Mini Mean

Dec. 1, 2001
Compact excavators, also known as excavators, have earned their place among the most popular construction equipment in rental fleets. While their traditional

Compact excavators, also known as “mini” excavators, have earned their place among the most popular construction equipment in rental fleets. While their traditional advantage is fitting into tight spaces, these machines also offer versatility, precision and easy operation — and, in some cases, can even match the high productivity of their larger cousins.

Ranging in size from less than two to more than six tons, some compact excavators are as powerful as backhoes, providing heavy-equipment productivity for a fraction of the fuel cost. It's best for rental companies to keep a variety of sizes of compact excavators on hand to ensure that renters are getting the right machine for the job. For example, smaller equipment can fit into tighter spaces, but a heavier compact may be necessary if the renter needs a larger bucket or more breakout force.

Both rubber and steel tracks are available. For those working at demolition sites or on soft dirt, steel tracks provide exceptional durability and traction. However, if surface damage is a concern — such as with landscaped or paved areas — rubber tracks are the way to go. Most rubber tracks offer good traction on virtually any terrain.

Choose machines that are flexible and versatile. The most versatile compacts use a variety of different attachments. Some machines even provide attachments that can be shared with other types of equipment, such as skid steers. This flexibility is beneficial for contractors who rent a variety of smaller equipment because they can keep costs down by using these attachments back and forth between machines. For rental centers, stocking multi-machine attachments boosts utilization, which goes straight to the bottom line.

When a customer needs to use attachments, make sure the machine offered has a quick coupler. The many compacts provide a quick coupler as standard equipment, as well as auxiliary hydraulics, allowing an operator to quickly switch from one attachment to another.

Because of compact excavators' ease of use, the machines appeal to all skill levels, from contractors with experienced operators to homeowners. Operating ease is often a major determining factor in whether or not a machine is rented. Some compacts provide a means of quickly switching from backhoe-style controls to excavator-style controls. Compacts that have ergonomically designed controls also help unfamiliar operators become proficient more quickly.

In a compact excavator, maneuverability is everything. Zero tail swing permits the upper portion of the excavator to rotate completely within the width of its tracks, without accidentally hitting the rear of the machine on anything. New operators are less likely to beat up equipment with zero tail swing because there's no protruding tail to damage. Offset boom, also known as a swing boom, allows the operator to offset the boom to one side while rotating the body of the machine to get into tight quarters.

In general, the compact excavator is a low-cost machine to operate. Obviously, compacts are lighter than full-size equipment. Small size results in numerous benefits — for example, they require less fuel to operate. And, a smaller truck (around one ton or so) usually will suffice to trailer a mini excavator, which is a major plus for homeowners and other small-job renters. Designed for easy maintenance, with large swing-open doors for easy access to daily service points, cooling system, fuel filters and battery, a compact's parts and maintenance are much more economical.

When choosing compact excavators for your fleet, the manufacturer's product support capabilities should be scrutinized. A nationwide network of dealerships with multiple locations is more likely to offer readily available parts and factory-trained service technicians.

Joyce DeLay is writer/account executive for Marketing Communications, Overland Park, Kan.


The Kubota K008 features 360-degree house rotation and 140-degree boom swing. It can pass through a 36-inch doorframe. The machine's hydraulically adjustable track frame allows the operator to adjust the position of the tracks with a simple motion of the control lever. The 5.6-gpm hydraulic system provides ample power in all operations and assures quick cycle time.
RS # 172


With fast and smooth operations, the 304.5 mini hydraulic excavator from Caterpillar delivers 28 kilowatts of power with the Cat 3024 diesel engine. The operating weight with the cab is 10,130 pounds and 9,866 pounds with the canopy. Its maximum digging depth with standard stick is 11 feet, 7 inches, while its maximum reach at ground level with standard stick is 18 feet, 7 inches.
RS # 173


The D-Series 325 from Bobcat can dig everything from trenches to postholes, break up concrete and carve landscape features. It runs on a Kubota diesel engine and has a maximum dump height of 112.4 inches. Its maximum digging depth is 98.9 inches and maximum digging reach at ground level is 166.4 inches. The mini excavator has an operating weight of 5,760 pounds and a maximum travel speed of 2.3 mph.
RS # 174


Gehl offers a complete selection of compact excavators with 13 models, including four mid-size units that range from 5,557 to 8,215 pounds. Improvements to the new models include increased hydraulic oil flow and pressure for stronger digging performance, hydraulically dampened drive functions for more precise operator feel and control, enhanced serviceability and a larger operator station with a reconfigured control layout for more operator comfort and increased productivity. Standard features include auxiliary hydraulics, two-speed drive, ISO/SAE pattern selector, dozer blade, independent boom swing and a variety of attachments.
RS # 175


JCB's compact equipment line-up expands with the 1.5-ton 8017 mini excavator, featuring a variable width undercarriage that works hydraulically from the cab. Retracting the undercarriage to its minimum 3 feet, 2 inches optimizes maneuverability in confined areas. Extending the undercarriage to a maximum 4 feet, 5 inches provides improved stability at the touch of a switch. Productivity further benefits from a two-speed tracking feature, allowing for a low travel speed of 1.3 mph and high speed of 2.2 mph.
RS # 176


