more informed decision about engine horsepower and hydraulic flow required to operate the compact track loader and attachments. 

"Don't just rely on machine specs to decide on the type and size of machine you need," he added. "Specs can be deceiving but operating the machine you are considering to purchase will give you a much better idea of whether it will be able to perform the specific tasks you will demand from it."

"The size of the compact track loader you'll need should be determined by your desired applications," said Zupancic. "Before purchasing a compact track loader, think about the different jobs you'll need or want to do in the future. Take a look at the attachments available for your machine and use that to determine your machine's horsepower. For example, if you want to use a large hydraulic attachment, you'll most likely need a large compact track loader with higher horsepower for optimal attachment performance."

Gardner said that the most important thing to consider is where and how you will be using your new machine. "Kubota CTLs were designed with comfort and dependability at the forefront. A suspension seat and large comfortable cab contributes to the operator's comfort throughout an 8- to 12-hour day. The surface you will be on also matters; hard surfaces like cement and asphalt can cause premature wear on the tracks. However, track loaders provide smoother operation and excellent stability on uneven, muddy, sandy, or snowy surfaces, which makes them more productive and capable of better lifting in all conditions."

Tinley suggested that when it comes to choosing the right CTL, customers should rely on their dealers' expertise. "While some customers focus on horsepower, they may not realize that a machine's size and weight are also major considerations. By asking customers about the applications for which they plan to use their CTLs most often, dealer sales reps can better match them to the model that's the right size and fit for their needs."

Educating customers about the many different available attachments is also essential, he continued. "Many customers see the CTL at their local dealership with a single attachment, and they simply don't realize many other extremely useful attachments are also available. Showing them these attachments and explaining how they can accomplish tasks faster and easier will help them understand how to get the most out of their machine investment."

"Look past the brand names and pay attention to the overall quality of build. Pay close attention to the frame, loader arms, undercarriage and its components," said Shebetka. "Is the CTL a modified skid steer with bolt-on track system, or a built-from-the-ground-up dedicated track loader? Look at the thickness of steel, reinforced steel plating or gussets in critical high stress areas. The size of undercarriage components – idlers, rollers, etc. – are critical for durability and longevity. Ground clearance is important for customers working in soft underfoot conditions." 

He also recommended that buyers look at the overall service of normal maintenance items and the accessibility of vital components. 

Brown suggested something vital to consider beyond the front-page specifications: safety, in particular safe handling of hot engine exhaust. "All Caterpillar models – regardless of what engine emissions technology is equipped – safely handle hot engine exhaust by mixing it with cooling fan air," he said. 

The JCB 150T compact track loader.

The Bobcat T770 compact track loader.

The Kubota SVL 95-2s compact track loader.

More from Earthmoving

High production and low downtime are busy contractor's critical criteria for equipment purchases

Berkim Construction is constructing the new Canada Post sorting facility in Burlington, Ontario. The family-owned construction company, which specializes in small-to-medium-sized projects like this one, brought the first equipment on site last October and expects to have the work completed by July.
"A lot of work is subbed out – formworks, steel erectors, steel manufacturers, earthworks," says Alex Monteleone, site supervisor, Berkim Construction. To perform the earthworks, the company hired MGI Construction Corp. 

Perennial Performer: an in-depth look at skid-steer loaders

Skid-steer loaders are nimble, versatile machines capable of performing a variety of jobsite tasks. Although skid steers have recently been overshadowed by the higher growth in demand for tracked machines, our experts emphasize that skid steers offer a number of advantages that are not to be overlooked, including speed, transportability and cost of ownership.

Avant Tecno to launch new Avant 800 series at bauma

The completely new 800 series is the largest and most powerful loader series from the Finnish manufacturer Avant Tecno. It pushes the limits of compact loader's performance with 4,256-pound lift capacity and 11.5 feet lift height. Still, its dimensions – width 5 feet, length 11 feet, height 8 feet and weight starting from 5,500 pounds – and articulated design make the 800 series a very versatile and powerful compact loader. 

ASV's radial-lift RT-65 CTL is ideal for digging and ground engagement work

ASV Holdings Inc. has introduced a new radial-lift RT-65 Posi-Track compact track loader. ASV says that they have built the loader with maximum serviceability, reliability, productivity and ASV's patented Posi-Track undercarriage for superior performance. The CTL is ideal for digging and ground engagement work in construction, excavation, landscaping, snow-clearing and rental applications.

