The Different Types of Loaders

If your job includes a significant amount of earthmoving, you know one of your prime tasks is to load, move and deposit material efficiently. No matter if you’re a small landscaper, own a mid-sized construction company or manage large civil engineering projects, you appreciate having the right machinery designed to do the job. That includes loaders, which is the equipment type most commonly used in earthmoving.

Because loaders are so widely employed on so many different construction sites, there are many different designs available to you. Your choice of size, horsepower and loading capacity all depend on the job. Here is a comprehensive look at the different loader types — backhoe loadersskid steer loaderscompact track/multi-terrain loadersdozer loaders and wheel loaders — and information on what earthmoving equipment is best for your individual application.

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The Different Types of Loaders

Backhoe Loaders

Backhoe loaders are the most versatile earthmovers found on any site, and they’re truly the workhorses of the construction industry. That’s because of a backhoe’s unique design that places a loading bucket on the front end and a hoe attachment on the back end.

Backhoes are wheel-equipped machines, as opposed to machines that have tracks for stability. Wheels allow your backhoe to be highly maneuverable and move about a site with time-saving efficiency. Wheeled backhoes also travel at relatively fast speeds, so they can be driven directly between work locations without having to be moved by a trailer.

The bucket end of a backhoe serves all sorts of material handling applications. Buckets allow for fast loading, moving and dumping of sand, gravel or other aggregates. Buckets also do an excellent job of leveling the ground and cleaning up when an excavation job is over.

The hoe attachment you’ll find on the back of the loader is a digging tool rather than serving a general loading purpose. The hoe also has a bucket, but it’s usually a narrow width with limited capacity. Rather than having a smooth engagement face like a loading bucket, a hoe has teeth designed to quickly rip into the material and get to the bottom of things.

You’ll find most backhoes have similar looks and features. That’s because they’re a proven design that’s hard to improve on. The biggest change in backhoe manufacturing is technological advancements that now offer better controls and safety features for operators.

The big difference between backhoe models is their size, power and earthmoving capacity. Some backhoes are compact models that easily operate in confined spaces. Other backhoes are larger machines and used where space isn’t a concern, but work capacity is. Here are three popular backhoes you’ll find available through The Cat® Rental Store:

  • 430F2 backhoe loader: This is a smaller Cat backhoe. It has a net power rating of 108 HP, a dig depth of 15.4 ft and an operating weight of 24,251 lbs.
  • 450 backhoe loader: If you’re looking for a mid-sized yet powerful backhoe, then this is your model of choice. The Cat 450 backhoe has a general-purpose bucket, a 17 ft reach and weighs 24,035 lbs.
  • 450F backhoe loader: This is The Cat Rental Store’s largest and most powerful machine in the backhoe line. It has a 127 HP rating, a 17.2 ft dig depth and weighs in at 27,115 lbs.

You’re sure to find a backhoe that fits your needs within these three models. If you’re uncertain which type of backhoe loader is best for your situation, call a The Cat Rental Store equipment specialist at 1-800-RENT-CAT.

Skid Steer Loaders

Backhoes aren’t the only versatile earthmover you’ll find on a construction site. Skid steer loaders are another useful and reliable type of loader. For light work and fast-moving dynamics, nothing beats a skid steer.

Skid steers have a unique mobility system. They’re suitably named as the design allows them to steer by skidding. Skid steers are four-wheeled loaders in which the operator brakes or locks one side’s pair of tires and leaves the other side free and under power. This brake-and-roll action lets the machine turn within its own radius.

Because of the skid steers' unique turning ability, they can operate in extremely tight spots. You’ll often find skid steers working inside buildings under construction or backfilling foundations much faster than any other loader could. Skid steers are also ideal machines for landscaping, where yardwork presents mobility challenges for larger loading machines.

All true skid steers have tires. Their counterparts, all-terrain loaders, have tracks. Wheels vs. tracks is an old debate and is a case of speed vs. weight distribution. Tires allow a skid steer to move quickly, but they have a small footprint or connection to the ground. Tracks slow a machine down, but they have a much larger footprint and place less pressure on their work surface.

Some skid steers offer a gripping compromise. You can get rubber track attachments that slip over your skid steer’s wheels to give the machine temporary tracks. These attachments allow you to use a wheeled skid steer on soft soil or on slopes where wheels won't be able to grip.

