Compact Equipment: Right on track

Compact track loaders have long been a machine of choice for contractors working in wet, sticky or muddy conditions, but combined with new undercarriages, track systems and attachments, these machines are expanding their jobsite roles. Compact track loaders now have more power, higher load retention and improved traction. Combined with a lower initial cost and easier transportation than larger track loaders or dozers, these features make tasks such as completing backfill and final grading work a job for compact track loaders. Here’s an overview of what’s available:

ASV’s PT-100, PT-60
ASV introduced two models in 2008 – the PT-100 forestry compact track loader and the PT-60 compact track loader. The PT-100 can be used on the jobsite, but also features full forestry guarding for forestry applications, says Hannah Tanata, marketing manager, ASV. The PT-60 has a two-speed drive system that delivers higher torque when digging and has a travel speed of 11 mph. ASV also widened the PT-60’s stance over the previous model for improved maneuverability.

New Extreme Terrain tracks introduced in 2008 have aggressive tread and wide width for enhanced grip and lower ground pressure, and are available for the PT-50 and PT-60 compact track loaders, as well as the ST-50 tracked utility vehicle.

Cat’s C-Series
Citing a desire to offer a machine that complements their line of five multi-terrain loaders, in August Caterpillar introduced three new models of C-Series compact track loaders, featuring a fully-suspended undercarriage and a new track design. These compact track loaders are aimed at tougher applications and underfoot conditions than those where multi-terrain loaders work, says Pierre-Laurent Verdon, Caterpillar’s industry manager for multi-terrain loaders. Another good compact track loader fit is the rental market, which can present maintenance and operator challenges, says Todd Lynnes, product marketing manager.

The line includes the 289C and 299C, both with a vertical lift path, and the radial-lift arm path 279C. All three machines have a new suspended undercarriage, which uses four independent torsion axles that let each track assembly flex independently, improving both ride and bucket material retention. The newly-designed track is almost 70 inches long on the ground and has steel cords that run longitudinally, as well as steel inserts at the sprocket engagement points.

A two-speed hydrostatic drive system with an 8.5-mph travel speed is standard. Rated operating capacities for the loaders are 3,200, 3,850 and 4,150 pounds at 50 percent of tipping load. The 279C and 289C have net horsepower ratings of 82, and the 299C has a 90-net-horsepower rating.

Takeuchi’s 200 Series
Takeuchi introduced the company’s fourth generation of compact track loaders this year, incorporating new productivity-driven features. Taking a cue from dozers and large track loaders, Takeuchi’s unit has steel-on-steel contact between the track and undercarriage components to improve durability and extend the life of the components. New standard features include a proportional slide switch that controls the auxiliary hydraulics, enabling precise attachment operation; a 14-pin accessory connection with a multi-function, push-button control handle that expands the attachments available for the loader; and a hydraulic universal attachment quick-hitch for easy attachment changes from the cab. While the bucket positioning system and bucket float were standard on previous models, the TL230, TL240 and TL250 now have a standard bucket float detent system to simplify back dragging operations.

Product Manager David Steger says the versatility of these loaders is an important consideration. In addition to handling wet conditions, Steger says the traction offered by their current lineup can offer significant benefits over a skid steer. “When using the bucket to dig, skid steers only have two small areas on the rear tires that provide limited traction. Track loaders can have the entire track contact length on the ground, enabling the operator to completely fill the bucket or hold a slope,” he says. Steger also encourages contractors to weight the owning and operating costs of a compact track loader against the production of the machine.

Mustang’s MTL Series
When Mustang planned a Tier 3 emissions standards upgrade for their line of compact track loaders, they decided to improve other features as well. The MTL312 was released in March, and the MTL316, MTL320 and MTL325 are upgraded models released in June. Mustang boosted horsepower and speed – the product line now ranges from 51 to 92 turbo horsepower, with ground speeds of up to 7.5 mph. “Gained horsepower translates to gained performance,” says Kelly Moore, product manager. Moore noted that Mustang also included a two-speed drive as standard equipment, as well as a foot throttle to improve fuel efficiency and operator convenience.

The foot-pedal design that controlled auxiliary hydraulics on the former models has been replaced with an easy-to-use thumb switch on all four models, and a push-button activates the float function. Moore believes one of the biggest advantages contractors will see is the compact track loaders’ attachments use the same system as their skid-steer loaders. The MTL320 and MTL325 are available with a high-flow option.

