Why track loaders are ‘on track’ to become a need in your fleet

May 16, 2022 -  By
Photo: Nikolaev/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Photo: Nikolaev/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Diverse job sites bring many factors into play when it comes to deciding between machines equipped with tires or tracks. Varied surfaces, an area’s climate and its effect on the terrain present a wide array of needs for users that can change just as work plans are finalized.

Buck Storlie, product manager for ASV, says innovations in track machines could mean them becoming much more widely used in the future, regardless of most site variables.

“The challenge with track loaders is lower ground speed, let’s say 6 to 8 (mph),” he says. “At ASV, we’ve really been pushing that envelope and trying to close that gap. We have track loaders that go as fast as 12.5 mph.

Buck Storlie

Buck Storlie

“With today’s technology in track loaders, I think you’re seeing manufacturers close the gap on the advantages skid-steers have traditionally had,” Storlie continues. “We’re getting faster with (tracks). We’re getting more track life out of them, therefore reducing the cost of ownership.”

Track machines’ market share continues to grow with no sign of that trend slowing down, Storlie adds.

“We’d like to say that a lot of that is due to the technology we’re putting in those tracks,” he says. “They’re better at moving fast, better at staying on and better at just lasting longer. It’s saving people a lot of money, so more people are going to be using them.”

Maintenance comes first

Lee Padgett

Lee Padgett

Lee Padgett, product manager for Takeuchi, urges potential track machine users to familiarize themselves with maintenance before purchasing equipment.

“Anyone who owns or operates a tracked machine should know how to properly adjust the tracks,” he says. “Track sag or tension should be checked daily, and proper tension (should be) maintained according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. A rubber track system that gets too loose can cause the machine to ‘de-track,’ meaning the rubber track rides off the undercarriage. Conversely, operating with the rubber tracks too tight could result in operating inefficiencies such as increased component and track wear.”

Despite increased usage of track equipment, Padgett specifies that tires still provide invaluable service across hard surfaces.

“Generally speaking, track machines are better on softer surfaces like dirt or grass, while (wheels) are better on concrete or asphalt,” he says. “Operating compact track loaders on hard, paved surfaces while making frequent spin turns can cause premature wear on the tracks and undercarriage components, increasing operation cost and potential downtime. That’s why wheeled machines are better on paved surfaces. Conversely, a wheeled machine will have less ground contact due to its tires, making it less stable for use in multi-terrain applications.”

Storlie echoes those sentiments.

“It’s generally true that tracks will be advantageous in rougher terrain, softer terrain, dirt terrain, sites like that,” he says. “Tires will typically be better on hard terrain like concrete, asphalt, areas where we’re more frequently in a load-and-carry or clear-and-sweeping type application.”

Tracks gaining more steam

While users do occasionally trade out track equipment for tires, Storlie says cases of switching from tires to tracks occur far more often.

“The industry trend continues to move toward more and more consumers choosing compact track loaders,” he says.

“They’re considering not having to worry about flat tires, less ground disturbance and the ability to do more jobs. If someone were to switch back (from tracks to tires), I think that would be driven by cost of ownership. The track loader costs you more to run day-in and day-out. Tracks are wearing, and there’s more moving parts involved. The reason to switch to tires or stay with tires is generally cost.”

This article is tagged with , and posted in Design/Build+Installation, Featured, From the Magazine, May 2022

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