Comfort and Growth

March 1, 2007
Increasing productivity, reducing daily operating costs and improved operator comfort are all qualities rental companies are looking for when purchasing

Increasing productivity, reducing daily operating costs and improved operator comfort are all qualities rental companies are looking for when purchasing a new skid steer for their rental fleets. Gregg Zupancic, product marketing manager of skid steers and compact-track loaders for John Deere shares his views on how manufacturers are tackling the wants of customers and how the skid-steer market is shaping up for 2007.

RER: What are customers asking for in their skid-steer loaders and how are manufacturers responding to them?

Zupancic: Customers are asking for productivity, uptime and low daily operating costs designed into their skid steers. Manufacturers are designing skid-steer loaders that feature optimal weight distribution, low center of gravity, high ground clearance and long wheelbase that deliver unsurpassed balance and agility for smooth moves regardless of the terrain underfoot.

Has there been an increase in “creature comforts” over time? What role does comfort play in the design of a skid-steer loader?

Operator comfort is also a big demand today versus five years ago. Today's skid steers and compact-track loaders offer heated and air-conditioned cabs, suspension seats, hydraulic quick connectors for hooking to attachments with the push of a button, and 12-volt kits for cell phones. Basically, operators can stay in their machines longer and be more productive without having to stop work in undesirable conditions. To ensure operator comfort, there are ergonomic and fully adjustable armrests, a rear window, floor cover plates, top window, cushion boom cylinders, deluxe instrumentation with auto preheat, auto shutdown with alarm, selectable digital readouts and self diagnostics.

How does the skid-steer market look right now? What do you expect for the future?

With the housing markets being softer, the skid-steer industry has also been a little soft the past few months. However, economic expansion is expected to continue in the United States through 2007, fueling the various skid-steer and compact-track loader market segments. Several powerful factors are still in place that will continue to push skid-steer and compact-track loader sales and rentals, including historically low long-term interest rates, which will fuel housing starts and small business growth. The construction industry and the landscape industry have been the main economic highlights for most of this century. These segments offer the largest growth potential for the light equipment market segment in 2007 and beyond, and these segments will continue to spur skid-steer rentals.

What steps have you taken to make serviceability easier for the operator?

If there's a way to reduce daily operating costs and simplify even periodic maintenance, we've incorporated it. The oil cooler is mounted to the rear door, separating it from the radiator and providing convenient swing-out access for easier cleanout. Daily service points are just beneath the hinged top door, and removable side panels give way to no-mess vertical spin-on filters, a maintenance-free battery, and easy-access air filter. If necessary, the operator station can be pivoted and secured in less than a minute, providing quick, wide-open access to the drivetrain.

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