Skid steer loaders are versatile machines which play an extremely important role in many industries, including the masonry industry. These are powerful four-wheeled machines which can be fitted with a variety of attachments, such as a range of different forks and rake buckets, which enable them to perform a myriad of essential tasks, saving contractors and business owners time and money. As a leading provider of skid steer hire in Perth, RME supplies professionally-maintained skid steers manned by experienced and qualified operators for projects in a myriad of working environments.
In this RME blog post, our experts take an in-depth look at the integral role that skid steers play in the masonry industry and focus on a variety of important factors such as skid steer varieties, capabilities, attachments, applications, safety and hiring a manned or unmanned skid steer for your next project.
What Is a Skid Steer?
Skid steers are known by many names, including several brand names which are now synonymous with these versatile earthmoving machines. A common sight on building, landscaping and masonry projects, all skid steer types have four wheels (like most machines used in the industry), however, what makes these small yet incredibly powerful and versatile machines notably different from other machines is the way they operate.
Unlike other items of earthmoving equipment, such as front loaders, excavators and tippers, both the left and right-side drive wheels of skid steers are able to move independently of each other and at different speeds. This requires an extremely strong and rigid frame to avoid damaging the structure of the machine, and it’s where it gets the name ‘skid’ steer, because when the left and right-side drive wheels operate at different speeds, it causes the machine to skid in its wheelbase.
This unique feature and its relatively small size, in comparison to excavators, tippers, front loaders and similar machines, empowers it to operate in space-restricted spaces and perform a number of important tasks that larger machines may not be able to due to their larger size and heavier weight.
Skid steers are available in a variety of weight classes, though one of the most notable points of differentiation between skid steer models is the lift arm paths — radius and vertical. These two arm types make different models better choices for different tasks and projects. For example, radius-lift-path skid steers lift the attachment in an arc pattern, providing greater reach at mid-range heights and making them the more astute choice for projects in which material will be dumped on the back of a truck or tipper, or dumped as backfill.
Vertical-lift-path skid steers, on the other hand, raise the load straight up and closer to the machine, making them perfect for lifting and placing pallets of bricks, blocks or pavers, or dumping waste over a high wall or onto a high truck or tipper. A vertical-lift-path machine can lift more than a radius-lift-path machine, moreover, as this skid steer variety delivers greater reach at full lift height, it’s capable of dumping waste material in the centre of the tipper tray, making waste removal much easier with vertical-lift-path skid steers than with radius-lift-path skid steers.
Should I Hire a Manned or Unmanned Skid Steer?
Many heavy machinery hire providers offer both manned and unmanned skid steer hire, so which is the right choice for you? As all experts will advise you, having a comprehensive knowledge of, and experience with, the machine that one is operating makes the workplace safer for everyone. When an operator has the relevant ticket, is regularly trained and knows the machine (especially its capabilities and limitations) inside and out, it minimises the risk of workplace accidents and it also results in greater productivity. This is something that contractors may overlook (often because they want to reduce expenditure as much as possible), but it is something to be aware of. If you want to the get the job done as safely and as cost-effectively as possible, hire a manned skid steer.
Five Skid Steer Hire Benefits at a Glance
Before elaborating further on the important role that skid steers play and the numerous benefits of hiring one for your next masonry project, here’s a quick look at five notable advantages to hiring a skid steer for your next project.
- Size and Weight – Skid steers are significantly smaller and lighter than other items of earthmoving machinery like excavators and front loaders. This makes skid steers easier and more cost-effective to transport to the project site, enables greater manoeuvrability, provides safer operations and enables it to be used in small and restricted environments.
- Versatility – Skid steers are one of the most versatile machines used in masonry and similar projects. These machines can be fitted with a variety of attachments which enable them to be used for a greater number of applications than any other comparable item of machinery.
- Efficiency – Despite their small size, skid steers boast a higher hydraulic flow rate than other machines. This means that they are more powerful in relative terms and can often be used for the same applications as larger items of equipment.
- Ease-Of-Access – Skid steers are small in size and relatively lightweight, but they also offer greater manoeuvrability than other earthmoving machines due to the operator’s ability to operate the left and right-drive wheels independent of one another.
- Visibility – An important consideration on any project site, skid steers provide operators with greater visibility, which provides greater efficiency, enhances precision and makes workplaces safer for all workers.
If you’re looking to get better returns on your next masonry project, skid steer hire could be for you.
Attachments and Applications
As skid steers can be fitted with a broad range of attachments, they can be used for a wide variety of applications on masonry projects, including large-scale landscaping and building projects. And due to the power and versatility that these machines offer, they can even serve as a replacement for the larger excavator on some projects, which is very handy when excavating in restricted environments.
