A backhoe loader is a piece of heavy construction equipment which actually marries two separate devices: a backhoe and a loader. Many contracting companies use backhoe loaders because they are powerful, efficient, fairly compact, and easier to maintain than two separate devices. Some consumers may be familiar with the sight of a backhoe loader, since the machines are frequently used for roadwork and major construction projects. Several companies dominate the market for backhoe loaders, including Case, Volvo, Caterpillar, and John Deere.
The core of a backhoe loader is a tractor base. The tractor has wide, rugged wheels and a strong engine, allowing it to muscle its way over a variety of terrain. The tractor also has a cab or covered area for the operator, allowing him or her to work through inclement weather. Inside the cab, two separate sets of controls are used to manipulate the elements of the backhoe loader.
The backhoe portion of the equipment is actually located on the rear end. A backhoe is a type of excavator at the end of a long arm. When the operator manipulates the controls, the backhoe can be used to dig high volumes of material very quickly. Other tools can be attached to this flexible arm, such as tools used to break up concrete. While the backhoe is in use, the backhoe loader is parked and anchored with stabilizer legs, which pull the wheels off the ground and stop the backhoe loader from moving.
The loader section of the equipment is a giant scoop. It can be filled with material for transport elsewhere, or it can be used to smooth and plow roadways. Since transport of materials is often required after their excavation, the backhoe loader conveniently bundles both tasks into one machine. Specialized training is required before someone can run a backhoe loader safely, and a supervisor on site usually ensures that the equipment is being used safely and appropriately.
In the 1940s and 1950s, Case was one of the first companies to realize the potential applications for a backhoe loader, thanks to a pioneering engineer, Elton Long. A construction boom after the Second World War led to a rising demand for construction equipment which could do jobs quickly and efficiently. Case backhoes started to come with a loader option as well, and other companies picked up the trend. In many cases, a backhoe loader is the only piece of heavy equipment owned by a small construction company, since it has many uses, especially if different attachments can be used on the backhoe arm.