In this Shop Talk Blog post, we are going to look at three skid steer loader trends that stand out as we go into the new year. As we looked over the data, we were most impressed by three things: focus on operator comfort and productivity, self-driving skid steer loaders, and solid tires.
Focus on Operator Comfort and Productivity
More skid steer loader innovations are focusing on operator comfort, garnering these newer skids steers the nickname “luxury loaders”. The goal isn’t to pamper the operators, however -- it is to increase productivity. Operators that are more comfortable sitting for long periods of time in the cab tend to be more productive. These improvements are also designed to help operators remain more alert and focused on the task at hand. In addition, an investment in comfort and ease of use can boost morale and help improve employee retention in an increasingly competitive job market.
Here are some of the features that are still considered "luxury", but are becoming increasingly more common:
- Adjustable controls
- Rearview and/or backup cameras
- Sealed and pressurized cabs
- Digital readouts and interfaces
- Adjustable seats
- Heated seats
- More room in the cab
- Hands-free capabilities for making phone calls
Autonomous Skid Steer Loaders
Last year, Built Robotics began implementing their autonomous skid steer loaders. Their objective was not to replace the human element in construction work, but rather to have the self-driving skid steer focus on tasks that are either repetitive or dangerous. This would free up human operators to focus on tasks that require their advanced skills. Using augmented GPS, rugged sensors, telematics, remote controls, geofencing, and digital site plans, these skid steers can perform basic tasks with a high degree of accuracy. However, it will likely be a while before you see one at a construction site near you; they are currently still being tested in California.
Another growing trend when it comes to skid steer is the use of solid tires instead of traditional pneumatic tires. Solid tires are really nothing new, but they are being used on more and more skid steer loaders that have to work in environments that can destroy a regular tire. While they may be more expensive upfront, many SSL owners claim that they save a significant amounts of money over the long haul. Here are the benefits of using solid tires:
- No more flats, punctures, or the down time associated with them
- Last 3 to 5 times longer than an equivalent pneumatic tire
- Usually come mounted on their own rim
- Excellent wear capabilities on rough terrain like that found in mining, demolition, paving, and scrap yards
- Available with a self-cleaning tread
- Provide good traction
Aside from the price, there are a few other drawbacks to purchasing solid tires. A major one is the extremely rough ride, which has been improved through the addition of holes and apertures in the otherwise solid tires. This has been found to improve operator comfort while reducing vibration. Another deterrent is the initial price of the tires.
There are, of course, other trends in skid steers loaders besidres operator comfort, self-driving technology, and solid tires. What are your thoughts? Where do you think the skid steer industry is heading? Let us know in the comments section below.
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