Is it a Backhoe? A Loader? – No, It’s a Huddig!


The Huddig is like nothing you’ve ever operated.

It can do so much more than a backhoe, which it resembles.

“It’s a super-diverse machine,” says our guest on this episode of The Dirt, Joel Marreel, strategic accounts manager for Huddig dealer Vancer Rail Systems.

It articulates and oscillates. It can be a 13-ton excavator with no need for stabilizers. It can be a wheel loader, a skid loader, a backhoe. You can even operate a manlift on it.

Any attachment you can run on a 13-ton excavator can be operated on it, and you can travel as you operate. You can even run it by remote control.

“You literally learn something new on the Huddig every single day,” Marreel says.

Host and professional operator Bryan Furnace was blown away by what it could do, including the in-cab functions and ergonomics. “It’s the most comfortable machine I’ve ever operated,” he says.

So to learn more about this unique machine, check out the latest episode of The Dirt.

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In This Episode:

  • 00:00 - The Huddig – Excavator, Loader and More
  • 00:33 - What is a Huddig?
  • 01:57 - Not Just a Backhoe or a Loader
  • 04:48 - Learning Curve, Training and Driving
  • 06:37 - Cab and Operator Controls
  • 08:46 - Remote Control
  • 10:05 - Hydraulic Flow Control
  • 11:20 - Customization
  • 11:58 - Attachments
  • 17:19 - Adding Tracks and Tire Customization
  • 18:19 - Modularity
  • 19:57 - What “Sold” Bryan on the Huddig
  • 23:16 - Final Thoughts


Bryan Furnace (00:00):

Today we are here to talk about a very strange looking machine. We are here to talk about the Huddig. What is a Huddig, and what do you use it for? Well, that's why we brought in Joel, the expert on Huddig. He is joining us from Vancer, which is one of Huddig's primary dealers, and he's going to let us know what this thing is and why it's so awesome.


Well, Joel, thank you so much for taking your time to be on the show today. I really appreciate it.

Joel Marreel (00:36):

Man, it's good to be on the show. I've been following you since you first started tracking the Huddigs and enjoy your show.

Bryan Furnace (00:44):

Well, thank you. I appreciate that. I got to be honest, I think to date in my entire operating career, the Huddig is my most favorite machine I have ever run. For the sake of the audience, will you clue them in as to what this goofy looking machine is? What is a Huddig?

Joel Marreel (01:03):

Well, I'll tell you what, a Huddig is all about diversity. It is about five, six machines in one machine. That's exactly what we always talk about with all of our customers is we get into this machine and in a sense, I always revert to a CAT machine if I'm referring it because everybody knows a CAT machine.

Bryan Furnace (01:22):


Joel Marreel (01:22):

I tell them it's a 930, maybe a hair smaller on the wheel loader side on the front. It's a 313 on the back. It's jointed on the top of that boom and stick as you have seen and operated, so it's just like a mini excavator. It's a skid loader, it's a backhoe, it's everything. It's literally five machines in one and it's just super diverse in what we use it for and what our other companies use it for that we sell to. It's just super diverse machine.

Bryan Furnace (01:53):

I will come back to that, but it's also going to play into my next question. Most people in the American market are going to look at this machine and go, "My God, that is a giant backhoe" or "It's a backhoe and a front loader that got together and had a kid." Can you explain to me why it is not a backhoe, and it is not a loader?

Joel Marreel (02:10):

You bet. It's the furthest thing from either one actually. But in Sweden they do refer to them as the backhoe and I'm always telling them, "Hey, we get into the states, we just can't do it" because it's just totally different. It's more of a robust. Now, it does do the same functions as the backhoe, only it's on steroids. Only it's way more. It's got more hydraulics. It's got more lift capacity. Like I say, it's the back end of that. I call it the work end. It's the equivalent of a 13-ton excavator where you don't have that in a backhoe. It does the backhoe plus more. People do look at it that way and it is quick to look at it, Bryan, when you're taking a look at it in the pictures. Yeah, it kind of does. Until you see that thing in person, which you've seen and you've operated, then all of a sudden it's like, "Holy cow. This is a huge machine."