The Cat Rental Store offers you three great skid steer choices. All have turbocharged Cat C3.8 engines for top power performance. Here are the skid steers you can rent from Caterpillar:

  • 272D skid steer loader: This is a lightweight skid steer designed for smaller jobs in tight spaces. The Cat 272D might be small as skid steers go, but it’s powerful. The engine has a 95 HP rating, and the machine’s rated operating capacity is 3,200 lbs.
  • 272D2 XHP skid steer loader: If you’re looking to rent a mid-sized skid steer loader, look at the 272D2 XHP model. It has a 106 HP power rating and a 3,650 lb maximum operating capacity.
  • 272D XHP skid steer loader: A slight step up in skid steer size is this model. Also, with a 106 HP turbocharged engine, the 272D XHP tops out at 3,700 lbs in operating capacity. You can rent it from The Cat Rental Store by calling 1-800-RENT-CAT.

Don’t assume your skid steer is stuck with just loading material. That’s not the case, by any means. Cat skid steer loaders have a wide range of work attachments that extend a skid steer’s reach across many construction-related duties. These are some popular Cat skid steer work attachments:

Compact Track & Multi-Terrain Loaders

Although compact track loaders and multi-terrain loaders operate on a similar steering principle, they are considerably different machines. These small but powerful earthmovers navigate by freezing or braking one track set and putting power to the opposing side. This functionality allows compact track loaders and multi-terrain loaders to make 360-degree turns within their physical dimensions.

The construction equipment industry distinguishes between compact track loaders and multi-terrain loaders. While they appear similar from an outward view, the difference is in the undercarriage and suspension design. A multi-terrain loader’s idler and track system exerts far less weight per square inch than an equivalent-sized compact track loader.

With a lighter footprint, multi-terrain loaders operate in conditions that would stop or sink a regular tracked loader. Compact track loaders perform well on solid and semi-solid surfaces like gravel and clay, but in low weight-supporting conditions such as snow, sand and bog, nothing beats a multi-terrain loader.

Compact track loaders place less ground pressure on their working surface than rubber-tired skid steers. They tend to float rather than impale or dig into the ground. Multi-terrain loaders take floatation a step further. They’re capable of working in practically every condition except for open water.

Traction is the main reason you’d consider opting for a track-equipped loader instead of a wheeled skid steer. Tires are excellent for providing speed on the job site, but they have limited traction or ground-gripping power. This feature is where tracks truly excel.

Compact track loaders offer greater traction than skid steers because of the track cleats and the even weight distribution occurring over the track’s length and width. Better traction allows compact track loaders excellent stability on sloped ground and slippery surfaces. These machines work well in challenging conditions such as mud, snow and wet sand.

Multi-terrain loaders take traction beyond what you’d get with a standard compact track loader. If you’re faced with a high incline or a severe side-slope, a multi-terrain loader will hang on to the face and keep you there. You’ll also perform on sensitive surfaces like lawns and garden beds with the light-footed multi-terrain design.

Another key difference between skid steers, compact track loaders and multi-terrain loaders is their price. Skid steers are more affordable because of their simplistic design. Compact track loaders are more expensive because of their advanced idler, sprocket and track components. Multi-terrain loaders are the highest price due to their complex suspension and undercarriage.

A good way to view compact track loaders compared to multi-terrain loaders is that the multi-terrain machines can do everything compact track loaders can accomplish. However, a compact track loader can’t do everything a multi-terrain loader can. Here are three examples of popular Cat compact track and multi-terrain loaders:

  • 277D track loader: This is a small-sized compact track loader capable of lifting 3,290 lbs. It’s powered by a Cat C3.3 B DIT turbo engine with 72.9 HP.
  • 297D2 track loader: For a mid-sized multi-terrain loader, you can’t go wrong with this 95 HP model. It has a 4,700 lb. lifting capacity.
  • 299D2 XHP track loader: This big compact track loader lifts 4,725 lbs. of whatever you place in the bucket. Its 106 HP turbocharged engine has more than enough energy to power it.


Wheel Loaders

When you hear the term “loader,” you probably think of wheels. Front-end wheel loaders still lead the material moving pack when it comes to shoveling large volumes in a short time. This group includes compact wheel loaders, small wheel loaders, medium wheel loaders and large wheel loaders. In the Cat line, there’s a loading machine sized right for every site.

Cat wheel loaders have the latest technology and built-in toughness to work in the most difficult and challenging applications. You’ll find Cat loaders in sand and gravel quarries where they’re busy filling up trucks. You’ll also find Cat wheel loaders on general construction sites as well as moving industrial, agricultural and municipal waste.

If there’s a loading job to do where a machine has to wheel about and move material, Cat has a machine designed and built to serve the purpose. The Cat Rental Store also has the right machines in inventory, so you can be up and loading with the ease of a call.

