Skid Steers are the Stars of the Compact Equipment Tool Carrier Category

To construct a summer blockbuster analogy, skid steers are the Transformers of the construction and landscape industry. With its quick-attach plate and hundreds of unique attachments, this protean piece of utility equipment is like a Constructicon, able to shift gears, change implements and dig, saw, load, cut, lift and work through most jobs and jobsites.

It’s been more than 50 years since the inception of the skid steer and much has changed since the M-400 Melroe self-propelled loader was introduced from the modern day Bobcat Co. From the skid steer’s controls to its brute strength, today’s compact equipment jack-of-all-trades is an evolved machine mongrel, vastly different from its 1960 self. Working its way to the top of the industry, the skid steer’s story follows it from three wheels to four, radial to vertical lift, hand and foot controls to pilot joysticks and beyond.

Today’s skid steers are going where no tool carriers have gone before — and in comfort and style. While loaders of yore had a bad reputation for rattling teeth, today’s skid steers are smooth rides, engineered with low-effort joysticks. Today’s cabs are quieter, engineered with heat and AC, satellite radio, attachment automation and everything in between. Considering expansive options, skid steer attachments have been a major motivator for skid steer innovations. Anyone who has operated a skid steer within the past 15 years should be familiar with the universal quick-attach system. You simply scoop the top of the attachment frame under the attachment’s top flange, curl the bucket up to pick up the attachment and flip the pins to secure the attachment to the machine.

After Bobcat's patent on its quick-attach system, Bob-Tach, expired in 1989, every other attachment manufacturer has adopted the now universal quick-attachment system.

To power the latest and greatest attachments, the skid steer’s hydraulic system needs to provide an ample amount of hydraulic oil flow and pressure. High-flow hydraulic systems originated in the 1980s to power larger niche attachments and today are an option on nearly every skid steer. Spanning flow ranges from 16 to 40 gpm, the hydraulic system pulls hydraulic fluid from a reservoir, using fluid under pressure to power the attachment. The more flow you have, the larger the displacement motor and the larger the motor, the more torque you’ll have for a desired speed. Generally, standard-flow hydraulic pressures range from 16 to 25 gpm, while high-flow hydraulic pressures range from 26 to 40 gpm.

As skid steers grow in power and productivity, the importance of daily maintenance checks cannot be understated. To make daily service checks less painful, manufacturers have made access to service points easy and localized. Additionally, many manufacturers build the skid steer’s cab to either roll forward or backward for quick engine access and major repair work.

The choice of a vertical- or radial-lift machine could potentially be the most important decision. After all, matching the machine to your tasks is the path to a wise investment. For forklift-type and loading applications, the vertical lift does a great job, but heavier digging and attachment applications tend to be better suited for radial lift. To learn more, visit your local skid steer dealer.