Not only articulated but oscillated. Like I say, a 13 ton on the back. Got a wheel loader on the front. You can do so much with these and I just sold one just the other day up to Anchorage, Alaska. It's headed that way. They're going to run everything from blades on the front to snowblowers on the front to a bucket on the front and then the back, they're going to duplicate it. They're going to run a blade on the back, they're going to run a snowblower on the back and then they're going to install ties. They're going to do some utility work. We can put a man lift on it that has a grapple that holds the poles. Just so much more.

Bryan Furnace (03:30):

For the audience that have never seen this thing before, I want to expand on a little of what you've talked about because it is all of those machines and yet the same time, it's none of those machines in the sense that it is its own beast. For people not familiar with the Huddig, you spend 80 to 90% of your time turned around looking out over the back arm because unlike a backhoe, this thing can travel while you are operating. In fact, very rarely do you ever put the outriggers down because the machine's just so stable. You're literally driving around in what we would think of as reverse while you're operating the back arm and you're stable enough that there's no worry of you rolling the machine whatsoever.


As a result, I bet I spent probably two to three days in this machine just thinking about all the different things that I could do that I've never been able to do in a loader or a backhoe. What I enjoyed so much is this stripped me down to day one of learning to operate a machine. As operators, we get into an excavator and if you've ran one, you've ran an excavator. You get into a backhoe, if you've ran one, you've ran a backhoe. This was the first machine that I got into it and it's like I don't even know what I can do in this machine because of all these extra functions that have never been available to me before.

Joel Marreel (04:48):

Well, and that's exactly right. You talk about running it. When we're out there training with our guys, because every machine that you get gets a Vancer trainer, gets a Huddig trainer and we stay with them for a week. Bryan, you and I talked about this and you agreed you were in the same boat the first day or the first two days, you absolutely hate it. You want to take that thing back.

Bryan Furnace (05:06):

Absolutely. It's confusing.

Joel Marreel (05:10):

The second week you're like, "Well, I kind of tolerate this machine. I like it." Then when we go back and we follow up a month later, they're like, "We're not giving this thing back, this is the best machine we've ever had." Because you literally learn something new on the Huddig every single day. From being able to dial the hydraulics clear down to ... well, you saw it at Conex, but clear down to be able to open up a bottle and pour that into a glass. You can dial up clear down to be able to plow fiber all the way up to be able to run a brush cutter, to be able to run a blower, to be able to run an under cutter if you're doing railroad work, anything like that. The machine, going back to the word diverse, that's exactly what it is.


These guys that get into it, they jump and in Sweden, of course, and anybody that's used to the Huddig, you drive it off the work end. They do. They drive it with the excavator in. You're going the same miles per hour whether you're on the road ... even the rail version, you're going the same mile per hour on the rail whether you're going forward or backwards. It doesn't make any difference because so many people drive that off the work end because that's the end they work. It allows you to see your point of view a lot better. You don't have a loader bucket sitting in there. Some guys will even bring that over because that bucket, that work in on the excavator, will slide way in. They'll literally bring that up against the cab, bring the boom and stick together, truck right down the road. It's just a great piece that way as far as safety goes and as far as versatility.

Bryan Furnace (06:37):

I'll tell you another thing that really stuck out to me is that was the first truly European machine that I had been in, and you get into the cabin and everyone's going to have the experience of "This is totally overwhelming. It looks like I am commanding the space shuttle." I mean it is just buttons everywhere. You look at either side of your armrest and there's just buttons and you're going, "What am I supposed to do with this?" What stuck out to me is within probably an hour, that wasn't scary. It was actually really nice and to date, this is the most comfortable machine I've ever operated because it's so well-thought-out that your hands don't ever leave the controls.


That was the incredible part is you think about a traditional American machine and at some point you're going to have to reach over to your pillar or you're going to have to reach over to your console and you're going to have to click something over here. With the Huddig, even if I'm wanting to operate the front boom while I'm turned around in the rear configuration, I still don't have to take my hands off of my controls. All of the buttons and functionality are right here to where I'm still on my joysticks and I just push another button. I mean, it's just the layout was incredible.

