The enthusiasm for compact track loaders that we have seen the past few years shows no signs of slowing down. Sales continue to increase, and users are finding new uses for this versatile machine. We noted a milestone in 2015, as compact track loaders outsold skid steer loaders, the long-standing most popular piece of construction machinery. The compact track loader continued its dominance in 2016, as it outsold skid steer loaders by an even wider margin. Each machine has its advantages: The skid steer is less costly and is better suited for hard surfaces, while the compact track loader is better suited for more challenging terrain.
In addition to choosing between a skid steer or compact track loader, end-users have to consider a backhoe loader or mini-excavator as possible alternatives. Surveys of contractors and construction business managers suggest a changing landscape of users: A Construction Equipment magazine survey indicated that one third of its respondents said they replaced a backhoe loader with either a mini-excavator or a combination of mini-excavator and loader—either a skid steer or compact track loader. Twenty percent said they were now renting compared to two years ago, a trend that we have seen with many types of equipment. A survey from the B2B facilitator, Purchasing.com, also shows this trend more rentals, as well as a trend toward the replacement of single-purpose equipment like dozers toward multi-purpose machines like compact track loaders. To further complicate the picture: A survey of subscribers to Compact Equipment indicate that, within the next year, 51% said they plan to purchase a skid steer loader, while 48% said a mini-excavator, and just 32% percent said a compact track loader—the machine that has been the preferred choice for the last few years. It will be interesting to see how customers over the next few years decide which one of these versatile pieces of construction machinery becomes the “go-to” standard for the industry.