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Kevin Forestell
January 23, 2020

The Dozer: Everything You Need To Know

Updated December 26th, 2022

What is a Bulldozer?

Also called a crawler or a bulldozer, dozers are heavy equipment often used for large-scale construction and mining projects. Fitted with a blade on the front and a ripper on the back, dozers are powerful demolition and pushing machines.

They are used mainly for excavation, digging, leveling, and earthmoving projects including pushing large amounts of heavy materials like snow, rock, sand, dirt, and more. As the front of a bulldozer has a blade rather than a bucket, they're not as great at material handling as other equipment like skid steers, backhoes, wheel loaders, or even excavators.

Bulldozers move on heavy metal tracks which makes them ideal for rough terrain. Because of these tracks, crawlers should not be used on finished concrete or asphalt.

Caterpillar's D5K bulldozer on a construction site
The CAT D5K dozer, now more commonly referred to as the CAT D3 dozer

Popular construction sites that dozers are used for include the early stages of road building, land clearing like removing rubble, rocks, or debris, fine grading, or ground leveling. These crawlers are also great for other forms of heavy-duty maintenance like snow plowing and tearing up asphalt.

Dozers for Different Jobs

There are different kinds of dozers that will impact the choice you make: there are standard track-width dozers as well as low-ground pressure dozers, also known as wide-track dozers. When working in soft-ground environments, you'll want an LGP dozer to prevent any sinking or chance of getting stuck.

Bulldozers can be used for a variety of different construction projects. Since their large flat blades can be used to push and move large amounts of dirt or rock, dozers are often seen in a variety of commercial and large-scale industries such as construction, mining, and farming. The heaviness of what the machine can push will change based on the dozer's specs.

A bulldozer can also be used with other pieces of heavy equipment to effectively and efficiently complete a project. The bulldozer is a great addition to any excavation project and is often used alongside backhoes or excavators to move the excavated materials around. 

Aside from pushing around dirt and soil, bulldozers can be used to clear brush and waste using the ripper on the back. They are also used often on landfill projects due to their ability to push around heavy loads. Lastly, bulldozers can also be used to grade surfaces, rip out trees, and grind down rocks.

The ability to change the blade type adds versatility and multifunctionality to the bulldozer.

The Different Dozer Blades and Attachments

While not the best machine for lifting and material handling, fitting the dozer with the right blade can help the machine become more efficient. There are several blade types including straight blades (S-blades), universal blades (U-blades), Semi-U (S-U-blades), and Angle Blades.

S-blades are wingless blades used for high-density materials like mud, stumping, or grading. U-blades are more curved and have wings making them better options for jobs like ditching, hauling, or pushing where more loose materials like dirt or sand will be found.

S-U-blades are less curved than U-blades and have smaller wings but are great for heavier materials. Angle blades allow for the blade to push materials to angles up to 30 degrees and are best for granular materials like snow or gravel. The S-U-blade is the most commonly used one.

Lastly, there are Power-Angle-Tilt blades or PAT blades. These blades provide the most versatility because they can tilt, angle, and lift in every direction. PAT blades are used for backfilling, leveling, land clearing, spreading, scraping, and grading projects.

Beyond blades, dozers can also be fitted with rakes. For example, root rakes are a great attachment when doing large-scale land clearing that can take out bushes and roots while leaving any of the soil behind.

The rippers on the back of a bulldozer are used to break down rock or hard surfaces and make them easier to move.

Important Dozer Specs

The most common way to refer to bulldozers is through their specs including model number, operating weight, and horsepower. There are also typically three sizes of dozers: small, medium, and large.

Small bulldozers are machines between 15,000 lbs and 25,000 lbs, medium dozers are between 25,000 lbs and 100,000 lbs, and large dozers are any machine above 100,000 lbs. The horsepower range of these machines is typically less than 100 hp for small, between 100 and 400 hp for medium, and above 400 hp for large.

John Deere 550K dozer on a construction site with trees behind it
The John Deere 550K dozer would be considered a small dozer
as its operating weight is 21,000 lbs

Manufacturers of Bulldozers

There are only a few manufacturers to consider when looking to buy or rent a dozer. Many modern bulldozers have state-of-the-art technology built into them like grade technology or increased load-carrying performance. However, the strength of the machine will depend on different dozer specs, sizes, and models.

A variety of bulldozer rentals are available on DOZR including machines ranging from 15,000 lbs up to 200,000 lbs. The following is a look at some more popular brands of bulldozer suppliers.

Caterpillar

Caterpillar is one of the most recognized brands of heavy equipment and machinery. Within their bulldozer portfolio, they make 18 models including the small D1, D2, and D3 dozers, their medium Cat bulldozers, the D4, D5, D6, D6XE, D7, and D8 dozers, and their large crawlers including the D9, D10T2 (Tier 4 Final), and D11 dozer, which is the biggest Cat dozer at 229,800 lbs. There is no D12 dozer currently.

For their specs, Caterpillar dozers range between 80 to 105 hp and 15,000 lbs to 20,000 lbs for the small dozers, 130 to 350 hp and 29,000 to 88,000 lbs for the medium dozers, and 450 to 800 hp and 100,000 lbs to 250,000 lbs for the large crawlers.