Joel Marreel (07:43):

That's exactly right. I think you made comment to me the first time we talked. My very first habit was to reach between my legs and grab a hold of that bar and rotate the [inaudible 00:07:51].

Bryan Furnace (07:50):

Absolutely. You're just so used to it.

Joel Marreel (07:55):

Literally, you sit down in this machine and ergonomically, it's ergonomically correct for your arms. Your arms literally sit down on those joysticks. They grab the right; they grab the left. You can turn the dials; you can push the buttons. Everything is there. Unless you're reaching over, I call it on that little iPad control, that little glass control there, unless you're dialing down, whether it's tractive effort, whether it's hydraulics, whatever you're doing, unless you're dialing down, there's no need to leave that. You talk about safety, but you talk about the functionality because you're running forward and you're digging off of the work end, off of that backside. You're digging off of that, Bryan, and you want to keep moving back. You literally are just tripping a button and you're just creeping forward while you're doing it. The same goes the other way.


If you're working your loader bucket, you're literally just creeping backwards while you're doing it. You take that and you combine it with the remote control that 75% of the people buy with those Huddigs, you put that remote control over your shoulders, you're running the same exact thing that you're running inside the machine on that remote control. Imagine digging a trench box or plowing fiber. I've seen them do it. They just walk right alongside when they're plowing fiber and literally look down inside that crevice while they're doing it. It's amazing. The gentleman down in Kansas that I sold one of these machines to, he literally just drives down the side of the road there and plows that fiber. The plow was over on the right-hand side in the ditch, he's standing up on the gravel walking that thing across.


The cool thing about the Huddig then, and I don't know if you even knew this, you probably haven't had a chance, but the tractive effort on a Huddig. You can go down; you can dial the tractive effort. If you've got slippage on the back, you can dial that up to the front so you can literally dial it right left, front rear. If you've got slippage, if you are plowing fiber and you're on the right-hand side pulling fiber in that grass and your right side is slipping, put the tractive effort on the left front tire and the left rear tire, pull it down onto that gravel or onto that concrete or whatever you're plowing there and give it that tractive effort. The tigon, your electric one or hybrid, does that same thing on the attractive effort as our gas or diesel power board. It's no-brainer.

Bryan Furnace (10:05):

Again, the versatility of the machine, we're so used to these American machines where you get what you get. Your differential lock is on or it's off and that's the extent of versatility here, or auxiliary hydraulics. You kind of talked about dialing that down, but to kind of reiterate to the audience on an American machine, you have high flow, you have standard flow and that's what you get. Versus on this machine, I can go into the menu, and I can literally within a range dial that down to the flow requirement I need for my attachment. It is just unbelievable the amount of, for lack of a better term, stuff packed into these machines. It's just incredible.

Joel Marreel (10:45):

It's going to be interesting to see the front of our machine we just sold to Anchorage, Alaska, the Huddig factory is actually adding high flow to that front for a snowblower. Now not only can we adjust the flow high flow, from bottom to top on the back, but we can also now adjust it on the front, which we've never done before. For me, as you stated, it's just another tool on the tool belt. This thing for me as far as somebody that represents them in the states changes every single time I use the machine or I'm training on the machine or I'm working with a customer. You said it best. We've got some of the best equipment in the United States. We honestly do. But you go in there sometimes and you said it, Bryan, you go in there, "Hey, I really like this. What can you do?" "Well, I can make it yellow."


Where you can go into the Huddig and you can say, "Well, not only can you change the color to any color you want, but you can go in there and it's not cookie cutter" and that's why it fits so well in the Vancer side of things. We focus mainly on the railroad, but we do so much on the Huddig in the construction world, in the utility world because of the fact, but we take pride in being able to customize the equipment for you.

Bryan Furnace (11:58):

The machine itself, as we've covered up until this point, is incredibly versatile and it is its own Swiss Army knife. But where this machine really shines is when you start slapping attachments on it. Could you talk about some of the versatility? How can you equip this machine? What are some of the crazy things you can put on this machine that really showcases the Swiss Army knife-ness of this machine?

