Tracked vs Wheeled Skid Steers: Which is Best for My Jobsite?

Updated: Aug 14, 2023

Tracked vs Wheel Skid Steers

Skid steers, those compact and adaptable machines, have become the jobsite heroes across a multitude of industries. From construction and material handling to farming, forestry, and landscaping, these small powerhouses have found their place on diverse job sites. Their compact nature allows them to flourish even within tight confines. Additionally, the array of attachments they can carry – buckets, forks, augers, sweepers, and hydraulic hammers – make them a go-to solution for an array of tasks. One of their unique features lies in their differential steering mechanism, where each set of wheels operates at different speeds. This feature gives skid steers the ability to drive one set of wheels forward while driving the other set in reverse, making the wheels drag or skid across the ground as they turn. This enables them to execute zero-radius turns and provides them with exceptional maneuverability in tight spaces. Now that we've explored their versatility, it's time to address the tracked vs wheeled skid steer debate.

Unraveling the Tracked vs Wheeled Skid Steer Question

Tracked vs wheeled skid steers are two variations of the same versatile machine, each with its own strengths and ideal applications.

Tracked skid steers, often referred to as compact track loaders (CTLs), are equipped with specialized rubber or steel tracks instead of traditional wheels. Tracks on a skid steer provide superior traction and stability, and can essentially “float” on muddy surfaces where wheeled units are likely to sink. Rubber tracks are prized for their affordability and smoother handling, while steel tracks offer heightened durability and traction. Generally, tracked skid steers excel in navigating challenging terrains such as muddy surfaces, rugged landscapes, and steep inclines.

In contrast, wheeled skid steers come fitted with either pneumatic or solid tires. The wheels on a skid steer enable the unit to travel faster and with greater maneuverability on solid, level surfaces, where tracked skid steers might cause damage, or be susceptible to damage themselves. In short, wheeled skid steers work best on stable and smooth surfaces, are very agile in confined spaces, and can move more quickly without harming the ground.

There actually exists a third option beyond tracked or wheeled skid steers. Over-the-tire (OTT) skid steer tracks are a balanced approach that integrates both tracks and wheels. They’re a valuable enhancement to wheeled skid steers that harmoniously combine the strengths of a tracked configuration when traditional wheels fall short. Whether opting for rubber or steel, OTT tracks are easily affixed or detached, delivering stability, traction, and flotation on uneven or muddy terrains.

Ultimately, the choice between tracked and wheeled skid steers, or even incorporating over-the-tire tracks, hinges on the specific demands of your work site and project necessities. With this groundwork laid, let’s explore the diverse worksites and projects that best align with each skid steer type.

Tracked vs Wheeled Skid Steers: Navigating Ideal Terrain

Tracked skid steers find their stride in industries grappling with demanding terrains and uneven landscapes. Here are sectors that harness the increased traction and stability offered by tracks on a skid steer:

  • Forestry and land clearing: In rugged outdoor environments with dense vegetation and uneven terrain, tracks on a skid steer provide the necessary grip and stability to clear land, remove trees, and handle heavy materials without getting stuck.
  • Agriculture and farming: Tracked skid steers for farm use thrive in tasks across muddy fields and uneven farmlands. They excel in operations like plowing, tilling, and transporting feed, delivering heightened efficiency even in challenging conditions.
  • Excavation and site preparation: When preparing construction sites with rough or soft terrains, tracked skid steers offer the stability and traction required for digging, leveling, and moving earth.
  • Utilities and infrastructure: Tracked skid steers are invaluable for utility maintenance tasks, such as repairing pipelines, accessing remote areas, and working on unstable ground where wheeled equipment might struggle.

    Wheeled skid steers are well-suited for a range of industries that prioritize speed, maneuverability, and versatility on solid surfaces. Here are some sectors that can leverage the advantages of wheels on a skid steer:

  • Construction: In construction projects where tasks involve moving materials, debris removal, and working on well-established sites, wheeled skid steers shine. Their ability to swiftly navigate around the site, coupled with higher travel speeds, makes them valuable assets for efficient construction operations.
  • Agriculture and farming: Wheeled skid steers for farm use prove advantageous for aiding in tasks such as feed transportation, equipment hauling, and barn maintenance. They’re able to efficiently navigate farm environments while minimizing ground impact.
  • Roadwork and pavement maintenance: Road construction and maintenance require machines capable of efficiently working on paved surfaces. Wheeled skid steers can easily maneuver along roads, repair potholes, and perform other maintenance tasks without causing damage to the pavement.
  • Warehousing and logistics: Indoor environments like warehouses and distribution centers demand equipment that can move materials within confined spaces. Wheeled skid steers provide the agility needed to transport goods and arrange inventory efficiently on smooth, concrete floors.
  • Landscaping and lawn care: Wheeled skid steers excel in landscaping tasks on established lawns and gardens. Their nimble maneuverability allows for precise mowing, edging, and landscape maintenance without causing excessive ground disturbance.

By aligning your choice for a tracked or wheeled skid steer with the specific demands of your industry, you can optimize productivity and efficiency on your job site. Whether you're conquering rugged outdoor landscapes or navigating through crowded warehouses, selecting the right skid steer configuration will ensure that your equipment is up to the task, helping you achieve exceptional results in your chosen field.