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A safer bet with track loaders

February 16, 2021 -  By
Wheel loader (Photo: ASV)

Keeping an eye out Machines that provide high visibility can help the operator be aware of potential hazards. (Photo: ASV)

Track loaders are tough workhorses around the job site, and contractors select them for a variety of reasons.

“With a rubber track on the ground and low ground pressure, track loaders are designed to float on top of softer conditions,” says Gregg Zupancic, product marketing manager for John Deere. He explains that depending on size, track loaders typically put out 3-4 pounds per square inch of ground pressure, while ground pressure for wheeled equipment is somewhere in the 30-40 pounds per square inch range. In softer conditions or inclement weather, the lighter ground pressure makes track loaders safer and less susceptible to sliding. Tracked machines are often the equipment of choice for that reason.

But, track loaders do more than just heavy lifting on a job site. The track loaders currently on the market have a range of advanced features that help keep the operator and fellow crew members safe. Zupancic; Lee Padgett, product manager, Takeuchi-U.S.; and Buck Storlie, product line manager, ASV; discuss some of the safety features on the latest loaders.

Loader language

“Selecting the correct track loader is a decision that should be based on numerous factors, including durability, reliability, application and, of course, safety,” Padgett says. “Having the right combination of audible alarms, better visibility, appropriate ingress/egress options and well-protected operator cabins helps to ensure the safety of both the operator and co-workers alike.” Here are some of the top safety concerns cited by track loader experts.

Visibility

“Visibility is a key concern when working on job sites,” Padgett says. “There can be many potential hazards on a job site, including co-workers, open ditches, construction equipment and landscape materials or tools, to name a few. Being aware of your surroundings at all times — including what your co-workers are doing and where — is paramount for job site safety.”

Storlie says visibility was top of mind for ASV with the unveiling of the Max Series loaders in October 2020. The new models have 52 percent increased visibility over previous models.

Wheel loader (Photo: John Deere)

Choose your own speed John Deere loaders feature various speed options for different levels of skill. (Photo: John Deere)

Entry/exit points

Storlie adds, “Landscapers are often crawling in and out of equipment, so entry and exit were big concerns as well.” The ASV Max Series machines offer a single side lap bar to allow for easy exit and entry, and a rooftop exit point provides an additional exit route in an emergency.

Operator speed

John Deere loaders have addressed machine speed and how it interacts with operator skill and safety. The machines feature three transmission speeds:

  • Precision: a slower speed meant to help operators focus on accuracy;
  • Utility: average speed and the most common response rate for transmissions; and
  • Production: a high-speed, highly responsive transmission for skilled operators and operators under time constraints.

Zupancic says John Deere offers the ability to lock out the faster transmission speeds until operators are trained and comfortable enough to operate at higher speeds.

A note on efficiency

Increasing operator efficiency through technology is also a main goal of manufacturers, and John Deere offers software packages to help accomplish this.

The company’s joystick performance package option includes software that will allow the operator to switch between four different control patterns. In that system, there are some options to slow down and speed up the drive transmission of the machine.

The boom performance package allows the operator to create memory settings to remember tasks like raising a bucket to a truck bed height and angling pallet forks. Using the memory setting to repeat that same height and angle for faster loading or unloading helps complete jobs faster and improve efficiency, Zupancic says.

Wheel loader (Photo: Takeuchi-U.S.)

Photo: Takeuchi-U.S.

Abby Hart

About the Author:

Abby Hart is the former senior editor of Landscape Management. A native Clevelander, she spent 10 years in Chicago, where she was operations manager of a global hospitality consultancy. She also worked as managing editor of Illumine, a health and wellness magazine; and a marketing specialist for B2B publications. Abby has a degree in journalism from Boston University’s College of Communication.

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