For decades, skid-steer loaders with rubber tires were known as the go-to snow removal machine for landscaping professionals. Today landscapers like Eric Caligiuri, owner of Caligiuri Enterprises in Indianola, Iowa, are increasingly turning to compact track loaders for their snow removal jobs.
“When you can use the loader in summer and winter, that’s a bonus,” Eric says. “I put a lot of hours on that big machine this winter, and it loaded a lot of snow.”
Tracks for snow removal
Skid-steer tires exert more concentrated ground force than the distributed weight of tracks, which is why operators have traditionally chosen skid-steer loaders for snow removal, especially in icy conditions. However, track treads such as the Bobcat Multi-Bar Lug Pattern are designed to increase compact track loader ground force and increase traction on ice.
Eric uses the standard Bobcat C-Pattern tracks on his T770, and he says they perform well for his snow removal jobs. He enjoys the stability he feels with the tracks on his T770.
“With tracks, it’s so stable. You can lift a bucket clear up and dump it in the truck,” Eric explains.
The flotation of the tracks is another feature Eric likes. He maintains many of his clients’ properties year-round, so when he’s clearing snow, he wants to make sure he’s minimizing damage to the nearby grass.
“When you’re clearing snow with a tire machine, you may end up having to fix ruts in spring,” Eric says. “With the T770, I didn’t have damage spots on any of my 30 commercial lots this year.”
Running in winter and summer
Owning a landscaping business in a northern climate like Iowa means long days during the busy season.
“It’s seven days a week,” Eric says.
Not that he complains. Eric worked in a book bindery for 14 years after high school. He started a lawn care business while still working nights at the book bindery. After five or six years, he had enough clients to do landscaping full time.
The long spring, summer and early fall days he spends working are part of living his dream, and he counts on those long days to provide his income when the weather gets colder. The revenue he brings in clearing snow during winter goes into his business.
“It’s good to have the winter money, but you can’t really depend on it, because snow is unpredictable,” Eric says. “Usually there’s enough work during winter to pay the bills, and then anything over I invest in equipment.”
To take advantage when snow does hit, he has four full-time employees who rotate through 12-hour shifts. While one crew recovers, the other goes out.
Trying out compact track loaders
The first Bobcat machine Eric operated was a 773 skid-steer loader that his father purchased in 1998. The 773 still runs, and Eric still uses it as a snow removal machine. He also operates an S630 skid-steer loader. But these days, he says the T770 is his workhorse. He likes its large size and power for both clearing big buckets of snow and for his landscaping work in summer, like when he had to clear out two silt ponds.
“We had to dig out 200 dump truck loads of dirt, carry that muck 100 yards and load it in the trucks,” Eric says. “It was just a total swamp. We were able to do it thanks to the tracks and big size of the T770. It just had so much power it’d carry the dirt right out of there and up the hill.”
He now prefers tracks for his landscaping work.
“The tracks don’t sink down and rut up the yards,” Eric notes. “I can just work so many more days. Even in wetter conditions, I can sneak across a sodded yard with wide tracks without affecting the yard. That’s the big advantage.”
With his T770 working well for both snow removal and landscaping, Eric already has his mind set on what his next loader will be.
“When the lease is up in a few months, I’ll be getting another T770,” Eric says.
Do you manage a snow removal crew through long winter shifts? Check out these 5 ways to boost snow crew morale during harsh weather.