Wacker Neuson introduces its largest wheel loader

Material handling takes on a new dimension with Wacker Neuson's newest wheel loader, the WL95.  The new 2-yard articulated wheel loader is the company's first heavy-duty model to be introduced in this size class and is the largest in Wacker Neuson's extensive fleet of wheel loaders.  The WL95 offers performance with a high payload that allows operators to load, move and place more material efficiently.

free-paper-airplane

Get our newsletter

Learn more

Cat M Series Wheel Loaders updated to offer reduced maintenance costs, improved operator comfort, payload management enhancement and new configurations

The 2019 product update package for Cat M Series Medium Wheel Loaders (950M - 982M) includes technology advances that provide: lower operating costs via extended service intervals; enhanced operator comfort with new seats and suspensions; emissions control strategies to meet EU Stage V standards (EU only); added machine configurations (982M Forestry Machine and 982M High Lift); expanded productivity measurement tools; remote software update capability; and refinements in ground engaging tool and coupler systems.

New Kubota compact track loader tackles big jobs on tight jobsites

Kubota Canada Ltd. is adding to its compact track loaders series by introducing the new the SVL65-2. The new compact track loader is positioned in a lighter rated operating capacity weight class than the current SVL75-2 and the SVL95-2 models, further diversifying its construction and landscaping equipment offerings. The new unit will be available in Kubota dealerships across Canada starting April 15, 2019.

Wacker Neuson Series II large-frame skid steers and compact track loaders offer excellent maintenance access and operator comfort

Wacker Neuson is launching its Series II large frame skid-steer and compact track loaders to the market in early 2019. The new SW24, SW28, ST35 and ST45 offer the latest enhanced cab design and service accessibility. As the big brother to the company's medium frame line, the machines offer parts commonality and contractors a proven design on the jobsite.

Volvo to show new compact excavator at World of Concrete

Volvo Construction Equipment will be introducing an entirely new machine to the Volvo compact excavator lineup at World of Concrete 2019. The new ECR18E is an ultra-short-swing-radius compact excavator that features a rear overhang of only 0.5 inches when the tracks are fully extended. Its low height (79 inches) and variable undercarriage (from 39 to 53 inches) allows for working in incredibly tight spaces when needed and provides excellent stability once in position. Attendees who stop by Volvo's World of Concrete Booth C7013 can also see the L90H wheel loader with long boom and the L20H compact wheel loader.

John Deere introduces three new L-Series utility wheel loaders

After much anticipation and countless hours of product development, John Deere unveils three powerful and productive L-Series utility wheel loaders. The 524L, 544L and 624L offer customers an intuitive solution, ideal for projects that require agility and versatility on the jobsite or farm. Designed with the operator in mind, the L-Series machines incorporate several new features, including improved cabs for more comfort and visibility, electrohydraulic (EH) loader controls for easier operation and redesigned near-parallel linkage, and enhanced performance buckets.

free-magazine-subscription

Get Our Magazine

Paper or Digital delivered monthly to you

Subscribe or Renew Learn more

New high-production Cat 140 motor grader features conventional controls, all-wheel-drive options and grade control choices

Designed as a high-production model, the all new Cat 140 Motor Grader combines a selection of grade control technologies with conventional steering wheel/lever controls, an efficient powertrain, enhanced operator comfort/convenience features, and simple, extended-interval serviceability. The new model offers an all-wheel-drive system option with a standard operating weight of 42,325 pounds (19 198 kg) and features a 12-foot mold board, a fuel-efficient Cat C9.3 engine – rated at 250 standard net horsepower (186 kW), an 8F/6R direct-drive power-shift transmission, and the Cat Product Link telematics system.

New Next Generation Cat 120 motor grader available with choice of steering wheel/lever or joystick controls

The new Cat 120 Motor Grader offers the options to tailor the machine to customer preferences and applications. The Cat C7.1 engine uses up to 15 percent less fuel when paired with the standard ECO mode. Get unprecedented comfort in the all new cab. New filtration technology saves customers up to 15 percent in maintenance costs. Choose between steering wheel/lever or joystick controls, tandem or all-wheel drive and a range of scalable grade control technologies. The ground-up redesign of the all new cab unveils enhanced visibility with connecting rear windows, seat options, and new information display screen.

Cat reintroduces a 40-ton-class ADT

Caterpillar has designed their new 740 GC, 40-ton-class (36.3-mt-class) articulated dump truck by building on the success of current models while adding new controls, transmission-protection features, hoist-assist system, an advanced traction-control system, a stability-assist system, a fuel-saving ECO mode and a host of beneficial options.

