Disclaimer: This piece is not intended to act as an exhaustive tutorial for operating skid steer vehicles. This is merely an overview of skid steer loaders and the basics of how they are operated.
A common piece of equipment on demolition jobs, as well as some construction jobs, is a skid steer loader. These earth-moving vehicles are especially great for moving smaller batches of materials of debris nimbly around a construction or demolition site. Due to their ease of use, some opt to rent these for their own needs. While this is an option through some equipment rental services, experienced skid steer operators can make jobs go immensely faster while removing any learning curve for projects.
What Constitutes a Skid Steer Loader?
Most skid steer loaders are smaller, four-wheeled vehicles with a large bucket on the front that is manipulated by either one or two large arms. The wheels are driven independently of one another, depending on the side of the vehicle. This independent control is what allows the operator to turn the vehicle carefully. These loaders are exceptionally handy for moving earth and other materials in areas where space is tight.
Skid Steer Loader vs. a Bobcat
Sometimes a skid steer loader is also also known merely as a “Bobcat.” A "Bobcat" is one manufacturer of skid steer loaders, causing a brand-centric nickname the same reason someone would call a tissue a “Kleenex” or a soda a “Coke.” No matter the brand, the operation and construction of the equipment is relatively uniform.
How to Operate a Bobcat-Style Skid Steer Loader
- To operate a Bobcat-Style Skid Steer Loader, first, the operator is seated in the cab of the vehicle from the side using the available handles.
- The roll-cage bar is pulled down over the lap to keep an operator safe in the event of the vehicle tipping over.
- On the right, the key is turned one-half turn, resulting in an audible beep.
- On the upper left side, the parking brake is turned off using a visible switch.
- Returning to the key on the right, the operator can now fully turn on the machine.
- In the upper left side, the green operator button will release the operation of the machine.
- The front bucket is controlled using the right and left side foot controls.
- There are arm controls on the left and the right to steer the machine and move it forward or backward. These each independently drive the machine forward on their respective sides.
Once the skid steer loader is no longer needed, it can be shut off by turning the key ignition and engaging the parking brake. The operator should then be careful to exit the vehicle using the right and left handles on the sides of the control cab.
What Operators Need to Remember
Safely operating a skid steer loader is essential to workplace safety. An operator should be fully aware of their surroundings before driving the vehicle anywhere or moving the bucket. The bucket should never be overloaded and all loads should be carried as low to the ground as is safe to lower the center of gravity. If a load is carried too high, this raises the vehicle’s center of gravity and can cause the loader to tip. It is also crucial for an operator to always drive up or down hills. Driving across the side of a hill can also cause the vehicle to tip due to its naturally high center of gravity. Foot, head, ear, and eye protection should also always be used by a skid steer loader operator.
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