When used for digging a hole, a pool or excavating and preparing a wide area before construction can take place, the skid steer digs a ‘ramp’ which leads to the area to be excavated and then uses this ramp to access the area and remove the excavated material from the area. As the excavated area gets deeper, the skid steer continually reshapes the ramp to make it longer and less steep.
This is a common excavation method, one which is regularly applied on masonry projects when worksite restrictions, such as low overhead clearance or minimal turning space, make it difficult to use larger items of equipment, like the larger excavator fitted with a boom attachment. It also makes the task safer for the operator and the other workers in the immediate area.
Skid steers are also used for lifting loads on and off the back of trucks and tippers, or moving items around worksites. For example, when fitted with a pallet fork attachment, a common application for skid steers is removing pallets of bricks or pavers from the back of a truck and transporting the load to an area of the worksite that wouldn’t be easily accessible (or accessible at all) by a larger vehicle.
Using a skid steer for such an application saves time and money by eliminating the need to do this task manually, plus it’s also advantageous for worker safety reasons. Moving bricks, pavers, rocks and other heavy items commonly used in masonry projects is hard work and often results in injuries and absenteeism, not to mention worker’s compensation claims that blow out project costs and can have serious repercussions for employers. To get the job done faster and remove risks for workers, hiring a skid steer with pallet fork attachments for such a project makes perfect sense.
Site cleans/rubbish removal projects are another application skid steers are commonly used for. A skid steer operated by an experienced operator can help to make quick work of a building or work site, as it can dig, back-fill, scrape waste materials from the ground, load or bury the waste, and so much more. For instance, a hydraulic breaker attachment can be fitted to the skid steer, enabling it to be used for breaking up concrete and masonry before loading onto a tipper so that waste can be removed from the site.
In fact, in some cases, you could use a skid steer and a tipper to manage the entire project, saving both time and money on manpower and equipment hire, though bear in mind that masonry projects like these require an experienced operator in addition to a powerful skid steer with the right attachments. If any of the projects discussed above are similar to the kind of project you’re planning on undertaking, RME can provide both the machinery and the manpower your project requires.
The Best Choice for Restricted Worksites and Small Spaces
Skid steers are by far the most astute choice for worksites that restrict movement or have small spaces that may make larger items of equipment unsuitable. This is one of the reasons why skid steers are such a common sight, because not only are they better suited to restricted and small spaces, but they’re also easier to operate. Here are a few more reasons why skid steers are the right choice for such worksites:
- They’re smaller than excavators and similar machines which means they’re easier and more cost-effective to transport to worksites, which helps to reduce project costs. Another benefit associated with their relatively small weight and size is that they don’t impact upon surfaces as much as larger and heavier items of equipment do. Larger machines can leave deep tracks in wet ground, compromise the integrity of materials like concrete and brick, and cause damage that’s costly to repair, blowing out project costs and minimising profits.
- The small size of skid steers also offers greater visibility and control. Quite unlike big, bulky excavators and front loaders, skid steer operators have greater visibility which makes them easier and safer to control. When operating heavy machinery in restricted and small spaces, it’s vital that operators have as much visibility as possible and can exert full control over the machine at all times.
This is why skid steers are often operated by relatively inexperienced workers, however, it’s always advantageous to have an experienced and qualified skid steer operator at the controls of the skid steer. Experienced operators are knowledgeable about tipping loads and other important considerations that novices may know little about, so if you’re not looking to take any unnecessary chances, hire a manned skid steer for your next project.
- As versatile skid steers can often be used in place of other machines, so if only one machine is needed for the project, then only a single operator is required. This further reduces overall project costs and maximises profits, so it’s little wonder why skid steers are more popular among building and landscaping contractors than larger items of earthmoving equipment.
The notable cost savings combined with the unparalleled versatility that skid steers are well-known for delivering makes them an ideal choice for all small to medium-sized masonry projects. Whether you’re demolishing and rebuilding, landscaping or building a new dwelling from scratch, you’re sure to find that hiring a skid steer manned by an experienced operator will tick all your boxes.
At RME, we provide manned skid steer solutions that are sure to make your next project a breeze. Whether you want to hire a skid steer and operator for a short or long-term project, we can provide the machinery and manpower you require for your excavating and construction needs. Along with skid steers, we also provide a variety of excavators to suit projects of all sizes, along with tipper and 13t float hire. Whether you’re ready to book now or you’d like to speak to a team member about our services and rates, please don’t hesitate to contact RME on 089 371 8070.