The skid steer loader is one of the most versatile and low-cost construction machines, making them very popular on building sites. These mechanisms are used in a variety of applications: landscaping, demolition, utilities, roadbuilding, and quarrying. The machines are so useful, they are often referred to as the Swiss Army knives of construction equipment. Unit sales for skid steer loaders have surpassed every other machine category for years. While popular, there’s still some confusion surrounding the vehicles. If this describes you, then look no further. Here are skid steer weights and towing tips.
Skid steer loaders (sometimes shortened to skid steers or SSLs) have been around since the late ‘50s. The concept originated when a Minnesota turkey farmer described his machine needs to the company Keller Welding and Repair. In response, the group designed a three-wheeled machine and spent time observing its operation. From there, they compiled feedback, then redesigned the machine in order to address issues with the former model.
Melroe Manufacturing Company based in Gwinner, North Dakota, took interest in the redesign. They invited Keller Welding and Repair to exhibit the new machine at the 1958 Minnesota State Fair. A lot of people showed interest, so Melroe Manufacturing Company worked with Keller Welding and Repair to introduce something new and improved. Two years later in 1960, the partnership created the four-wheeled M400 model skid steer loader. Later, Melroe Manufacturing Company began using the name “Bobcat” on their 440-model, introduced in 1962.
The Bobcat company has been a leader in skid steer loader sales and innovation for two generations. Now, the name Bobcat has become so synonymous with skid steer loaders that many contractors refer to the machines as “Bobcats.” They say this regardless of actual branding which could instead be Caterpillar, John Deere, Case Construction Equipment, Kubota, Wacker Neuson, and others.
Is the Machine a Skid Steer Loader?
There’s a machine similar to the skid steer loader, and it’s called the compact track loader. They are identical in appearance, except skid steer loaders have wheels and compact track loaders have tracks. Both are available in miniature versions too. The minis don’t have a cab and instead the operator stands on a platform at the rear of the machine (similar to small forklifts found in warehouses).
Another similar machine is the small articulated loader, which is a small wheel loader. The major differences between these two are the articulation, boom placement, and drivetrain. The front and rear sides of small articulated loaders are connected via an articulation point. This allows the machine to “bend”, but skid steer loaders lack this function. The booms (sometimes referred to as arms) of the small articulated loader extend from the front of the machine. The booms on the skid steer loader extend from the rear of the machine and reach past the operator toward the machine’s frontside. Regarding drivetrains for the two machines, the small articulated loader has one that operates similar to a car. On the other hand, the drivetrain of skid steer loaders moves the machine in a way described as “skidding”.
Skid Steer Loader Weights
So how much does a skid steer loader weigh? For their small size, the machines definitely weigh a lot. They possess heavy counterweights, which allow them to lift up to one third of their own weight. The popular Bobcat S750, for example, has an operating weight of about 6,500 pounds and a rated operating capacity (ROC) of 1,950 pounds – about 30 percent.
Bobcat has 11 current models ranging from less than 3,000 pounds to more than 10,000 pounds. Each model is listed in the table below with their operating weight and their ROC in pounds (lbs).
|SSL Model||Weight (lbs)||ROC (lbs)|
Skid steer loaders get divided into three categories: small-frame, mid-frame, and large-frame. Small-frame skid steer loaders have a ROC up to 1,750 pounds. Medium-framed ones have a ROC between 1,750-2,200 pounds. Lastly, the large-frame skid steers have a ROC of more than 2,200 pounds.
All in all, Bobcat has two small-frame, three mid-frame, and six large-frame SSLs.
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Towing Small-Frame Loaders
Skid steer loaders get towed frequently as a way of transportation. Fortunately, many skid steer loaders can be moved using a half-ton or three-quarter-ton truck and appropriate trailer.
Determining a reliable and safe means for hauling, requires examining the operating weight of your skid steer loader, the weight of the trailer, and the towing capacity of the tow vehicle.
Bobcat’s smallest skid steer loader – the S70 – has a maximum reach (hinge pin height) of seven feet, 10 inches, and provides 23.5 hp. The loader can easily be transported by any half-ton truck with a simple low bed float.
