In the mid-1990s, the compact utility loader emerged in the American market. It has gained popularity ever since as landscapers and construction companies have discovered just how useful it can be. You may hear this piece of equipment compared to a Swiss army knife because of its small size and the way it can use various attachments to tackle a variety of jobs. A compact utility loader may be exactly what you need for your next project.
A compact utility loader (CUL) is a small machine that is designed to power a variety of hydraulic work tool attachments for landscaping and construction tasks. CULs come in different configurations, including both wheeled and tracked options and ride-on and walk-behind designs. The ride-on models may be referred to as "stand-on skid steers."
Compact utility loaders are often called mini skid steers because they share some similarities with skid steers but are more compact. While there certainly is some crossover between CULs and skid steers, these machines are by no means interchangeable. One of the main things that distinguishes a CUL from a skid steer is the size. The average skid steer is nearly twice as wide as a typical compact utility loader.
These machines also tend to be used for different applications. Skid steers are most prized for their earthmoving abilities, with buckets being the most common attachment. On a CUL, a bucket attachment isn't necessarily the default. Instead, operators use a variety of hydraulic-powered attachments to complete tasks as diverse as mowing and mixing cement. Even if you own a skid steer, there will likely be occasions where renting a mini skid steer is the best option for a particular job.
Compact utility loaders offer some unique benefits compared to the alternatives of either hand labor or full-size skid steers. Compared to completing jobs by hand with inferior tools, CULs offer the following advantages:
With a CUL and the right attachment, you can save on the cost of manual skilled labor and unskilled labor. The implications of improved crew efficiency aren't just financial. Many companies in the construction and landscaping industries are dealing with labor shortages that make skilled labor hard to come by. With a CUL, you can get more done with fewer people, which makes it possible to keep your crew smaller.
For example, if you have to bring in gravel, deposit it in an area and level it out, you could do that by hand. However, you would need a crew of workers with manual tools like wheelbarrows, shovels and rakes to get the job done. With a CUL, just one person could operate the machine to carry in gravel, deposit it and grade it in the same time it would take several workers to complete the task manually.
A CUL enables more than just tightening up your crew. It also allows you to work faster. Mini skid steers are capable of tackling a long list of jobs, and each of these jobs can be done faster at the same or better level of precision as you would achieve doing the job manually.
Consider how long it would take you to manually shovel off a parking lot, for instance. You could use a snow blade or blower attachment on a CUL to do the same job in a fraction of the time. If you're using a CUL to help you in your business operations, you can be better equipped to adhere to tight timelines and keep your customers happy while maximizing your productivity.
With a CUL, you can also take on jobs you otherwise wouldn't have sought out or considered. A mini skid steer rental is just what you need to accept a job you previously weren't equipped to do, even if you had the necessary knowledge. There's no real replacement for having the right equipment.
For example, as more elaborate outdoor living spaces and hardscaping features become more common, a CUL makes it possible to handle some of these jobs where hand tools would fall short. You can carry in large amounts of materials like stone, brick and pavers without having to use a wheelbarrow and can use other attachments for earthmoving purposes. When you're equipped with a mini skid steer, it opens up a whole new range of possibilities.
It's easy to see how a compact utility loader can help you get more jobs done with fewer workers and in less time compared to no heavy machinery at all. But you may be interested in how the CUL stacks up next to its most closely related piece of heavy equipment — the skid steer. There are some jobs where a full-size skid steer is a better choice. However, when you need a versatile work machine accompanied by the following benefits, you'll get them with a CUL. A CUL is:
When you're working on a finished site, mini skid steers offer a crucial advantage over their full-size counterparts in that they are far more lightweight. This means they can navigate finished sites and soft turf without causing any damage.
This is one of the reasons CULs are prized for landscaping and hardscaping. If a homeowner or business owner wants a company to plant some trees and shrubs, create a decorative pathway and install a garden pond with a water feature, chances are they won't want that company to tear up their lawn in the process. Most heavy equipment will leave its mark on soft surfaces like turf, but CULs will be quite gentle on these surfaces, helping you achieve an attractive finished product.
