Wheel loaders: Loading up more business
08/07/2012

The more you understand your wheel loader customers, the better you can tailor your inventory to meet their needs. These customers are generally well-versed in wheel loaders and typically own at least one.

By the time they visit your store, they know the work they will be performing and they have weighed their business options. Their decision to rent a wheel loader has been largely driven by a financial perspective that has penciled out in favor of a short-term, known fixed cost on a certain bucket size machine for a particular project.

Whether your store is getting started with renting wheel loaders or refurbishing an existing fleet, it’s not necessary to carry a lot of inventory to meet the needs of the average wheel loader customer. However, you need to choose equipment carefully based on some key criteria and then work with manufacturers to assist with particular bucket sizing and attachment selection.

  • Match inventory to market. When contractors choose to rent a wheel loader, it’s usually earmarked for a project. The customer may be a landscape contractor doing winter snow removal for four months. The customer may be an infrastructure contractor with a large fleet, but needs an extra wheel loader for a specific loading task. Or, some customers may not even own a wheel loader, but they’re moving material with compact equipment and need more capacity.

While wheel loaders are called upon to perform a variety of tasks including loading, carrying and stockpiling, all of these functions require different bucket sizes to handle the type and volume of material for a particular project. In addition to stocking the most common buckets needed in your territory, part of your job is to help customers avoid one of the most frequent mistakes: Miscalculating the proper size of bucket.

There is a tendency for contractors to just rent the machine size or horsepower they think they need with a standard bucket. This can negatively impact productivity. Before building your rental fleet inventory, it’s important to talk with area contractors to determine the type and volume of material that is typically loaded.

One of the most important questions to ask a wheel loader customer is, “What are your daily production targets?” Once determined, you can look at material density and match it to the capacity of a bucket. Only then can you properly help a customer determine the size of machine that will handle that bucket capacity. Density can vary dramatically, not only by type of material, but whether the product being loaded is washed or dirty.

  • Vary bucket selection. To successfully rent wheel loaders, rental facilities should make available a basic variety of wheel loader buckets from general, all-purpose material handling buckets to heavy-duty or rock for more serious applications. A 2½- to 3-yd. loader is typically fitted with a general-purpose size bucket designed for cleaning feedlots, moving wood chips and lighter organic materials, and general combination aggregates in construction, agriculture, municipal and recycling applications.

Buckets, 5½-yds. or larger, are typically designed for moving higher-density materials, such as those found in quarries and mines, larger road work and site development projects. Those applications require more dedicated production, perhaps where an operator is constantly loading trucks and trying to achieve as few cycles or passes as possible. Requests for buckets larger than those sizes are best coordinated with the manufacturer or its dealer, which will likely stock more specialty sizes.

The more involved you are with accurate bucket selection, the less chance your customer will try to gain a production advantage that may result in exceeding the bucket’s capacity. Wheel loader engineers design machines to handle a predetermined loading cycle profile and working payload. Pushing a machine beyond these limits can accelerate wear, affect machine durability and significantly lower your return
on investment.

If you’re new at developing wheel loader inventory, you’ll probably want to start by stocking the small to mid-size machine range that is most popular with contractors. If you’re reconfiguring your fleet, you’ll have the luxury of basing your decisions on prior sales experience.

  • Multiply versatility with attachments. While equipment rental needs vary widely — from loading aggregate to moving brush and debris — requests typically center on a very specific purpose that most often involves a bucket. However, if there’s a need to rent a tool carrier or a machine configured with a hydraulic quick coupler, several more attachment options may be available.

Wheel loaders also can be fitted to handle demand for pallet forks and grapples, as well as brooms and snow blades, which can multiply wheel loader capabilities to serve a wide variety of different applications year-round. For winter snow removal, many companies will seek a four- or six-month rental contract. If snow is a business opportunity, it might be worth your time and resources to stock dedicated snow removal attachments like pushers and larger-capacity snow buckets.

  • Put a premium on maneuverability and visibility. Evaluating cycle times and being able to complete a wheel loader’s various tasks with machines that are fast and nimble in challenging terrain are additional rental inventory criteria. The more efficiently the equipment can move from one spot to another while loading and unloading, the more productive the machines will be.

Because loaders are constantly moving around the job site — driving into piles, reversing, lifting and dumping — wheel loader visibility is an important characteristic. An operating platform that provides good visibility in all directions and assistance from a rear-view camera, if equipped, can make operation significantly easier.

  • Use tools to manage your fleet. Many heavy equipment manufacturers and dealers are equipping their wheel loaders with GPS-based fleet management systems that can be beneficial to rental stores and their rental customers. These built-in satellite-based systems allow strategic monitoring of critical machine information, managing maintenance requirements and speeding up theft recovery by tracking the unauthorized movement of wheel loaders on long-term rentals.

In order to best serve wheel loader rental customer needs, take the time to learn how your customers work and what the most common wheel loader applications are in your area. If you do, you’ll more effectively stock the machines and attachments that will help your customers do the job and keep them coming through your doors.

Aaron Kleingartner is a Doosan segment application marketing manager for Doosan Infracore Construction Equipment America, West Fargo, N.D. For more information, call 701-241-8700 or visit doosanequipment.com.