Joel Marreel (14:15):

The first thing I always tell people, you want to see the diversity of this machine, go to YouTube and Google Huddig or type in Huddig and it's amazing what comes up.

Bryan Furnace (14:25):

Prepare to lose an hour of your life.

Joel Marreel (14:27):

Yes, it's a rabbit hole. It's a rabbit hole. You're exactly right. What we do, and I'll tell you how we set them up. We've got customers set them up with an oil quick. If they've got the quick patch and they've got all of these attachments at home, they can go do that. Now, on the railroad side, that's a little harder. You can't set it up that way because you might have attachments in Portland, Oregon, you might have them in Miami, Florida, and it doesn't work. You move the machine; you can't take all of that with you. How we set it up to make it is we set it up with a Rototilt. We have a really good relationship with Rototilt. They do a great job for us. We set it up with a Rototilt and then, Bryan, we set the bottom side up on 90% of ours of that Rototilt with CAT linkage.


We set it up like a CAT 213 excavator. Anything you can run on a 213 or a 13-ton excavator to that coupler will fit that's also set up with the S linkage. Like a Volvo linkage or an S coupler S60, X45, whatever you want to put on there. It makes it very diverse. You can run your pile drivers, you can run your vibratory hammers, you can run cold air blowers, you can run brush cutters of all styles. Of course, every bucket, every grapple bucket, anything and everything on the railroad from the tie head on the utility to a vibratory plow. It is just endless. Then we have several customers that make things. We've got a gentleman that takes his bucket, literally made a reel for his spools and puts his reels on the front just like they do on our competitor equipment.


Raise that thing up in the air, he's got a couple rollers over the cab he's knifing in, four tubes at one time he's got working and he could go more. He could easily go more with different plows, but the day I was out there, he's running in four pieces of fiber in there to run down there. How many lines is that? But then they turned around, they quickly dropped that. He's got his bucket. You got the man lift. We haven't talked about the man lift. You've got a man lift on there that has a pole grapple at the top. You can literally lift your pole, set up the hole after you dig it, quick swap over to your bucket, fill in the hole, tamp that hole and you're holding the pole the whole time with the man lift and then turn around and put your guy up there and hook it up.

Bryan Furnace (16:44):

If you're good at it, you don't even have the outriggers down.

Joel Marreel (16:47):


Bryan Furnace (16:49):

That's the crazy thing.

Joel Marreel (16:51):

I can't say that on a safety side, but there's a lot of the guys that do run it maybe one outrigger, maybe two outriggers. The nice thing about that is those outriggers are there, they're quick, they're run against off those joysticks. If you want, the outriggers are there. If you want to pick them up quickly, you're doing a slope and you're done digging and you want to slope everything out, man, you pop that outrigger up and you don't have to lift it all the way. You just pop it up, moves fast, truck right down the road.

Bryan Furnace (17:19):

One of the things we also haven't talked about is the fact that you can get a full-blown set of tracks for this thing to where it looks like a quad track tractor. If you're in super, super soft ground conditions, you could slap tracks on this thing, and it can make it through all those conditions. It's unreal the things this machine can do.

Joel Marreel (17:38):

Bryan, if you and I ever get the chance there where we're sitting face-to-face, I'll show you their build sheet and you want to talk about there's more. You go onto their build sheet, and you can go the tires, not only the tracks are the far ... I'm going to say way on the bottom side of the tires and the tread, but you can go different tread patterns, you can go wider treads, you can go narrow tread. Go back to the railroad, your third rail or your construction on there and you want to go a wider less compact if you're putting in fiber. You're doing utility work or dirt work that you don't want to have a lot of compaction, but you don't want to do the tracks. The tracks that they build, they're an easy swap. I mean, they're literally a bolt and unbolt and we're swapping tracks.


One of the biggest things that I always see is the person that has one Huddig will have a second Huddig. It works that way. The one thing, Bryan, and I don't know if you had a chance to notice it, I see it all the time because of course I sell them and rent them and work with the folks. You back up to about the very first two days, maybe not the number one series, but through there all the way up to the brand new 1370 and Bryan's got his construction company. He's running and he starts doing some utility work or his second machine comes in or whatever. I want to add that man lift. When you talk about the planning in that, I remove ... I'm going to call it the left fender. I'm going to remove the driver's side rear fender. I'm going to take that off.