A 3.5-ton low bed float, for example, has an empty weight of about 2,000 pounds, a payload of 5,000 pounds, and a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 7,000 pounds. It offers 60 percent more weight capacity than needed to haul the Bobcat S70.
When adding the S70 weight (2,892 pounds) to the empty float weight (2,000 pounds), we get a total trailer weight of 4,892 pounds.
Below is a list of half-ton trucks, the model number of the largest Bobcat loader it can tow, and the truck’s maximum towing capacity.
|Model truck||Model||Towing capacity (lbs)|
|2022 Ford Maverick||N/A||4,000|
|2021 Ford Ranger||Bobcat S70||7,500|
|2021 Ford Explorer F-150||Bobcat S450||8,200 (with 3.3L Ti-VCT V6 engine)|
|2021 Ford Explorer||Bobcat S850||14,000 (with 3.5L EcoBoost V6 engine)|
|2021 Dodge Colorado||Bobcat S70||7,700|
|2021 Dodge Ram||1500 Bobcat S70||6,500 (with 3.6L V6 engine)|
|2021 Dodge Ram 1500||Bobcat S76||11,400 (with the the 5.7L V8 HEMI BSG engine)|
|2021 Chevy Silverado 1500||Bobcat S70||7,600 (with the EcoTec3 4.3L V6 engine)|
|2021 Chevy Silverado 1500||Bobcat S770||12,500 (with the EcoTec3 6.2L V8 engine with Max Trailering Package)|
|2021 GMC Sierra 1500||Bobcat S64||9,000 pounds|
With towing capacities between 4,000-14,000 pounds, these trucks have a wide range of towing capacities, however most half-ton trucks can tow only small-frame loaders.
Of course, being only 36 inches wide and 76 inches long (without the attachment), you may be able to fit the skid steer loader onto a 6.5-foot truck bed. You will definitely be able to fit it onto an eight-foot truck bed. And most of the trucks that can tow the Bobcat S70 can also haul it in their truck bed. The only exception is the Ford Ranger.
Can half-tons tow Medium-Sized Loaders?
A five-ton trailer is suited to hauling all Bobcat medium-framed skid steer loader models (S510 S590, and S62). It has an empty trailer weight of approximately 2,300 pounds. The largest medium-frame skid steer – the Bobcat S62 – weighs nearly 6,900 pounds. The SSL has a ROC of 2,100 pounds, a maximum reach of nine feet, seven inches, and provides 68 hp.
When combining the weight of a five-ton float with this Bobcat, the trailer weight is 9,240 pounds. This is a few hundred pounds short of this trailer’s GVWR.
This new trailer weight eliminates the GMC Sierra as a potential tow vehicle, as well as the Ford F-150 with the 3.3L Ti-VCT V6 engine. However, the 2021 F-150 equipped with 3.5L EcoBoost V6 engine boasts a best-in-class towing capability of 14,000 pounds!
If you need a skid steer loader larger than the Bobcat S62, then you need a larger trailer.
The popular, but recently discontinued Bobcat S750 weighs about 6,500 pounds, has a ROC of 1,950 pounds, a maximum reach of 10 feet, and provides 61 hp.
To haul it, you would require a five-ton low bed float.
When the weights of the five-ton low bed float and the Bobcat S750 are added together, the combined trailer weight is 8,800 pounds. So, the list of trucks that can tow it is the same as the above list of trucks that can tow the Bobcat S62 mid-frame skid steer loader.
Towing Large-Frame Loaders
The Bobcat S850 is the largest Bobcat skid steer loader. It weighs 10,240 pounds, has a ROC of 3,950 pounds, a maximum reach of 12 feet, and provides 100 hp.
You will require a seven-ton low bed float to tow the loader. The float has a payload of about 11,000 pounds and an empty weight of about 2,600 pounds. It is capable of towing all the current large-frame Bobcat skid steer loaders (S64, S66, S76, S740, S770 and S850).
When combining the weight of the largest Bobcat skid steer loader with the weight of a seven-ton trailer, the approximate combined trailer weight is 13,000 pounds.
