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A skid steer loader, or skid loader, is a relatively small machine that is powered by an engine. Many different attachments can be used with this machine in order to make certain labor-intensive tasks easier. Skid loaders are mainly used for excavation purposes, though snow plows can also be attached to these machines in order to remove large drifts of snow, and to clear roads and sidewalks.
On occasion, a skid steer loader is built upon a set of tracks. However, most skid loaders are four-wheel drive vehicles that are capable of pushing and hauling heavy objects. Generally, a loader's wheels function independently of one another, which helps the vehicle to turn in different directions at different speeds.
Since many industrial environments require machinery that is precise and agile, a skid loader is often the preferred tool of choice. A skid steer loader is capable of making a hairpin turn, which means that these machines can maneuver in and out of tight areas. The metal arms that are attached to a loader run alongside the driver cabin. While today's loaders have enclosed driver cabins, this wasn't always the case.
The first skid steer loader was manufactured by Cyril and Louis Keller in 1957. This prototype did not have an enclosed cabin, and drivers were often injured by mechanical arms. Originally, the main purpose of the first loader was to remove chicken manure from turkey farms. While the loader proved to be much more effective at hauling away manure than a shovel was, the Melroe Brothers of North Dakota knew that the machine could be put to better use.
After purchasing the rights to the original skid steer loader from the Keller Brothers, the skid loader took on a new look. By hiring the Kellers to come up with a new model, the Melroes were able to manufacture the M-200 self-propelled loader. This loader had a rear caster wheel that allowed the machine to turn quite easily; the M-200 was introduced to the public in 1958. In 1960, the rear caster wheel was replaced with a rear axle, and the M-400 was created. Shortly thereafter, this machine became known as the "Melroe Bobcat."
Today, the term "Bobcat" is often used to indicate a skid steer loader of any kind. Presently, there are many different steer loaders on the market, and nearly every company that makes industrial machinery has a different version of this tool. Even though the first skid steer loader was invented in order to replace the shovel, steer loaders have many unique uses today.