Previously, Caterpillar models were titled the D3K, D4K, D5K, D6K, D6N, and D7E. This range has become what is now known as the D1 to D6.

Cat D4K dozer pushing dirt on a construction site with an operator
The CAT D4K crawler. This model is now referred to as the D2 dozer.

Caterpillar does also have some wheeled dozers including the 814, 824K, 834K, 844K, and 854K models.

Liebherr Group

Designed with performance, efficiency, comfort, and reliability in mind, Liebherr bulldozers offer a variety of different options. Liebherr doesn't produce any standard small crawler tractors as the Liebherr 716 and 726 dozers, their two smallest models, have operating weights between 29,000 lbs to 46,000 lbs.

The Liebherr 776 dozer is their largest dozer with an operating weight of 161,354 lbs and 757 horsepower.

Komatsu

One of the world’s leading suppliers and manufacturers of heavy equipment, Komatsu dozers are anything but little. Manufacturing equipment for several different industries, Komatsu bulldozers are made for industries like construction, mining, quarrying, forestry, and compact construction. Komatsu dozer sizes are also filtered by small, medium, and large.

For their small crawlers, they make 10 models ranging from 19,842 lbs to 31,438 lbs. They also have 16 medium bulldozers ranging from 41,094 lbs to 53,000 lbs and 11 large bulldozers ranging from 68,530 lbs to 120,970 lbs. Lastly, they have industry-specific machines including their surface mining dozers, the D375 and D475, which are 163,340 lbs and 254,195 lbs respectively.

The Komatsu 39EX working on a construction site pushing dirt
The Komatsu 39EX dozer pushing dirt on a job site.

The D475 is Komatsu's largest dozer.

John Deere

Growing from what was originally just a plow, John Deere dozers offer a large variety of heavy equipment. The smallest John Deere bulldozer is the 450 dozer coming in at 18,752 lbs and 80 horsepower. Their largest crawler dozer is the John Deere 1050 with a weight of 96,000 lbs and 350 hp, making it quite a bit smaller than other manufacturers on this list.

John Deere 700k dozer siting idle on a commercial job site
The John Deere 700k dozer on a road work project.

In between the John Deere 450 dozer and 1050, they also have the 550, 650, 700, 750, 850, and 950 dozers. There also used to be the John Deere 350 dozer but that has been discontinued and bought used.

Case

The last supplier we're going to cover in this blog is Case. Case dozers include 6 models: the 650M, 750M, 850M, 1150M, 1650M, and 2050M. They also previously had the Case 450 dozer, but this was discontinued.

The smallest Case bulldozer, the 650M, has an operating weight of around 16,000 lbs and 68 horsepower. The largest Case dozer, the 2050M, has an operating weight of 49,000 lbs and 218 horsepower, making their models only in the small and medium ranges.

Looking for a dozer rental? You can rent a bulldozer from DOZR Marketplace. Models and availability may vary depending on location.

Safety Protocols for Operating a Dozer

Operating any kind of heavy equipment could pose a safety hazard and dozers are no exception. It is important to always be careful and to only operate a piece of heavy equipment after receiving proper training. Bulldozers are incredibly powerful machines and incorrect usage can create a dangerous situation.

We have a full guide to safety tips for dozer operators, but here's a short list as well:

  • Use the handrails and steps to get into the bulldozer and maintain three points of contact. Never take another route to the cab.

  • Latch down any external areas like the ripper or climbing ladder.

  • Travel at slow speeds, especially in heavy traffic areas or in rough terrains where it's harder to control the machine

  • Make sure to start from the bottom when working on a hill and use the machine on a diagonal

  • Take the time to fully turn off the equipment when leaving the cab of a dozer. This can ensure that the machine is stable and won’t move.

  • Always check the blind spots and use a spotter if needed

  • Provide any upkeep needed - tracks that are too tight can lead to unnecessary repairs and maintenance

Do You Need Training To Operate a Dozer?

In the United States, OSHA – Occupational Safety and Health Administration – does not provide certifications for heavy equipment operation but does require an employer to provide training and instruction. Any employee tasked with the operation of heavy equipment must receive training in:

  • Safe operation of the equipment
  • Recognition of unsafe conditions
  • Avoidance of unsafe conditions

OSHA mandates that only employees with proper training from their company may operate the equipment.  

The most important point to remember for any operation of heavy equipment is to only do so if this training has been provided and it is safe to do so. Always request training before agreeing to operate a piece of new machinery. Put safety first and take training protocols seriously.

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Kevin Forestell headshot
Kevin Forestell
Kevin Forestell is CEO of DOZR and one of the co-founders. Kevin first got started as an entrepreneur when he founded Forestell Landscaping right after graduating from University. His love and passion for the industry and desire to help solve an equipment problem that contractors faced every day is what brought the founding team to start DOZR. Kevin is proud of the level of efficiency brought to the industry through DOZR and hopes that DOZR will help change the standard way equipment is rented.
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