Schaffer has been the leading brand in mini loaders and front-end loaders for over 50 years. Schaffer provide mini loaders, front-end loaders, fork-lifts, telescopic loaders, articulated loaders, skid-steers, mini diggers, articulated fork lifts and all accessories.View all articles by Schaffer Loaders
1.Articulated mini loaders are very VERSATILE. You can operate every accessory that you can use on a skidsteer. Articulated mini loaders use an endless amount of tools including, pallet forks, 4-in-1 buckets, grab buckets, general purpose buckets, light material buckets, grabs, log grapples, post hole diggers, dozer blades, sweepers, mowers and trenchers – just to name a few!
2.Skidsteers dig up grass, sand and even asphalt by skidding on the ground to steer, the same way a tank steers. Articulated mini loaders on the other hand, use articulated steering that creates MINIMAL DAMAGE to the ground, as it isn’t skidding on it. Skids steers can crack paving and even rip up asphalt, particularly on hot days. The skidsteer operator when working on established residential and commercial properties must go back and repair all the damage created by skidsteers tyres. The time lost doing repairs by skidsteer operators is very costly for contractors as they aren’t able to charge for it, wastes critical time and customers are unhappy about the damage. Articulated mini loader drivers instead of having to go and repair damage caused by skidsteers, just go on to the next job to make more money. Upfront costs of purchasing an articulated mini loader are higher than a skidsteer, but these upfront costs are quickly gained back through the operating life of the mini loader.
3.Skidsteers WEAR OUT TYRES FAST on hard surfaces as the whole weight of the vehicle is skidding on the tyre making downtime and maintenance costly. Cost of the actual tyres is one issue, but fitting charges, tyre waste surcharges, travel time to and from the tyre repair centre is often not taken into account and is often more costly than the tyres themselves!
ARTICULATED mini loaders use articulated steering which doesn’t damage tyres, reducing maintenance cost and downtime. The whole front end of the loader pivots to turn the mini loader in the direction required. Articulated steering isn’t hard on tyres, the ground, the operator (particularly if he is sitting on the rear of the mini loader – this is critical to the right choice in buying a mini loader, that the operator sits on the rear of the mini loader, every major manufacturer now has they operator sitting on the rear chassis of the mini loader) or on the mini loader. Skidsteers on the other hand must generate a lot of pressure in the other wheels to force the whole machine to skid and turn around on the spot.
A big advantage of articulated mini loaders over skid steers is that they have a lot more choice of tyre patterns than skid steers as they can use a deep lug with efficient self cleaning space between the lugs. Skidsteers on the other hand, can’t use a deep lug or it will get ripped off when the lug is skidded on. Skidsteers must use a lug that is very close to the next lug so the force can be spread over a few lugs or it will simply get ripped off. This means skidsteers have less efficient traction in slippery conditions, causing more damage to the track and extra fuel consumption. Skid steers may still be able to move through muddy terrain but this only occurs with a lot of slippage as the lugs you can use on a skidsteer are limited in both depth and self cleaning ability – spacing. When skidsteers grip on solid surfaces it can be very hard on the driver’s neck, this doesn’t help operators have a nice after work life!
4.Skidsteers often do not have much reach when they are dumping their bucket so you can only load trucks from one side. Skid steers need to drive around the other side of the truck or trailer to load it. The centre of gravity of the load of skidsteers is often kept as close to the skidsteer as possible, this maximizes lift capacity which is particularly crucial when operating from a very short wheelbase, as it cannot handle much weight out the front. Articulated mini loaders can load trailers from one side as they REACH onto the opposite side saving time, diesel and in urban areas you don’t have to venture onto the road, which saves a lot time. This is possible as mini loaders often have more reach than skidsteers, allowing them to work much quicker at filling trailers.
5.Operating an articulated mini loader is very simple – you have a steering wheel, the same as any car and a joystick which controls all the mast functions. Pull the joystick back and the mast goes up, push the joystick and the mini loader mast goes down and side to side controls crowd and dump. The simple nature of driving an articulated mini loader allows new staff to become productive rapidly. When operating a skidsteer there are many different types of operating systems, however none of them incorporate the familiar steering wheel, so they all take a lot more time to become familiar with compared to an articulated mini loader. Some skidsteers use footpedals to controls the mast and joysticks on either side to control the steering. Newer skidsteers seems to be tending now towards two joysticks – one that controls the mast functions and one joystick to control the steering. The two joysticks of skidsteers is generally a totally unnatural feeling for most skid steer operators and it takes quite some time before operators become remotely productive.
