A skid loader is an engine driven machine with lift arms used to attach a wide variety of labor-saving tools or attachments. Though sometimes they are equipped with tracks, skid-steer loaders are typically four-wheel drive vehicles with the left-side drive wheels independent of the right-side drive wheels. Developed in the late 1950s, skid-steer loaders are sometimes referred to as bobcats.
There are two physical characteristics that make skid loaders unique among loading equipment. First, the vehicle has the ability to turn around in a space that is no larger than the length of the loader. The combination of being a compact track loader and being able to make a full turn in such a small amount of space makes the skid loader ideal for use in tight spaces. Second, the skid loader is equipped with lift arms that are located on the sides of the vehicle, rather than incorporating a lifting mechanism on the front of the unit. The pivot points of the loading mechanism are located to the sides and just behind the driver’s seat, which goes a long way to distribute the weight of the load evenly. While many early models of the skid loader featured an open cab for the driver, today compact track loaders usually include an enclosed cab, adding an element of safety.
A Skid Steer loader can sometimes be used in place of a large excavator by digging a hole from the inside. The skid loader first digs a ramp leading to the edge of the desired excavation. It then uses the ramp to carry material out of the hole. The skid loader reshapes the ramp making it steeper and longer as the excavation deepens. This method is particularly useful for digging under a structure where overhead clearance does not allow for the boom of a large excavator, such as digging a basement under an existing house.
Generally, the standard equipment on a skid loader is a bucket that can be used for scooping surface elements, as well as for excavation. However, it is possible to replace the bucket with a number of different attachments. Among the attachments that can be worked with the design of the skid loader are sweepers, augers, mowers, snow blowers, and trenchers. It is even possible to include a woodchopper or a cement mixer as an attachment.