Productivity On The Job | Backhoe Loaders Offer Versatility
Every one of your dealership’s customers is looking for the strongest possible payback when they purchase construction equipment. Machines that are versatile enough to fill multiple roles on a jobsite offer higher and/or faster ROI and backhoe loaders continue to be top contenders.
Although some in the industry point to a growing market for competitive equipment such as large skid steer loaders or the smaller compact wheel loaders and mini-excavators, backhoe loaders are still prized for their versatility.
Backhoes can dig, lift and load, and there is a seemingly endless (and growing) array of attachments that instantly turn these machines into task specialists. There are enough model sizes to accommodate a variety of budgets as well as varied worksite requirements.
Larger size machines – those that can dig to 14 feet or deeper – represent about 15% of the market. Some models can dig up to 17 feet. According to Katie Pullen of Case Construction Equipment, the heftier size and greater hydraulic and performance capabilities of these models make them a good replacement for mid-size excavators. She says a backhoe “does less damage to the ground, is more maneuverable, easier to transport and provides the lifting capacity of about a 7-ton excavator.”
For your customers who do highway or other heavy construction work, big backhoe loaders are an ideal choice. They are strong enough to handle the heavier lifting, plus they can accommodate many different attachments to boost productivity. Volvo Construction Equipment reports that about a third of their backhoe loaders leave the factory equipped with a rear coupler. Many are also being ordered with extended dipper sticks.
Backhoe loaders essentially combine the functions of an excavator and a wheel loader. Backhoes have the advantage of self-driven travel since they can move at speeds up to 25 mph. This is a distinct advantage for customers working in urban environments or whose jobsites are relatively near one another – less costly and time-consuming than trailering an excavator from one location to another.
However, if your customer needs a machine that can swing 360o or dig 100% of the time, an excavator is a better choice for them. Industry experts suggest customers consider:
- The type of work they need to do more often
- The type of footing their machine usually encounter
- Track-versus-tire trade-offs
- Work tools they need
When customers are contemplating purchasing a backhoe that can help them take advantage of more attachments, advise them to consider the availability of three key features:
- Front and rear couplers
- Front and rear auxiliary hydraulics
- Parallel lift for the front linkage, which simplifies fork operations
Some machines also have a tool carrier option, with a hydraulically activated coupler on the front and parallel lift linkage. Any backhoe using powered attachments should be able to handle both single- and double-acting hydraulic cylinders, and auxiliary hydraulic flow must match the attachment. Otherwise, productivity will be compromised. Remind customers that they may see longer cycle times because couplers can reduce digging force.
Popular attachments for front and back
- Hammers and thumbs
- Hydraulic multi-purpose buckets
- Grapple buckets
- Hydraulic plate compactors (which eliminate the need for a separate trench compactor)
What does the future hold?
Backhoe loaders continue to evolve, especially features that make attachments easier to use and change. OEMs say you can look for new models to include:
- Hydraulic couplers that allow the operator to switch attachments without leaving his seat, saving time and the extra labor traditionally needed to do this job.
- Thumbs and hammers that make it easier to pick up and set aside material or load it more cleanly.
- Tampers that let you re-surface an area more easily.
- Transmission upgrades that enable more machines to travel faster.
The bottom line, as we noted at the top, is payback. That means customers have to consider the cost of operation as well as versatility when deciding whether backhoe loaders are the right machine for them.