When it comes to evaluating the pros and cons of a compact loader, a lot of people are tempted to give little notice to operator comfort. But industry experts say there are a lot of good business reasons to look for comfortable cabs.
For starters, it’s hard to get good operators and even harder to keep them. Operator expectations have changed — they need to be comfortable, and they want to walk away from the machine at the end of the day and not feel tired.
Operator expectations and technology have evolved to the point where bare-bones interiors commonplace decades ago are no longer competitive in the marketplace. Today it is critical that loaders offer air conditioning, radios and other items that weren’t even available in the past.
Trending toward comfort
During the last 10 years or so, the market focus seems to have shifted toward operator comfort. Features such as cab pressurization, control access and operator space have become more prevalent in customer feedback than they were before.
One reason may be that more hours per day and more days per year are being spent in the machine — by both operators who work for a contractor and contractors who operate their own machines.
It’s fair to say that in today’s world, contractors are under the gun. They need to meet tight deadlines, so they’re trying to get as much productivity out of their machines as they can. They’re taking fewer days off and working more on rainy weather days.
The result is that contractors and operators are spending more time in the cabs of their machines than ever before, making the cab environment far more important. The control layout, overall visibility and comfort features such as joystick controls can have a big impact on the operator’s ability to accomplish work comfortably and quickly.
A checklist of loader features you can’t live without
- All-around visibility: Look for larger front, rear and side windows that boost visibility to the sides and tracks, as well as improve your view when loading a truck or using attachments.
- Pressurized interior: Look for cab door and window seals that help keep out dust and debris, to keep you clean and comfortable, and more productive.
- Air ride seats: Riding on air suspension seats helps you smooth out the bumps and increases comfort.
- Unique cab-forward design: Loaders that offer a cab-forward design improve all-around visibility. By moving the operator area forward, you receive enhanced views of the bucket or other attachments.
- Quiet operation: Inside the cab, reduced sound levels increase your comfort.
- Seat-mounted joystick controls: As the suspension seat shifts up and down, the joysticks move with the seat, reducing your arm movement and increase your comfort.
- Bigger entry/exit: Look for larger cab openings combined with lower door thresholds that offer easier entry and exit.
- Cab space and operator support: Try out the loader cab to ensure there’s plenty of cab space with ample room for your arms, legs, shoulders, head and feet. Test the seat adjustments. Look for floors that provide more foot space and leg room. And look for models that have the windows mounted on the outside of the Roll-Over Protection System (ROPS) for extra elbow room and faster window cleaning.
- Controls and instruments: Look for large LCD screens that provide better readability and interaction and operator switches that put important controls in front of you. Loaders with fingertip controls make attachment operation comfortable and accurate — even as you operate the loader.
- Lighting and climate control: Examine the loader interior for accessible air conditioning and heat controls, easy open/close side windows for controlling air flow and a rear defrost to keep windows clear.
- Audio, storage and cleaning: Additional convenience and comfort features can have a big impact on the operator’s ability to accomplish work comfortably and quickly. Consider cup holders, storage bins, stereo systems and 12-volt power accessories that allow you to charge your phone and other devices.