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Skid Steer Loaders: Lots of Equipment Means Lots of Sales – If You Know Your Stuff

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Skid Steer Loaders

Lots of Equipment Means Lots of Sales – If You Know Your Stuff

Unheard of two decades ago, skid-steer loaders have become one of the most popular pieces of machinery on the market today. Like the reputable Swiss army knife, they have a wide variety of uses and are found almost anywhere that work needs to be done.

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One doesn’t have to look hard to find a skid-steer loader these days. Easy to operate, speedy and efficient, the little mighty mite has easily displaced the old fashioned backhoe in many applications – landscaping, house construction, demolition, mining, farming, utilities, municipal operations and more. And skid-steer loaders have become one of the most popular rental tools available, with both contractors and the common man borrowing them with equal vigor.

From the popular Bobcat and Caterpillar models to those from Daewoo, New Holland, Deere and Hecla, skid-steer loaders show up in backyards, city parks, quarries, construction sites, farms – anywhere speedy excavation, carrying, spreading or loading is needed. And there are a wide variety and sizes of skid-steer machines with attachments made to fit almost any need.

Know The Options

Skid-steer loader tires are manufactured and sold by dozens of tire companies, ranging from majors like Goodyear, Michelin and Bridgestone/Firestone to smaller firms like Dynamic, Titan, Denman, Alliance, Greenball and Kenda. And there are as many different types of skid-steer loader tires as there are applications.

So what does this mean for the tire dealer? "Tire dealers sell tires, and successful commercial dealers sell service and tire solutions," said Robert Sherkin, president of Dynamic Tire Corp. of Toronto. "Different applications need different tires. A skid-steer loader in a paving job needs a different tire than one operating on a farm."

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The wide range of applications and tires means today’s dealer must really know his stuff – from the customer’s needs and expectations to the application situation and type of equipment.

Skid-steer tires don’t maneuver in the same manner as a regular tire, according to Sherkin, so users can’t expect the same kind of wear as a regular tire.

On a skid-steer loader, one tire runs in reverse while the other moves forward – like a tank ®“ which produces the "skidding" action from which the equipment gets it name. The tires must withstand the wear and extra pressure on the sidewalls exerted every time a skid-steer loader turns, changes duty or changes loads.

"End-users are most concerned with characteristics like tread life and sidewall durability, and how the tire’s rubber compounds help resist snags and punctures that cause downtime," said Sherkin. "Tire life can vary dramatically from as low as 200 hours on a tough concrete pad to more than 2,000 hours in general service conditions."

Consider Cost of Use

While there is a range of tire characteristics that skid-steer users should be concerned with, said Sherkin, they’re often overshadowed by price. "As with many products, customers often look at price first and tire characteristics last. It’s up to the tire dealer to understand his customer’s needs and recommend the correct tire for his use.

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"Given the wide variety of tires available in the market – from entry-level to solid tires and many in between ®“ the knowledgeable dealer can save his customer money, but the best tire solution may mean a higher price," he said.

Skid-steer loader customers are no different than any other consumer, according to Sherkin. "They’re looking for the best value for their money. It’s the ‘cost of use’ that counts, which is usually not the cheapest price. Commercial dealers have been selling this way for a long time, and have their customers focused on the cost of usage, not their cost of purchase."

Look at the Whole Story

Spec’ing skid-steer tires requires examining the specific usage and surface conditions the vehicle will be operating on. Tire makers usually offer an economy line and premium tire line to satisfy either price or performance concerns.

But dealers should remember not to let price sensitivity get in the way of job performance and durability. "By the time a tire’s worn out, a premium product is usually best on a cost-per-hour basis since premium tires have higher ply-ratings and are more ‘robust’, making them more durable and longer-lasting," said Len Wagner, senior engineer for Firestone Agricultural Tire Co..

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Wagner recommends dealers and end-users look at the applications criteria when considering skid-steer tires.

Loose Dirt – This require tires with maximum traction. So look for a lug-type tire rather than a non-directional tire, which is not as aggressive, especially in muddy terrain. When punctures are a concern, choose a tire with higher ply ratings and thicker rubber for durability and puncture-resistance.

Paved/Concrete – Typically the area surrounding a work site are more finished than the ground surrounding an open construction site. Look for a tire with non-marking tread that will not make marks on finished concrete sidewalks and driveways. Outdoor vehicles are typically larger than indoor-use vehicles and will require larger tires such as 12-16.5 and 14×17.5.

Sod/Turf – Finished ground requires a special tires that will not disrupt rooting sod. Choose a "turf-type" tire (15-inch is the most common size) that affords some traction but causes minimal damage to the turf.

Indoors – Usually requires tires with a non-marking tread. Generally, indoor-use vehicles are smaller, so tire sizes, like 27×8.50-15 or 27×10.50-15, are typically chosen. Select tires with relatively non-aggressive tread to prevent damage to the surface on which the vehicle is working. Look for a tire with a high rubber-to-surface ratio, such as a non-directional design.

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Get The Customer’s Take

Tom Hammit of GCR Truck Tire Center in Schertz, Texas, has seen high growth in skid-steer tire sales. "Because of the range of applications for these machines, salespeople must recognize that skid-steer customers are coming from different settings, have distinct needs, and will shop differently for their tires," he said.

Unfailingly, there will be customers who are fixated on price-point. Hammit and his staff educate these customers by explaining that the worth of a tire is determined not by its initial price tag, but by what you get out of the tire.

"The cheapest tire doesn’t always mean it’s the best deal," said Hammit. "Spending more money on tires up front can mean better value when you calculate the tires’ cost per-work-hour."

Customers are always interested in quality, durability and performance, he said, but "it’s on a case-by-case basis." Finding out the customer’s intended use for the skid-steer is essential. To determine what the customer needs, establish not only what type of job he will be doing, but also how the customer will go about doing the job, Hammitt suggested.

If a customer is working in sand and dirt, good wear and performance can come from a regular depth tire. However, if your customer is involved with demolition work, they need something tough that will be resistant to cuts and punctures.

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"We listen to our customer for application specifics, then try to recommend a tire that will bring value through improved equipment performance and decreased tire cost per work-hour," said Hammitt.

So whether its an ASV, Compact or Finn working on a street, on a farm or a housing development, try to understand the needs of your customer, learn about the products that you offer, and make the best recommendations – regardless of price. Both you and your customer will be successful as a result.

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