I'm going to add a bracket to that, literally plug and play into the hydraulics and electronics that are already there and then buy a different fender. It's got a little notch cut out to fit over that bracket. Bam, I attach my man lift and I'm done. I'm done. You've got a machine that's four or five years old and you buy your new machine. You either want to swap the man lift of this machine or you want to add a man lift to an existing business as you're going, that's a friendly-

Bryan Furnace (19:27):

It's a day project.

Joel Marreel (19:29):

It is. It's something that's very modular so that a company can grow into it. The Huddig is a very modular piece of equipment. You can add, you can delete. Once again, I can go back to hydraulics, I can go back to fuel flow, I can go back to fuel efficiency. It comes right down to it. You're using one machine to do a plethora of jobs.

Bryan Furnace (19:54):

That's why I have become such a fanboy of the machine. It's because I still remember the first time I walked into a showroom floor. We were at AED summit. It's a trade show, we walk into the room and my buddy Rick and I both look over and go, "What is that thing? That's weird looking." We go over there, we start looking at it, we're like, "This is a backhoe on steroids. It's a cool machine, but come on." It wasn't until we really got to sit down in it and play with it and then we started to understand ... it's the stupidest things too. I'll give you my favorite example that I used for the Huddig as to what sold me on it is I was running it in the backhoe configuration, like you said, the work side of the tool, and I had it in the shop and oh, you know what, we've got the wrong bucket on it.


That was the instance I told you. My first instinct is reach between my legs there and grab it to spin around and I went, "Wait, wait, wait, wait. I don't have to do that." With the flick of my pinky finger, I put it in reverse, I backed out of my slot, I flicked my pinky finger and now we're in forward and I drove that sucker around the yard all the way to where the buckets were. Didn't have to get straight on it because I'm able to operate the boom while I'm driving, swung over, grabbed the new bucket, swung back in front of me, drove back up to the front. You think about a backhoe. Now that sounds like it was a very lengthy thing. This took me about 45 seconds. You think about a traditional backhoe. Well, now we got to pop the outriggers up, we got to lift the bucket up. I got to spin around in my seat. Now we got to go get set up on the bucket.


If you're a pretty good operator, we can slap the front bucket down on it. We don't necessarily have to put our outriggers up, but we're going to have to daintily kind of baby the bucket over so that we aren't going to start pulling over on the machine. You're easily three to four minutes in just going and getting a bucket. This machine was able to do it in about 45 seconds because of the way you can utilize the machine. That's kind of the Huddig in a nutshell is you almost have to take the machine for a day or two to even wrap your mind around what it's capable of because we've never had anything like it and so you can't compare it to anything. It's not an accurate or fair comparison.

Joel Marreel (22:13):

No, that's exactly right. There's a lot of times, Bryan, when we take it out to our customers, we tell them, "Use it for a week. We're not going to charge you [inaudible 00:22:22]." Because it's going to take you a week to get it to where you're proficient in it and where you're using it fluid. It takes that week, and sometimes two, because you can't take a normal operator that jumps in your excavator, jumps in your backhoe, jumps in here, you can't do that with a Huddig. It takes an operator that has to pay attention to learn it because it does all of these machining functions in one. But gosh darn it, that operator takes that time, he's got a hell of a tool.

Bryan Furnace (22:51):

You never want to go back, ever. Once you've been spoiled in the Huddig, you don't ever want to go back.

Joel Marreel (22:58):

Nope. That's the truth. That is the truth.

Bryan Furnace (23:00):

Well, Joel, I want to thank you so much for all of your time and expertise and just thank you for nerding out with me.

Joel Marreel (23:08):

That's no problem. I can talk Huddigs all day long, but you need something, you just reach out to me. I'm happy to help you, Bryan.

Bryan Furnace (23:14):

We appreciate it. Thanks again. As you can see, this machine is just awesome. This is one of my favorite machines I've ever encountered, and it is just impressive in every way. As always, I hope this helps you in your business. Thanks for joining us and we'll catch you on the next episode of The Dirt.