Together. Now & tomorrow: Liebherr at Bauma 2019

This April 8 to 14, Liebherr will give attendees of Bauma 2019 a unique chance to experience its latest innovations first-hand, ranging from construction machines to material handling, mining and components. Visitors can look forward to seeing many new technologies and other practical innovations at Liebherr's 14,000 m2 outdoor stand (809-813) and its indoor stand in hall A4, number 326. 

John Deere makes snow and debris cleanup easy with new angle and pickup brooms

John Deere is updating its line of Worksite Pro attachments with three new angle and five new pickup brooms. The BA72C, BA84C and BA96C angle brooms and the BP72C, BP84C, BR60C, BR72C and BR84C pickup brooms were designed for effortless cleanup in turf, snow and construction applications. Like all Worksite Pro attachments, these angle brooms are optimized to work with John Deere skid steers and compact track loaders. They're also compatible with most competitive models.

Cat Grade with 3D brings added utility, versatility and operating efficiency to automated grade control for D3K2, D4K2 and D5K2 models

The new Cat GRADE with 3D system for D3K2D4K2 and D5K2 track-type tractors is an automated grade control system using GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) technology to precisely position the machine's blade, without operator input, from first rough cut to finish grade. For added utility, GRADE with 3D incorporates the Cat AccuGrade Ready Option, which allows use of universal-total-station and laser references for automated control. The new system assists operators of all skill levels achieve specified grades faster and more accurately, compared with conventional methods, while also reducing staking costs and saving rework expense, fuel, and machine hours.

free-paper-airplane

Get our newsletter

Learn more

Cat 990K aggregate handler boosts wheel loader production in rehandling applications

Caterpillar introduces the 990K Aggregate Handler, designed to handle greater payloads in aggregates yard applications. With as much as a 25 percent payload increase, as compared to the standard 990K Wheel Loader, the new Aggregate Handler enables customers to load trucks and railcars faster and to move more material in load-and-carry and stockpile handling tasks.

John Deere unveils all-new 655K and 755K crawler loaders with Tier 4 Final engine technology

Continuing to build on the strengths of the K-Series lineup, John Deereannounces the introduction of the 655K and 755K Tier 4 Final crawler loaders. These machines serve as the latest additions to the crawler loader line and provide operators with increased productivity and uptime, along with lower daily operating costs. Designed and manufactured in Dubuque, Iowa, the 655K and 755K feature familiar designs, systems and components consistent with other product lines throughout the John Deere crawler family.  

New version of Trimble Earthworks Grade Control Platform includes support for motor graders and automatic guidance for tiltrotators

Trimble has released Earthworks Grade Control Platform version 1.7 with support for motor graders and automatic guidance for tiltrotator attachments. Trimble Earthworks for Motor Graders is a GNSS-based, 3D grade control solution designed to make fine grading more accurate, faster and easier than ever before. In addition, Trimble Earthworks now gives excavator operators using tiltrotators the advantage of automatic machine control, which can result in increased productivity.

Case's new C Series motor graders provide feature-driven solutions for municipalities and small-to-mid-size site prep contractors

Case Construction Equipment has introduced two new C Series motor graders which deliver a wide offering of new weights, horsepower ratings and feature-driven grading solutions for municipalities, as well as small-to-mid-size site prep, road-maintenance and general construction businesses. These new motor grader models feature a variety of standard features designed to maximize productivity and performance. Available in both standard and All Wheel Drive (AWD) configurations, the 836C and 856C achieve Tier 4 Final compliance with Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) engine technology that increases fuel efficiency, keeps exhaust temperatures down and eliminates the need for regeneration.

New Cat D11 dozer drives down cost per ton

The new Cat D11 Dozer features new load-sensing hydraulics and high-horsepower reverse combined with the latest technology to move more material at a lower cost per ton. Engineered to be rebuilt multiple times, the new D11 has a redesigned main frame that delivers lower total cost of ownership over the life of the machine. Time-saving service updates reduce daily maintenance and boost machine uptime.

New Cat backhoe loaders feature seat-mounted controls

The all-new Cat 440 and 450 centre pivot models provide industry-leading lifting performance, high breakout forces and improved operating comfort and ergonomics. The new addition to the Cat Backhoe Loader model lineup, the 440 boasts a 25 percent backhoe lifting improvement over the 430F2 and redesigned single tilt loader arms providing parallel lift and versatility in a multitude of applications. The new 450 offers 15 percent higher backhoe lifting capacity than the 450F and introduces an all-new cab for increased operator comfort.

free-magazine-subscription

Get Our Magazine

Paper or Digital delivered monthly to you

Subscribe or Renew Learn more