Compact utility loaders are called compact for a reason. They're exceptionally small compared to skid steers and other types of heavy equipment. With such a small footprint, CULs are ideal for maneuvering in tight areas, such as residential properties. You can easily traverse around obstacles and work with precision.
While the exact dimensions of CULs can differ from model to model, they are generally small enough to pass through openings where larger pieces of equipment wouldn't fit. Some models are as narrow as 29 1/2 inches across, which allows them to pass through doorways. What matters in most situations is being able to enter a client's fenced-in backyard. Even larger CULs are still narrow enough to pass through many residential gates.
A smaller, lighter piece of equipment is also an easier piece of equipment to store and transport. For storage, you could keep a CUL in a shed as you would a lawnmower and there's no need for a large storage area. Of course, if you choose to rent your CUL, storage is likely to be a nonissue altogether.
As for transportation, many CULs are technically small and light enough that you could transport them in the flatbed of a pickup truck. However, the most practical way to transport a CUL is on a flatbed trailer, using a stable ramp onto the flatbed where you can secure the CUL. Compared to larger equipment, you can opt for a smaller, single-axle trailer, even if your CUL is accompanied by up to six attachments. It should also be easy to stay below the weight cutoff for needing a commercial driver's license.
One thing that sets the CUL apart when comparing it to a skid steer is its impressive weight-to-power ratio. In other words, the CUL offers an exceptional level of power for its size. This is great news if you were worried about sacrificing power if you opt for a mini skid steer instead of a standard one. While these compact machines are less powerful, the margin may be smaller than you assumed.
One study looked at leading models of a CUL, skid steer and compact track loader to demonstrate the difference in weight-to-power ratios from one machine to the next. The results showed that the CUL's tip capacity was 110% of its weight, while the tip capacities of the other two machines were much lower than the machines' weight. A CUL is a great choice when you want a compact machine that will pack a serious punch.
Mini skid steers are useful for a long list of tasks involved in landscaping, hardscaping, light-duty construction projects, agriculture and utility work. With a CUL and the right attachment, you can take on a variety of tasks, even on the same job site, and complete them efficiently. The jobs you can do with your CUL depend on the attachments you have. With the necessary attachment, some of the tasks you can use a mini skid steer to help with include:
In the compact utility vehicle sector, you'll find some models on wheels and some on tracks. Each of these options offers its own possible advantages.
Wheeled CULs tend to work best when you don't need to traverse challenging terrain. So if you plan to use your CUL to transport and deposit mulch on a landscaped island in a parking lot, a wheeled CUL would be a good choice. A wheeled CUL will allow you to move across the even, paved surface more quickly than you could with a track model.
However, in most scenarios involving a compact utility loader, track models are more practical. These models are better equipped to traverse a variety of terrain types, including uneven terrain and muddy, sandy or snow-covered surfaces. Because of CULs' light weight, they can also move over grass and other types of soft terrain without causing substantial damage.
This is why landscapers love CULs on tracks. They can move through a yard, even in wet conditions that are common in the spring and fall, without leaving behind noticeable track marks or ripping up the ground.
The compact utility loader is all about helping with diverse tasks, and the available attachments reflect that versatility. Choosing the right attachments for a job is critical if you want to get the most out of your CUL. Fortunately, you can rent work tool attachments, so you can always pinpoint what you need on a particular job without having to purchase a variety of attachments.
Keep in mind that each manufacturer offers its own selection of attachments, and the mounting systems across these brands are not standardized. You can find aftermarket adapter plates, but it's best to look for attachments that are designed for your CUL model. Look for the following attachments to turn your CUL into the ideal machine for your next project:
At The Cat® Rental Store, we know that bigger isn't always better. Sometimes you need a compact piece of equipment to navigate a small space or get the job done with a lighter, more precise touch. That's why our dealers carry a variety of high-performance compact equipment for rent, along with the work tool attachments you need for your application.
Technicians inspect all equipment before your dealer sends it to you, so you can depend on the quality of whatever machinery you rent. Our dealers' product inventory extends beyond Cat equipment to include other reputable brands, as well, which you'll see in their selection of compact utility equipment.
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