This combined trailer weight eliminates all half-ton trucks except for the Ford F-150 with the 3.5L EcoBoost V6 engine, which has the class-leading towing capacity of 14,000 pounds.
The 2021 Chevy Silverado 1500 (with the EcoTec3 6.2L V8 engine with Max Trailering Package) can tow all but the largest Bobcat loaders. And the 2021 Dodge Ram can tow half of the large-frame loaders.
A three-quarter-ton truck is better suited for towing large-frame skid steers.
Below is a list of three-quarter-ton trucks, the model number of the largest Bobcat skid steer loader it can tow, and the truck’s maximum towing capacity.
|Model truck||Model||Towing capacity (lbs)|
|2021 Ford Explorer F-250||Bobcat S850||21,800|
|2021 Dodge Ram 2500||Bobcat S850||14,000 (with the V8 Mid Duty HEMI MDS engine)|
|2021 Dodge Ram 2500||Bobcat S850||19,000 (with the 6.7L I6 Cummins Turbo diesel engine)|
|2021 Chevy Silverado 2500||Bobcat S850||17,400 (with the EcoTec3 4.3L V6 engine)|
|2021 GMC Sierra 2500||Bobcat S850||14,000|
All three-quarter-ton trucks can tow all Bobcat skid steer loader models—even Bobcat’s largest model—the Bobcat S850.
How to choose a Skid Steer Loader
When choosing a skid steer loader, there are several machine specifications and other considerations to make.
First, consider what you will do with the machine. This will determine which specifications are the most important to you.
If you plan on loading trucks with it, you will want one with a hinge pin height of at least 10 feet to reach over the sides of the truck. You may also want a vertical lift model versus a radial lift.
If you are planning on moving heavy earth and rocks, then you want a lot of torque and horsepower.
If you are planning on using numerous powered attachments, such as a rock crusher or snow blower, you will want one with a lot of hydraulic flow.
Once you have decided on your skid steer’s purpose, you can determine the minimum specifications you need the machine to meet (reach, power, etc.).
Then consider any other features you want in your machine, such as machine control type, cab comforts, and productivity features (such as grade control).
Next, determine how you will transport the machine. Do you already have a trailer? What is its capacity?
Then, find manufacturers and dealers that you trust – ones that provide quality machines and service.
Finally, consider the price and the warranty.
Once you have this data, you can successfully choose an appropriate skid steer loader. It should be one that comes with your desired features. The SSL should also perform at least the minimum specifications you outlined and maybe a little more, but still fit on your trailer and within your budget.
Towing Tips for Skid Steer Loaders
There are three steps to safely towing skid steer loaders: proper machine placement, correct tie-down procedures, and careful driving.
Place the heavier side of the load at the front of the trailer or truck bed in order to decrease sway when driving (also called fishtailing). Do this by revering the machine onto the trailer so the counterweight of the skid steer loader is near the front of the trailer
When backing onto the trailer, keep the boom and attachment low to maintain balance. Also make sure the machine is placed in the center of the trailer (with the side of the machine to the side of the trailer being equal on both sides).
Then lower the boom and attachment to the trailer floor. Apply the parking brake. Place chocks at the rear of the rear tires and at the front of the front tires.
Next, use appropriate tie-downs with sufficient strength to prevent the machine from moving during transport. You will need three tie downs – one for the front of the machine, one for the rear of the machine and one for the attachment.
The tie-downs are rated appropriately for the load being secured. So be sure to check the tensile-strength rating of the chains or straps. The capacity of chains and straps is determined by a working load limit (WLL), which is marked on the chain or strap itself. The total WLL should be greater than the weight of the cargo.
A quarter-inch chain rated at Grade 70 – a middle-of-the-road and typical transport chain grade – has a WLL of 3,150 pounds, so it wouldn’t be enough for the Bobcat S750. That skid steer loader weighs 6,500 pounds. You would need to either upgrade to a Grade 80 chain or to a 5/16-inch chain or use a third quarter-inch Grade 70 chain on the machine (plus one more for the attachment).
There are plenty of details to remember, but the process becomes all the more easier if you do your research. Once you know what you’re working with, you can figure out what’s next, and get your skid steer loader transported.