Cat wheel loaders also serve as multi-purpose machines, and there is an array of work attachments you can fit onto a Cat wheel loader and immediately have it doing other work. If you’re curious about everything a Cat wheel loader can do, call The Cat Rental Store to learn more about these popular Cat wheel loading machines:

  • 908M Cat wheel loader: This is the little loader in the Cat wheel line. It has a 68 HP engine that works a small 1.4 yd3 bucket. At 14,032 lbs, the 908M is light on its wheels.
  • 938M Cat wheel loader: For a medium-sized aggregate handler, the 938M model works well. It has two bucket capacities at 3.8 and 4.2 yd3, respectively. The 938M Cat wheel loader weighs 36,075 lbs and comes with a 188 HP engine.
  • 990K Cat wheel loader: If you need to move a lot of material in one go, consider what the large Cat 990K wheel loader can do. Its bucket range runs from 9.7 to 19.5 yd3. At 178,517 lbs in weight, this machine uses a 699 HP engine to get it done.

The Cat Rental Store also offers more Cat-brand wheel loaders. We have the 930M Waste Handler, the 914M General Purpose loader and the giant 994K Cat wheel loader with a massive 32 yd3 bucket. Give us a call, and we’ll fill you in on our entire Cat wheel loader selection.

Track Loaders

If you need a machine to help you maximize productivity in your industry, rent a track loader from The Cat Rental Store. Having tracks instead of wheels makes these machines reliable on uneven terrain and rougher conditions a wheel loader couldn't handle.

Cat track loaders are available in many sizes and configurations to help you get the right machine for your job site, application and conditions. These machines are often purpose-made for waste handling, construction and earthmoving tasks.

The track loader rentals from Caterpillar include:

  • 953K track loader: The 953K model is a smaller-size machine with clearing, loading, carrying, grading and digging capabilities. Move more material with the optional performance series bucket. This track loader rental has an operating weight of 33,852 lbs and a 154 HP engine.
  • 963K track loader: This track loader will help you do more around the job site. It's more fuel-efficient and has a smoother steering response than the previous model. This model weighs 44,138 lbs and has a 193 HP engine.
  • 973D WH track loader: If you need a powerful track loader for waste handling, get the 973D WH track loader. It has various bucket capacities ranging from 3.92 to 6.4 yd3. Its operating weight is 65,157 lbs, and its engine has 263 HP.

Cat® Work Tool Attachments

Loaders are much more versatile machines than moving buckets of material about a site. With the right work tool attachments, you can turn your backhoe, dozer, skid steer or compact track loader into a multi-use piece of equipment. All Cat brand attachments are compatible with Cat loaders, and they allow you to take on work involving jobs far beyond the scope of loading.

With Cat attachments, you can multi-task from rock hammering to compacting lifts of gravel. Your skid steer can drill post holes, rip pavement and sweep a driveway. For big jobs, your dozer can attach a blade with a 50 cubic yard plowing capacity.

There are many more projects you can take on with the right tool attached to your loader. You can cut brush and rake tree limbs, or you can hook up a grapple attachment and stack logs. Here are some of the top choices for Cat work tool attachments:

Benefits of Renting Loaders From The Cat Rental Store

If you’re in the market for Cat loaders or any other type of Cat-brand construction equipment, you should investigate the benefits of renting your machinery. When dealing with The Cat Rental Store, you'll find many advantages to renting your equipment from a reputable supplier with an extensive nationwide inventory. If you're considering whether to rent your next piece of earthmoving equipment, consider some of these benefits you’ll enjoy by choosing The Cat Rental Store near you:

  • No cash outlay: You keep your working capital free for other business supports.
  • No maintenance: The Cat Rental Store looks after all your servicing requirements.
  • Latest technology: All equipment at The Cat Rental Store is new and current.
  • Dependable: Your equipment from The Cat Rental Store is well-serviced and completely reliable.
  • Versatile: The Cat Rental Store has many versatile options for you to choose from, ensuring you'll always have the right equipment for the job.

Visit The Cat Rental Store for Your Loader Needs

The Cat Rental Store is your go-to source for temporary construction equipment solutions. With over 1,300 locations, The Cat Rental Store is in place to look after your immediate problems and provide you with long-term service that has no equal in the equipment rental industry. At Caterpillar, you can rely on our dealers to have exactly what you need or quickly source it through the network.

If you need any of the different types of loaders or other earthmoving machinery, The Cat Rental Store should be your first stop on the road to productivity and profitability. Call us today for advice on selections and a quote on pricing. Our number is 1-800-RENT-CAT.

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