Radial vs. Vertical Loader Design
By David Steger, Product Manager at Takeuchi-US
Knowing the true differences between radial and vertical skid steer loader (SSL) designs will help you leverage the advantages of each and enable you to select the best machine for your specific application. We will look at the obvious and maybe not as obvious details of the two loader designs.
Advantages of a Radial SSL
If strength, stability, and durability are your focal points, a radial lift arm loader may be for you. They are specially designed for rental applications, concrete contractors, and excavation contractors. The advantage of a radial loader is summed up in two words: simplicity and durability. There are fewer moving parts in the loader linkage (also correlating to its durability), it offers better visibility due to less linkage, and it has a lower cost than a vertical loader. The radial lift arm design typically offers greater lifting power (lift arm breakout) at ground level. It also has greater forward reach at mid-height, which is useful for backfilling (dumping material further into the trench while being able to sit further from the edge), and handling palletized material at truck height. Furthermore, a radial loader weighs less than a vertical machine, which can help when transporting the machine. Finally, radial loader arms are more stable side to side with a better weight distribution front to back to handle ground-engaging attachments and light attachments like empty pallet forks.
Advantages of a Vertical SSL
If you never know what your jobs may throw at you, the versatility of a vertical lift arm loader may be the ideal choice. These machines excel at handling large attachments and heavy pallets, and in some cases allow you to choose a smaller machine in place of radial due to the generally higher operating capacity. The biggest advantages of a vertical machine are capacity, lift height, and a better balance. The key advantage is the ability to keep the load closer to the machine during the lift cycle for better balance. Better balance results in a higher TIP/ROC. The design also allows for greater lift height and greater reach at lift height with some designs, although many well-designed radials are within inches of their vertical siblings. Additionally, they are generally more rear-heavy due to the extra linkage, as well as more expensive due to more parts and steel.
At the end of the day, both will push, dig, lift, carry, and dump. However, some models and lift configurations may be better suited to certain tasks than others. Before making any decisions, make sure that you are choosing the option that is most suitable for your needs. When in doubt, it is always good to consult with your dealer.