Types of Excavators: What They Do and How They’re Transported
Found anywhere from backyards to major construction sites, excavators are essential to the success of all sorts of projects. In this article, we’ll explore several different types of excavators, paying particular attention to their unique functions and how these large machines are delivered to the job site.
The smallest type of excavator on this list, a skid steer is a lightweight, multi-purpose piece of equipment used primarily in construction and residential projects. Operators use skid steers for clearing debris, hauling materials, digging, filling, and all sorts of other projects that require a heavy-duty but maneuverable excavator. Skid steers have a compact design and zero-turn functionality that makes them ideal for operating in tight spaces.
Mini excavators – also called compact excavators – are versatile pieces of equipment that fit into just about any type of job site. Compact excavators feature almost zero tail swing, ideal for maneuvering in tight spaces. Mini excavators are often used for residential projects such as landscaping, stump removal, and small demolitions. They are also used for bigger construction projects, working alongside larger equipment and assisting with tasks like digging trenches and carrying materials.
A backhoe loader, also called a backhoe or digger, is another type of small excavator appreciated for its versatility. Featuring both a backhoe and a front loader, this multi-purpose machine is used for small-scale applications such as material handling and light demolition projects. The backhoe can be modified with excavator attachments such as augers, and is commonly found in agricultural, urban, and construction settings.
A crawler, or standard excavator, tackles heavy-duty projects in countless industries – including construction, mining, forestry, and agriculture. The crawler excavator is the most common type of excavator, used for tasks like earthmoving, dredging, and scooping. Crawlers are also able to be modified to perform a wide variety of functions.
The distinguishing feature of crawler excavators is that they take advantage of tracking instead of wheels. This heavy, slow-moving undercarriage allows crawlers to successfully navigate difficult terrain with better traction and overall stability than wheeled excavators. Crawlers are primarily intended for tough, off-road environments and move easily over rocks and dirt.
A wheeled excavator performs many of the same functions as crawlers but with the added maneuverability of wheels. Wheeled excavators generally weigh less than tracked excavators and aren’t as inherently stable on uneven terrain, but they’re far quicker on smooth ground and more fuel-efficient. This type of excavator performs well in urban projects such as road construction, and on expansive worksites that require traveling frequently between locations. Like crawlers, wheeled excavators can be modified with attachments that allow them to perform a wide variety of tasks.
Vacuum excavators, also called suction excavators, are primarily used in construction and utility projects. These machines dig in a clean, precise way using compressed air or high-pressure water jets that dig deep into the ground while a suction pipe pulls out debris. Traditional excavation tools run the risk of causing significant disturbance to pipes and other infrastructure, while this “soft dig” method minimizes damage under the surface as well as disruption to the worksite.
A hydraulic shovel is one of the most powerful types of excavators. This large excavator is primarily used in the mining industry to haul heavy debris. Hydraulic shovels run on tracks, ideal for stability in off-road environments like quarries and feature a large bucket that can dig through the toughest materials.
A dragline excavator is used at mining sites and other large-scale projects to transport materials across wide distances, such as open pits. Unlike other excavators which operate the bucket using an arm, the dragline excavator uses cables. A hoist rope moves the bucket up and down, while the dragline moves the bucket back toward the machine. This system gives the dragline excavator a significant digging depth but less power than other types of excavators.
A long-reach excavator features an extended arm and boom for tasks that require a longer working range than a typical excavator provides. Applications for a long-reach excavator include demolition, dredging, and even environmental clean-up – among other types of projects. Long-reach excavators are appreciated for their precision and control when working in hard-to-reach places.