(4-min read)

Disclaimer: This piece is not meant as an exhaustive operating tutorial of any item of construction equipment. It is only a brief overview of the operating controls.

You’ve likely stopped for a few moments to take a look at a construction site. On that construction site, there’s a good chance you’ve witnessed a skid-steer loader in action. If you’re not sure what a “skid steer loader” is, they are the tiny construction vehicles no bigger than a Mini Cooper sports car with a bucket attachment in front. You may have noticed something uniquely interesting about these pieces of equipment — there’s no steering wheel.

“How the heck do you drive a skid steer loader?”

Unlike a standard car with a front axle capable of pointing in the direction the driver would like to go, a skid steer loader steers by way of the operator controlling the speeds of the wheels — much like a tank is driven by alternating tread speeds on either side. The faster one side’s wheels go in comparison to the other, the more power is diverted to sending the entire vehicle in that direction. The principle is also the same for steering a manual hand-propelled wheelchair.

What Technically is Considered a Skid Steer Loader?

A skid steer loader is among the smallest drivable pieces of construction equipment available. They typically consist of four wheels and a large bucket attached to the front by arms. The wheels are controlled independently of each side by the center-seated operator. The operator can also control the movement of the bucket.

What is the Difference Between a Skid Steer Loader and a Bobcat?

“Bobcat” is simply one manufacturer of skid steer loaders. This name came about when the Bobcat brand was the leading provider of such pieces of machinery. The nickname is not unlike Americans calling a tissue for their nose a “Kleenex” or a carbonated soda a “Coke.”

How to Drive & Operate a Skid Steer Loader

  • The operator sits in the cab — entering from the side using the available bars.
  • A roll-cage bar is pulled down over the legs for safety.
  • To the right, the key is turned a half turn, causing an audible beep sound.
  • To the upper left side, a parking brake is turned off by flipping a visible switch.
  • Using the key on the right, the operator fully turns on the machine.
  • To the upper left side, the green operator button releases the operation of the loader.
  • The operator can control the front bucket using the right and left side foot pedals.
  • The arm controls on the right and the left are used to steer the loader and cause it to move forward or backward. Each of these controls independently drives the wheels forward or back on their respective sides.

To turn off the skid steer loader, the key ignition can be turned, and the parking brake engaged. The operator can exit the machine just as they boarded the machine — off to the side and not to the front.

Additional Safety Tips

  • All skid steer loader operators need to remain aware of their surroundings.
  • All loads should be carried as low to the ground as is safely possible. This is necessary to keep the center of gravity of the vehicle low to avoid tipping.
  • When hills are traversed, they should always be scaled or descended straight forward. Driving sideways on a slope may result in the machine tipping on its side.
  • Like other construction crew personnel, a skid steer loader operator should always don the appropriate eye, foot, head, and ear protection.

For Skid Steel Loader Professional Assistance, We Can Help

If you’re in need of the services of a professional skid steer operator, the construction specialists from Cowen Construction can help. Tackle any job in less time with an experienced skid steer loader operator at your disposal.

You’re invited to learn more about Cowen Construction in Tulsa, OK today.