Specifying Backhoes For Maximum Versatility

Back To The Basics
By Don Talend, Contributing Editor | November 2009 Vol. 64 No. 11
Manufacturers now provide an increasing selection of backhoe attachments that give handling capabilities like grappling.

Jeff Aubrey, product manager for Komatsu America, says that the contractor should try to determine if limitations to size and weight of the machine exist relative to truck and trailer capacities. Also, the contractor should think ahead to determine what the backhoe’s future requirements might be, particularly in regard to attachments because auxiliary hydraulics capable of providing adequate pressure and flow to run those attachments might be necessary.

Differentiating features
Manufacturers are responding to increasingly sophisticated marketplace demands and differentiating their equipment.

For several years, in response to marketplace concerns about worker retention and an OSHA focus on ergonomics, manufacturers have devoted more time and effort to the operator cab. The use of servo hydraulics, Cowan notes, has gone a long way toward making control of the front and rear components smoother and less tiring for the operator.

Bargellini notes that fingertip control possible via the use of pilot controls is just one recent fatigue reducing advancement. Seats are available in heavy duty or air suspension versions and often have an available heat switch. Aubrey adds that the seat and controls are commonly adjustable now, allowing each operator to work in a customized position. Other features that contribute to operator comfort, Bargellini adds, include tilt steering, separate heating and air conditioning systems, a one piece excavator style rear window and flat cab glass that opens partially or fully.

Another example of an operator comfort driven development is Caterpillar’s addition of fully automatic shifting mode on power shift transmissions, says Grohsmeyer. Because the operator does not have to shift from first to second gear in this mode, more attention can be paid to machine functions outside of shifting. This feature also allows the operator to put the machine into an automatic ride control mode to drive the machine over medium distances.

Advancements in machine and operator safety have similarly grown in recent years. Aubrey notes that manufacturers have been focusing on noise levels, operational and safety labeling, and backup alarms. For road use, work lights, highway lights, turn signal lights, emergency flashers and rotating beacons are also available. The market has also enhanced the operator’s ability to view obstacles out the front, side and rear of the machine, Aubrey adds.