The PC20MRx, PC30MRx and PC40MRx compact excavators from Komatsu Utility Corp. feature Komatsu's HydrauMind hydraulic system with closed-center load sensing system. Another advanced feature is the pressure proportional control joystick. The brass bushings used in the boom, arm and blade help extend greasing intervals to 500 hours. All normal maintenance points are grouped together and easy to reach.
RS # 177

Flannegan Western

The Orbiter from Flannegan Western transforms from loader to forklift to personnel lift and 2001 models feature a mini excavator. With a digging depth of approximately 6 to 7 feet, the dipper style excavator attachment is ideal for footings, utility work and general construction. Two- and four-wheel drive options are available, as are gas or diesel models and many other options. It offers unparalleled vision, will readily accept universal skid steer attachments, rotates a full 360 degrees and is available in several models, ranging from 18- to 47-horsepower.
RS # 178


Indeco introduces its new line of custom grapples for excavators ranging from 25,000 to 170,000 pounds. All grapples are custom fit to a specific excavator's make, model and serial number. The grapples feature tighter closed openings, which make the pick up and transport of small objects quick and easy. The standard tine length is 14 inches, but 21-inch tines are available for handling tires, wood or scrap.
RS # 179


Mustang Mfg. expands its current line of excavators with the ME12002, which has an operating weight of 25,397 pounds and boasts a lift capacity of 19,665 pounds. The hydraulic system allows multiple-hydraulic function without the loss of speed or power. It is powered by a 98-horsepower Yanmar turbo 4-cylinder diesel engine and can reach a maximum digging depth of 15 feet, 9 inches. Operators have the ability to adapt the excavator's boom and arm controls to the specific jobsite.
RS # 180

John Deere

Weighing 3,800 pounds and measuring 4 1/2 feet wide, the 17ZTS from John Deere features 13 feet of reach, a digging depth of 7 1/4 feet, bucket breakout force of 3,042 pounds and a 12.3-horsepower liquid cooled diesel engine. The zero tail swing allows the body of the excavator to rotate 360 degrees within the width of its tracks. It comes attachment ready with mechanical quick coupler, boom-mounted auxiliary hydraulic lines and a return-flow selector valve that accommodates both one and two-way hydraulically driven attachments. The operator station is large, designed for optimum comfort and productivity.
RS # 181


The HR 18 mini excavator from Schaeff features a Mitsubishi 47-horsepower engine, operating weight of 10,300 pounds, bucket capacity of .060 to .26 cubic yards, breakout force rated DIN at 6,890 pounds, digging depth of 12 feet, 3 inches and a maximum reach of 19 feet, 8 inches. The hydraulic system is run on dual variable displacement piston pumps, one for working functions and travel, one for the boom operation and a gear pump for swinging and blade attachment operation as well as another gear pump for pilot pressure. The cab is roomy with hydraulically adjusted seat and height adjusted armrests. A footrest and tilting and adjusting control stand add to operator comfort.
RS # 182


Yanmar's Vio 40 mini excavator features zero tail swing and left and right boom swing, which allows the unit to operate close in and track adjacent to walls. It comes standard with the quick coupler system, providing quick bucket change without leaving the platform. A 3-pump hydraulic system, control pattern selector and dual auxiliary PTO for attachments are also standard. Reduced maintenance is emphasized with items such as a recessed work light, Codura protected and concealed hydraulic hose lines and same side engine servicing for routine engine care.
RS # 183


Tramac's 140 hydraulic breaker offers an ideal combination of blow energy and blow frequency for optimum productivity in trenching or demolition for loader backhoes and mini excavators from 4.5 to 1.3 tons. Providing 10 percent more blow energy than the previous 130 model and covering a wider flow range, it can be used on carriers where lower flows in the range of 19 to 32 gpm are available. The machine has an operating weight of 815 pounds, an operating pressure of 1,800 psi and a striking rate of 845 to 1,160 blows per minute. This breaker has a sealed accumulator not requiring continuous recharging and incorporates protection against blank firing.
RS # 184

Excavation Technology

The Lineman TMX from Excavation Technology has a patent pending design, with a built-in trailer and lockout wheel hubs for a quick-on/quick-off hitch system. It's towable, eliminating the need for a trailer and does not require a commercial driver's license for highway transport. Producing 6,600 pounds of digging force, the mini excavator comes equipped with a 20-horsepower gasoline or optional diesel engine and has a digging depth of eight feet. It also features a four-way backfill blade system to cradle an object between the digging bucket and backfill blade.
RS # 185


The SR-2 series compacts from Kobelco maximize versatility, and the zero tail swing feature allows the machines to easily move and work in tight spaces without damaging the machine or the jobsite. Single and bi-directional auxiliary hydraulic valves and piping are standard equipment and allow the use of attachments such as hammers and augers. A third button on the left-hand joystick controls the boom centerswing and a foot pedal controls the auxiliary hydraulic port for use with a variety of attachments. A control pattern changer lets the operator easily switch from ISO to TLB pattern.
RS # 186