7 Reasons To Add a Wheeled Excavator to Your Fleet

By John Waldron

On jobsites across North America, you’ll see plenty of crawler excavators, backhoe loaders, truck-mounted excavators and similar equipment moving dirt and tackling a wide range of tasks.

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But as wheeled excavators make their way onto more and more sites, it’s a great opportunity to rethink which machines are ideal for the specific utility jobs you take on.

Here are some advantages of having a wheeled excavator in your equipment lineup:

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1. Experience similar performance. A common misconception about wheeled excavators is that you lose the stability of a tracked machine — that’s simply not the case. With outriggers, a wheeled excavator is every bit as stable as a comparable crawler, and you won’t sacrifice power, breakout/tearout forces, reach or digging depth.

2. Tackle roadside work and lots more. Wheeled excavators are great for roadside work due to their mobility and versatility. Not only can short-swing models work in narrow lanes for less traffic disturbance, but they can easily transition from placing concrete barriers to digging after a quick attachment swap.

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Wheeled excavators can do so much more than just roadside work too. For example:

  • Swap out an outrigger for a dozer blade, add a tiltrotator and you have an incredibly versatile and mobile machine for utility installation.
  • Outfit the machine with a hydraulically elevating cab and a grab arm with grapple for a mobile material handler.
  • Add a guarding package and ventilation system, and it’s the perfect machine for waste handling.
  • Add solid tires and a rotation grapple and you can travel around a scrapyard with enough finesse to dismantle a car.

With this level of versatility, replacing a backhoe loader with a wheeled excavator can certainly work to your advantage.

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3. Do more with a two-piece articulating boom. Two-piece articulating booms allow you to stretch farther, dig deeper and closer to the machine, and reach higher. This can be especially beneficial if you need more flexibility to go up, around and under obstacles like mailboxes, guardrails and bridges. Two-piece booms also give you extra lift capacity in tight quarters.

4. Enjoy 360-degree rotation. Full rotation on short radius machines is great for road work because you don’t have to close down a second lane of traffic. Plus, outrigger pads give added stability and prevent damage to the asphalt.

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5. Add flexibility with a tiltrotator. An attachment like a Steelwrist tiltrotator can be a game-changer because it allows you to spin the bucket 360 degrees and tilt +/- 45 degrees for greater flexibility. The Steelwrist can power everything from buckets, compactors and grapples to sweepers and a variety of work tools. It also has a claw on the back — essentially a two-finger grapple — that helps it excel at utility work.

6. Spend less time repositioning. If you work in tight spaces, you may find it more difficult to maneuver a backhoe that only has a 180-degree working radius. Again, with the full rotation you get from a wheeled excavator, you have more options to dump material and load a truck without constant repositioning.

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7. Save on labor and cleanup. Finally, with the wheeled excavator’s top speed of approximately 20 mph, you can avoid having to use a lowboy and a CDL for around-town work. Outfit your trailer with overrun brakes, and you can haul up to an 8.5-ton trailer with all your supporting tools and attachments.

While the excavator in any form will never completely take over the backhoe and comparable machines, wheeled excavators are a great cost-efficient alternative if you require high mobility and flexibility. If you work on a wide range of jobs on a daily basis, these versatile machines are definitely worth looking into.

John Waldron is the wheeled excavator product manager for Volvo Construction Equipment.