To Track or Not to Track. That, actually, is the real question. - Douglas Lake Equipment
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To Track or Not to Track. That, actually, is the real question.

If you’re looking to move, dig or push heavy loads, there’s nothing better than a Skid Steer or a Compact Track Loader. They’re compact, agile and – best of all – really versatile. Landscaping, construction, rental applications, forestry and on the farm are all popular applications for these machines. Add in all the different types of attachments and you have your Swiss Army knife of your equipment fleet.

One of the questions I get asked all the time though is: “Which one should I get?”

A Skid Steer Loader like Kubota’s SSV series with wheels or a Compact Track loader like the Kubota SVL with a track?”

Both series are built with performance, operator comfort and reliability at the forefront. Which machine is right for you depends on what you need to do with it, so let’s talk about the big differences between the two.

Speed

Without a doubt, the wheeled Skid Steer loader can run circles around its tracked cousin. This is important if you need to continuously haul loads of bail from one end of the farm to the other, or if you’re mainly using the machine to haul dirt or material away on a consistent basis at a construction site. In general, the ride is also smoother, especially if you choose the Kubota Shockless ride option on the SSV series.

On a regular workday, a wheeled loader may be able to haul up to 1.5x more material simply because of the speed difference. So if your work area has relatively flat ground and you’re moving lots of stuff, the wheeled Skid Steer loader is the one to get.

Conditions

If you’ve seen any video on tanks, you’ll know that a tracked vehicle can traverse almost any type of ground condition. Mud, sand, dirt – nothing can really stop it. The same principle applies to a tracked loader. It’s ideal for poor conditions where the construction site or ground you’re working on is uneven, soft or slippery. Where a wheeled machine might get stuck or get a flat tire, the track loader will float right over.

One thing that is often overlooked is the fact that tracked vehicles are actually LESS invasive on grass or fragile surfaces due to it’s distributed weight over the entirety of the track vs pressure points over 4 wheels. So, even though a track loader is about 1000lbs heavier than it’s wheeled cousin, it’s more gentle on grass and turf. This makes the track loader much better equipped to handle golf courses or landscaping.

There’s one last caveat about conditions and that’s snow. In areas that see lots of snow, a wheeled vehicle is much better than the track counterpart. The pressure points allow for better traction in the snow and, if necessary, chains can also be added to the tires for additional grip. The increased travel speed is also a benefit when snow clearing. Tracks, on the other hand, will freeze up, and performance will be affected. Snow tracks and studs are available, but still not as effective as a chained up skid steer loader

Cost and Maintenance

Cost is always a factor when deciding on which machine is right for you. Although the track loader does cost approx 15% more than the wheeled loader, depending on your application that could pay for itself in no time. To replace a set of tracks does cost more than a set of tires, but downtime caused by getting stuck or getting a flat tire also comes with a lost opportunity cost. The undercarriage on a Kubota track loader is virtually maintenance free, and the OEM tracks are extremely durable.

Feel free to stop by any Douglas Lake Equipment location to discuss your needs and applications and we can help get you into the right piece of equipment

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Kyle Campbell is a Customer Account Manager and has been with DLE since 2013. Kyle has been in the industry dealing with heavy machinery for most of his life as Kyle’s family owned a landscaping company.


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