The 10 Most Important Pieces of Heavy Construction Companies Need

By Emily Newton

A construction company can’t do much without the right equipment. It’s a major investment, so choosing the right machinery is vital.

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Most construction equipment is built for versatility, and some machines — like backhoe loaders — can perform various tasks. However, some work requires specific items.

These are 10 of the most important pieces of heavy construction companies should consider, whether buying or renting.

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1. Backhoe Loader

The backhoe loader is a multipurpose machine that can be used as a backhoe, loader, lifter or tractor.

The rear bucket, or backhoe, operates via a boom-and-stick mechanism that digs the bucket down and drags it toward the machine, gathering up any dirt or other material in its path.

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The loader is located at the front of the machine and enables the backhoe to load, lift, or move dirt or other materials.

This machine’s flexibility and versatility mean it’s commonly used in various construction jobs. It’s also common outside the industry in fields like utility work and agriculture.

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2. Skid-Steer Loader

Skid-steer loaders are small, rigid-frame machines known for their maneuverability. They can “skid” around corners and make zero-degree radius turns, so they’re commonly used on job sites where precision is necessary.

The skid-steer is primarily used for loading and moving equipment and materials around the job site. They can also be useful for demolition, grading and landscaping. Most are equipped with a bucket loader, but various attachments can extend the use of the machine — like wheel saws, snowblowers and brush cutters.

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Self-piloting skid-steer loaders could become widely available as construction robots become more common in the industry. Robotics startups have already developed some autonomous skid steers — though the technology certainly isn’t ready for widespread use just yet.

3. Bulldozer

Bulldozers are essential for demolition and earth-moving operations. These machines are outfitted with heavy-duty tracks and large blades that push objects and materials, including snow, dirt and debris.

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Various dozer blades exist for different purposes. Curved or u-shaped blades are typically used when construction workers need a machine for pushing, ditching and hauling. Straight blades cannot lift and carry as much as others but are good for stripping, shaping and grading.

4. Excavators

Excavators are highly adaptable digging machines that are common on construction sites. Construction workers primarily use them for excavation, as well as demolition, hauling and brush removal.

Some experts consider excavation equipment to be some of the most important machinery available to construction companies because most jobs will require some form of earth-moving equipment.

Excavators come in multiple sizes, with smaller models tending to be more maneuverable and larger ones providing more power. 

5. Articulated Truck

Articulated trucks are a common type of construction dump truck and are essential for moving debris, raw materials, scrap and heavy loads of all kinds. However, unlike more conventional rigid dump trucks or haulers, the cab and dump box are connected via a pivoting hinge.

This hinge allows the cab and box to articulate separately, enabling improved handling and stability on uneven site terrain, steep slopes or slippery surfaces.

6. Compactors

Compactors use a heavy plate or roller to crush and compact material. These machines are useful for several purposes, including compacting waste material and crushed rock to create a base layer for a foundation.

These machines range in size from small, portable plate compactors to large roller models.

7. Boom Lifts

When a construction company needs access to an elevated work area but a crane is not appropriate, boom lifts are often the best available option.

Boom lifts, also known as cherry pickers, basket cranes or aerial work platforms, are a kind of aerial lift mechanism. They allow a worker to access elevated work areas on a construction site.

Various boom lifts exist, including telescoping and articulating versions, which use different lift mechanisms.

In addition to the construction industry, boom lifts are also common in agriculture, forestry, utility and energy work. They fill a similar niche in those sectors, providing workers with access to hard-to-reach equipment, infrastructure or work areas.

8. Graders

Graders, also known as motor or road graders, are used to create flat surfaces. As a result, they’re essential for road maintenance and various building projects.

Bulldozers are also commonly used to create flat surfaces — but graders offer a greater level of precision and are less likely to compact soil or disrupt the environment on and around the job site.

9. Asphalt Pavers

Pavers spread and lay asphalt using dispersion augers. These pavers are essential equipment for any job that requires pavement — like roadwork and many building projects.

The paver augers’ height and speed must be carefully set to ensure it will properly spread and lay asphalt. Otherwise, it can lay the asphalt irregularly, resulting in low-quality pavements.

10. Trenchers

Trenchers are a kind of specialty excavation equipment used to dig trenches. These machines are typically used when workers need a trough for pipeline or cable laying or drainage purposes.

There are two types of trenchers — wheeled and chained or tracked. The wheel trencher cuts into the earth with a large digging wheel, while the chained trencher uses a chain or belt that is driven around a boom.

Wheeled trenchers are cheap to maintain and versatile, but chained models can dig deeper and wider trenches.

Chained trenchers are typically used for larger jobs where maneuverability isn’t a major concern, while wheeled varieties may be better suited for smaller projects.

Pick the Right Equipment for Any Job

The right equipment is essential for any kind of construction. Loaders, excavators, lifts, graders, pavers and bulldozers are all common types of construction equipment that will make important building jobs easier, more practical or possible.

Knowing which kind of equipment to pick is essential. The difference between skid-steer loaders can be subtle, but ones that are too large or too small may be much less practical for certain jobs and applications. Construction companies need to determine what machine is best for their needs before investing in heavy equipment.

Emily Newton is a construction and industrial journalist. She is also the Editor-in-Chief for Revolutionized Magazine. Keep up with Emily by connecting with her on LinkedIn.