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ASV VT-70 and RT-50 compact track loaders with bucket attachments on a construction project
ASV VT-70 and RT-50 compact track loaders with bucket attachments on a construction project
Common Uses for Compact Track Loaders in Construction and Landscaping
6 minute read
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Tim Forestell
June 26, 2023

Common Uses for Compact Track Loaders in Construction and Landscaping

Compact track loaders, also known as CTLs, are popular in construction due to their versatility and small size. Designed with the same chassis as skid steers, compact track loaders are essentially the same equipment except with rubber tracks. This small but important difference makes them better suited for jobs with muddy, soft, and sloped terrains.

Because of their size and the range of jobs they can accomplish with their attachment range, compact track loaders are used on both small-scale and large-scale projects. This includes construction projects like site preparation, demolition, backfilling, and landscaping projects like land clearing, grading, and tree care.

Understanding Compact Track Loaders

As mentioned, CTLs are very similar to skid steer loaders (SSLs) with the main difference between the rubber tracks. This slight variation of the same machine allows compact track loaders to distribute their weight more evenly making them better for muddy, sandy, and snowy environments. It also decreases the impact on the ground which is incredibly important for residential and small-scale landscaping projects. This slight change in weight distribution also gives CTLs a better lift capacity than SSLs.

Compact track loaders are equipped with hydraulic systems that can have either high-flow or low-flow capabilities. This impacts the types of attachments that the machine can be equipped with, so it's important to know what the machine is before purchasing or renting. In general, both skid steers and compact track loaders can use the same range of attachments including augers, buckets, snow blades, dozer blades, and more. However, the level of auxiliary flow is the primary feature that affects the attachment type.

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Another variation of compact track loaders is whether they're vertical lift or radial lift. A radial lift CTL is a lifting type where the bucket's furthest from the operator when it's in the middle of the lift. Much like a C-shape.

A vertical lift CTL is typically a stronger machine that keeps the bucket or attachment closer to the machine at all times. This gives them better balance, which is why they are able to lift heavier. Learn more about the difference between radial and vertical lift.

Compact track loaders are designed for high utilization, which means they are engineered to be incredibly comfortable machines.

Site Preparation and Grading

Compact track loaders can be equipped with grading buckets, blades, and grading software that make them excel in construction site preparation projects. This includes both rough and fine grading because the blade and bucket of the machine can be adjusted to the desired grade level. And because of their traction and stability, they can provide accurate grades on slopes as well.

Takeuchi TL8 compact track loader working on a grading project

While not optimal for large-scale site preparation, CTLs are great choices for small-scale and residential site preparation. When fitted with the right attachments such as grapple buckets, brushcutters, or stump grinders, CTLs can remove shrubs, trees, stumps, rocks, and more. On small projects, these machines make great partners for mini excavators in getting this type of work done. On large projects, dozers and large excavators are more optimal options.

Material Handling and Loading

Another area where compact track loaders excel is material handling and loading. They can be fitted with various material handling attachments such as pallet forks, grapple buckets, and regular buckets, making CTLs great for moving small amounts of materials and aggregates quickly. Although not suitable for warehouses, compact track loaders can replace forklifts in outdoor projects and material handling applications, depending on the materials being moved.

They are also capable of loading and unloading dump trucks, dumpsters, and trailers due to their lift height. Typically ranging between 9 feet and 12 feet, compact track loaders cannot lift as high as wheel loaders, but this is what makes them optimal for smaller projects. They're also great machines for simply moving aggregates and materials around the job site.

Landscaping Applications

In addition to being great for grading and material handling projects, compact track loaders have landscaping applications as well. CTLs are often used for residential landscaping projects because the tracks reduce the damage to properties, which is ideal for many customers and contractors.

CTLs can quickly dig trenches for irrigation, drainage systems, and utilities when fitted with trencher attachments. When used carefully with tree spades, they can also be used to transplant small trees and plants. They can also be used with forks or grapple buckets to move large decorative rocks around.

When paired with a mini excavator, compact track loaders can accomplish any small-scale residential project.

A mini excavator and compact track loader working on a landscaping project
A mini excavator and compact track loader working on a landscaping project

Snow Removal

In areas with a lot of snow, CTLs can also be used to remove and clear snow. When equipped with snow blades or snow blower attachments, they can quickly clear both small and medium-sized areas.

However, skid steer loaders may be a better option for snow-clearing applications. They can turn more quickly, grip the snow faster, and cause less wear and tear to the ground than tracks. If using a CTL to clear snow, you'll want one with a bar tread pattern and use three-point turns to reduce damage to the tracks.

Overall, compact track loaders are adequate options for snow removal. However, skid steers, wheel loaders, and compact tractors are also options.

Equipment Rental Considerations

Compact track loaders are such versatile pieces of construction equipment that they can be used on any project, depending on the attachment. When considering whether or not to rent one there are a few things to consider including lift height, lift power, and overall size.

Lift height and lift power will help determine if it's the right machine for the job. Depending on what materials you're moving, knowing these specifications helps you understand whether a CTL is the right machine or if you'll need a bigger one.

Size is the other factor to consider. CTLs are smaller machines that can fit through fences or indoors on some projects but not on others. That's why it's important to know the size of the machine depending on the job.

Fortunately, at DOZR, you can search for compact track loader rentals by size and request attachments during checkout. With transparent prices and a wide range of options, use DOZR to find the necessary rental equipment for your next construction or landscaping project.

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Tim Forestell
Tim Forestell is one of DOZR’s co-founders and CCO. Tim got started in the industry as VP Operations for Forestell Landscaping before founding DOZR with Kevin and Erin. Aside from the amazing team at DOZR, his favourite thing about DOZR are the customers. Working with DOZR renters every day gives him a peek at the evolution of different projects and hearing stories about projects being developed from start to finish.
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