Turning Skid Steers into Snow Movers

Don’t park your skid-steer loader in a shed until next spring. Turn it into a winter machine by adding the right work tools.

Each summer, landscape and maintenance crews routinely make the skid-steer loader the busiest piece of equipment on the job. Skid-steer loader buckets haul, brooms sweep and blades level from the break of the first bud to the fall of the last leaf.

Yet winter is another chance for the machine to prove its versatility. In fact, snow removal is one of the skid-steer loader’s best applications. The machine is small enough to clear sidewalks, yet big—and powerful—enough to handle entire parking lots. It can fit into tight spaces and perform productively in the open.

Getting attached

The machine’s performance is only part of the equation. Just as crucial are the work tools, which make the skid-steer loader even more versatile. By changing the work tools, the skid-steer loader can handle any snowfall, whether it’s a dusting or more than a foot.

Because work tools can be changed quickly, and with ease, the skid-steer loader is quickly becoming the snow-removal tool of choice for many crews charged with clearing parking lots and sidewalks at retail centers, industrial parks, schools and universities and just about anywhere else snow removal is needed. If used properly, the work tools can make a skid-steer loader perform as if it were custom-built for a particular snowfall.

Here is a look at some of the most common work tools that help the skid-steer loader flourish in a variety of winter conditions.

  • Snow Blowers. These work tools do the job in the hard-to-reach places. Many snow blowers operate on standard-flow hydraulics and are best suited for removing snow from streets, parking lots, driveways and sidewalks.

When shopping for a blower, make sure the impeller is engineered to balance power and torque. This maximizes capacity and throwing distance and helps prevent plugging—as do chutes featuring non-metallic liners. Attachments are available in a variety of widths, cutting heights and throwing distances. Rotational spouts ensure the snow goes where you want it to.

  • Brooms. Many landscaping and maintenance crews use brooms to remove dirt, rock and other debris at sites. But the brooms also can do the job when a light snow falls. In fact, they’re a great fit for streets, driveways and sidewalks. Angle brooms use a windrow action to move snow ahead and to the side of the broom. Pickup brooms sweep and deposit snow into an integrated hopper bucket for removal and dumping at another location. This is necessary when earlier snowfalls make it difficult to sweep the material to the side.
  • Angle Blades / Snow Blades. These come in varying sizes, typically starting at about 72 inches. The best blades offer at least two types of optional bolt on edges to best fit your application needs—metallic and non-metallic. Metallic edges are typically used through out the year for leveling and grading dirt. However, non-metallic edges may be preferred when needing to remove snow without damaging the surface below. Also crucial during snow removal are high-visibility edge markers that indicate blade width and orientation. The most versatile angle blades offer the capability to operate in two ways: with blade locked for aggressive dozing in dirt applications or with the blade spring-loaded trip engaged when pushing snow.
  • Light Material Buckets. While the bucket is built for a light application, it also should be able to handle a large payload. This is accomplished through long floor length and tall back height. Specifically, a 72-inch bucket should have a capacity of just under a yard. Extended-lift skid-steer loaders easily are able to lift and dump snow over the edge of a transfer truck.
  • Multi-Purpose Buckets. These work tools can be used to remove snow in the winter and for digging, dozing, clamping, back-dragging, grading and leveling during the rest of the year. Make sure buckets have corrosion-resistant materials, often accomplished through plated hinge and cylinder pins. Multi-purpose buckets have a range of capacities. Look for one that is big enough to be productive but still able to fit into any tight spaces the job might require. The multi-purpose bucket, like the light material bucket, also can be attached to skid-steer loaders with extended reach.

When searching for work tools, it’s crucial to keep winter in mind—and the corrosion it can cause. It’s also important to remember that the proper work tool can boost productivity and reduce the time it takes workers to remove snow. Owning a skid-steer loader is a step in the right direction when aiming for productive snow removal. Purchasing or renting the proper attachment completes the equation.

Sherrie Baker is senior marketing project engineer for Caterpillar Inc. (Peoria, Ill.).

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© 2016 Penton Media Inc.

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