The excavation business can involve many challenges including client demands, rising costs, terrain, and weather. However, one challenge that can really hurt the bottom line is downtime due to equipment mishaps. In particular, many professionals using mini-excavators, such as the PC75 or TB175, have experienced the frustration of a rubber track slipping off on tough terrain or being sliced by a stray bit of rebar or concrete. Now, depending on site conditions (mud, water, etc.) and location relative to resupply, the operator or an entire crew is stuck until the rubber track, which weighs approximately 1000 pounds, is refitted or replaced. This can represent a very labor-intensive fix, and a company could potentially lose hours or even a whole day of productivity until the situation is remedied.
Some excavation companies in the Southwest Washington area have already made the change. Summit Excavation, a two-man operation serving the area for the past eight years, is one example. According to Summit’s Bud Egdbert, an equipment operator, switching to steel tracks has been quite a benefit for his company. “We have been using our Takeuchi (TB175) for about five years and started using steel tracks a little over a year ago. The results have been good.”
Despite the cost and time concerns many companies may have due to the possibility of changing out the rollers, idlers, and sprockets used with their existing rubber tracks, Egdbert says, “on our Takeuchi, we didn’t have to switch out any parts and the installation only took about two hours.” Another concern is the cost comparison of rubber tracks versus steel. Egdbert said that it almost cost less to switch to steel. By his best recollection, there was not much of a price difference and, while he couldn’t put an exact dollar amount on his company’s savings, he did say that steel tracks did seem to have about double the life and did not “walk off like the rubber ones can. They [steel] deal with stress better.”
Beyond the time and cost savings, Egdbert did mention a safety benefit as well; noise. “The rubber tracks can be too quiet and folks may not hear you coming. The steel ones are noisy, so everyone knows you are coming, and they get out of the way.”
While Edgbert did praise the switch to steel tracks in many areas, he did have a few concerns related to site conditions and traction. “Steel has less traction in winter and the rubber treads you can put on the steel need a traction pattern.”
Many challenges for excavation companies will always be a part of business as usual and are unavoidable. However, in many situations, a loss of productivity due to rubber track slippage or sheering may be avoided by making the switch to steel tracks. If the steel track option is appealing, consider contacting a local min-excavator parts and track supplier.