Sept. 1, 1999
The first wheel loaders, introduced 35 years ago, were crude by today's standards. They were rough-riding, cab-less machines equipped with only one attachment

The first wheel loaders, introduced 35 years ago, were crude by today's standards. They were rough-riding, cab-less machines equipped with only one attachment - a bucket.

Today's models are a comfortable, easy-to-use, economic choice for material handling, tool carrying and other jobs. An ever-increasing variety of attachments, including buckets, forks, rakes, brooms and blades, expand the wheel loader's versatility beyond simple material handling. It's relatively easy to make a quick switch between attachments for maximum versatility.

Loaders of today are also designed for optimum productivity with higher breakout forces and faster cycle times. And they are generally operator-friendly. Even a relatively inexperienced operator can become comfortable on a wheel loader in a short period of time because of its simple controls and ease of operation. Most cabs feature adjustable seats, filtered-air systems, air conditioning and other amenities for maximum operator comfort.

Because of their diversity, wheel loaders can be used by a variety of customers. General contractors account for the vast majority of wheel-loader rentals, but highway and heavy contractors, as well as material-handling, utility and mining operations, are all potential renters. Municipalities, which tend to own wheel loaders, will often rent in an emergency.

In order to provide the proper machines to these customers, rental center owners must decide what size wheel loader to keep in their fleets. The choices range from compact to mid-size to large. All provide high breakout force and ease of operation; however, each is suited for different types of jobs.

To maximize productivity and satisfaction with the machine, it is necessary to help the customer match the appropriately sized wheel loader to the job.

Compact wheel loaders are often suitable for the lift and carry work that is usually tackled by skid-steer loaders, only with more breakout force. Like skid steers, they can be equipped with forks to move palleted building materials and with buckets to move piles of dirt, gravel or other loose material. For this reason, customers who are considering renting a skid steer primarily for material-handling work may choose to select a compact wheel loader instead.

Compact loaders, also an excellent choice for working quickly in close quarters, are easy to operate, often with a single-lever loader control. A contractor working in a residential area, or any area where a tight turning radius and maneuverability are important, would be a good candidate for renting a compact model.

Mid-size wheel loaders with 2- to 4-cubic-yard buckets make up the largest segment of rentals, capturing nearly 40 percent of the market. These workhorses are found on all types of jobsites, including highway construction and utility work. Machines in this size class provide smooth, efficient operation for all-day comfort. These mid-size models are used when productivity, rather than maneuverability, is the main concern.

Large wheel loaders pack muscle for the really big jobs with a bucket capacity of more than 4 cubic yards. These quick, powerful machines, designed for fast production, are frequently used in major highway construction projects and in mining and quarry operations where massive amounts of material need to be carried and loaded quickly.