6.Articulated mini loaders are often purchased by councils due to their all round visibility. The operator of an articulated mini loader sits on top of the engine giving a better view of the working area and surroundings. To enter the operating area of a mini loader you can enter either side of the cabin area. With skidsteers you must CLIMB IN AND OUT OF A CAGE over the bucket and you have very LIMITED VISIBILITY. The skidsteer is basically a small metal box and the operator is sitting very low on the ground, not giving them a commanding position of the area. The whole view out the back of the skidsteer is very restricted as there is only a small viewing panel at the operators head height – the rear of the skidsteer totally obstructs the operators view, apart from the panel.
On a mini loader however the operator SITS ON TOP GIVING A BETTER VIEW of the total work area, making it safer for personnel, animals and other equipment in the work area. As the operator has a better view of the work area in the mini loader they are able to focus on the job at hand and not be concerned about damaging areas accidentally. This dramatically speeds loading and work performance in an articulated mini loader compared to a skid steer, particularly when operating in confined areas.
The mast on a mini articulated loader, being mounted on the front chassis also provides an important extra safety feature. When entering or exiting a skid steer the operator has to climb over the bucket, which is attached to the tool frame and the mast. Unfortunately a number of accidents have occurred when servicing skidsteers or when operators have had a problem with their skidsteer and had to leave the mast up and exit the cabin area of the skidsteer. This creates a very dangerous situation and the mast has come down and severely injured a number of people and crushed them when getting in and out of the skidsteer cabin as a lever was knocked or ram failure occurred. This potentially dangerous situation is totally avoided on an articulated mini loader as you don’t have to climb over the bucket to enter the operating area.
7.Skid Steers have a very short wheelbase – the front axle is mounted very close to the rear axle. This TRANSFERS ALL THE BUMPS into the chassis and hence into the seat just like a short wheelbase four wheel drive making it hard on your back. A good quality suspension seat helps soften the blows, but still every bump is transferred into the chassis. Mini loaders have a much longer wheelbase, an oscillating articulation joint (or an oscillating rear axle in front end loaders) and the highest quality mini loaders have a good suspension seat, giving the operator an even SMOOTHER RIDE improving OH&S. The longer wheelbase of mini loaders allows the mini loader to span more bumps on uneven ground so the whole machine isn’t being rocked upwards on the same bump. The oscillating articulation joint allows the joint to twist sideways which helps smooth the bumps even more instead of transferring them through to the driver. The oscillating rear axle of articulated mini loaders also helps to maintain traction as more wheels are on the ground just about all the time, whereas in a skidsteer with two rigid axles and a very short wheelbase, as soon as rough terrain is encountered, wheels lift off the ground and obviously can’t aid in giving traction to the skidsteer. All these features of a mini loader allows the operator to work much faster as the load is container in the bucket and won’t spill like on a skid steer and the mini loader can perform more tasks quicker as the operator is able to handle the terrain at a quicker speed. As the mini loader isn’t bounced around as much on rough terrain the mini loader componentry also isn’t subjected to as much jolting force, which extends its operating life. It also means the mini loader operator has a big advantage - they aren’t so tired at the end of the day.
8.The short wheelbase of skidsteers can make them unstable in certain conditions. In a skidsteer on a slope if the operator tries to dump into a trailer for example the centre of gravity of the load generally shifts further forward (unless it has parallel lift), making the loader tip forward. The short wheelbase doesn’t have much weight to act as a stable lever behind it, so the skidsteer tips forward. An articulated mini loader on the other hand has a much longer wheel base and a lot more weight is much further back so it acts as a stabilizing force on the loader and they can tip out the bucket on a slope, however this is not recommended as it isn’t correct operating technique on any loader or forklift.
9. A commonly overlooked advantage of driving a mini articulated loader rather than a skidsteer is that you are able to change the dumping position without having to move the loader. On a mini loader the mast is mounted to the front chassis and joined to the rear chassis via the articulation joint. If you turn the steering wheel, then you pivot the whole front end independently to the rear chassis. For example when dumping into a trailer you want to fill up the whole trailer bed with material, with a mini loader you can easily spread the load around – just by turning the wheel, the material will spread to the rear or the front of the trailer. In a skidsteer however the mast arms are attached to the body of the machine and you have limited reach, if you want to change where you are dumping. You often need to move backwards and reposition the whole skidsteer to fill up the rear of the trailer. This movement of the front end in articulated mini loaders is particularly useful when working in confined areas with pallets. The articulated steering allows the operator to drive right up to the pallet and if the pallet forks aren’t lined up correctly, the operator can just turn the steering wheel to line the forks up.
I hope this story has been useful in your decision on deciding whether to purchase an articulated mini loader or a skidsteer!