The new Mustang MTL line will also offer an optional counterweight system to enhance lift capacity that will be available this fall.

Case 400 Series 3
Case’s 420CT, 440CT, 445CT and 450CT now include engine improvements and ergonomic upgrades. Net horsepower ranges from 69 on the 420CT to 83 on the 450CT and torque has been increased up to 53 percent, depending on the model, says Jim Hughes, brand marketing manager for Case. Rated operating capacities at 35 percent tipping load are 2,000 pounds for the 420CT, 2,100 pounds for the 440CT, 2,300 pounds for the 445CT and 2,700 pounds for the 450CT. The 445CT has what Case calls a Power Reach radial arm design for maximum reach at full height, and the 450CT features a Power Cycle radial arm design for fast loader cycles.

“These machines are used in residential and commercial construction as well as utility work, and they are increasingly popular in the rental market,” Hughes says. New 400 Series 3 cabs offer increased headroom, increased lap-bar width and improved visibility. The new cabs also offer industry-exclusive side lighting as a standard feature, as well as a larger wide-fin side-by-side radiator and oil cooler.

Gehl’s CTL55
In February, Gehl introduced the 58-inch-wide model CTL55 compact track loader, specifically designed for working under operating space constraints. The 51.2-horsepower CTL55 joins three other models in the Gehl lineup – the CTL65, CTL75 and CTL85 – with a range of up to 97 horsepower. All four models offer Tier 3 engines, and the CTL75 and CTL85 have turbo-charged engines with high-flow auxiliary hydraulic system options.

Gehl’s two-speed drive system uses high-torque, radial-piston motors with planetary final drives, and spring-applied, hydraulic released multi-disc wet brakes to hold the machine on a slope. For easy maintenance, the loaders feature a tilt-back ROPS/FOPS and the cooling system in the rear swings out of the way to allow full engine access.

New Holland C185, C190
The New Holland C185 and C190 compact track loaders are equipped with four-cylinder turbocharged New Holland engines by FPT that produce more gross horsepower than previous models. The C185 and C190 offer 82 horsepower at 2,550 rpm and 90 horsepower at 2,300 rpm, respectively. Compared to previous models, these machines have batteries that provide 30 percent more cold cranking amps, more powerful starters and new standard grid heaters to improve cold-starting capabilities. The C185 has a 3,643-pound rated operating capacity at 50 percent tipping load, and the C190 has a 4,143-pound rated operating capacity at 50 percent tipping load. New Holland also offers the C175, a 60-horsepower machine that has a 3,150-pound rated operating capacity at 50 percent tipping load.

Changes that address operator comfort include a glass cab door that opens 90 degrees, all-around visibility, increased headroom, improved elbow support and a contoured suspension seat.

Edgar Chavez, director of marketing for New Holland, says the compact track loader in some applications will replace other machines. “Equipped with a backhoe attachment, in some instances they can replace both a skid-steer loader and compact excavator working in concert,” he says.

Deere’s CT332
Deere has two models of compact track loaders, the CT322 and the CT332. The CT332 has a new electrohydraulic joystick control option that features push-button controls built directly into the joystick for total machine control. Proportional thumb rollers improve control of attachments, and a “dial-a-flow” feature enables infinite speed settings for attachments.

Deere’s Worksite Pro attachment line has more than 100 attachments to fit the compact track loader. This versatility, combined with the ability to work later into a season when soil conditions become unmanageable for skid steers make the compact track loader a tool for increasing both productivity and profits, says Gregg Zupancic, product marketing manager, John Deere.

Productive Operation
Our sources also gave these operating tips:

  1. When traveling, reduce the angle of turns. This will not only reduce stress and wear on the machine, but can increase production.
  2. Use an experienced operator. Beginning operators often work at part throttle until all the direction and implement controls are mastered.
  3. Use a hydraulic coupler if you operate a lot of attachments.
  4. Operate only at the speed necessary to productively perform the task at hand.
  5. Don’t operate your compact track loader at full RPM unless you need to.
  6. Don’t counter-rotate the machine and don’t spin the tracks going into a pile, which accelerates wear and could case cuts to the track.
  7. Extend track life by maintaining proper track tension.
  8. Avoid driving sideways on a slope.
  9. If you run in corrosive materials such as fuel, salt, oil or chemicals, clean the track daily with clear water.
  10. Clean undercarriages at the end of the work day. In cold climates, don’t allow material to freeze within the undercarriage.