The Growth of Skid Steers and Skid Steer Tires
Maneuverable, versatile, and indispensable are a few words that describe skid steers. Consequently, they’ve become a fixture on everything from construction sites to road crews to recycling centers, and their use shows no sign of slowing down. Equipment manufacturers continue to develop new attachments and find new applications for the venerable skid steer, while tire manufacturers keep pace with innovative offerings designed to maximize operational efficiency and productivity, and deliver a long-lasting product at a low total cost of ownership (TCO).
Alliance 550 MultiUse tires on a skid steer
The Invention of the Skid Steer
The skid steer was a revolutionary piece of equipment that a wide range of industries has grown to depend on, yet its beginnings are humble: it was designed to remove manure from turkey barns. Prior to the skid steer, cleaning turkey barns was a challenging job that had yet to fully mechanize. The tractors of the time were too heavy to operate on second stories and not agile enough to clean in corners and move around poles. As flock sizes increased, a piece of equipment was needed to keep pace with the expansion.
Turkey farm pioneer Eddie Velo turned to two brothers, Cyril and Louis Keller, to design a piece of equipment to meet the demands of his expanding flock. The Keller brothers were well established in the Minnesota farm community—they operated Keller Manufacturing, a fabrication and repair shop where they were known for their knack with machinery and as early developers of the snowblower.
The Keller Loader
The brothers conceived and built the Keller Loader, a clever three-wheeled machine with left and right wheels that operated independently from each other and were controlled with levers rather than a steering wheel. The Keller Loader was the prototype for future skid steers and possessed many of the qualities today’s machines are revered for, such as compactness and maneuverability.
Interest in the Keller Loader grew quickly and demand soon outstripped the Keller Brothers’ production capabilities. A little more than a year after building the first “skid steer,” in 1957, the brothers struck a deal with Melroe Manufacturing—Melroe would build the machines and the brothers would receive royalties. The Brothers also joined Melroe, where they continued to improve the loader and drive sales.
The Birth of the Skid Steer and Bobcat
Through the late 1950s and early 1960s, Melroe Manufacturing continued to tweak the Keller Loader, making the most notable change in 1960 when it introduced the M400—the first four-wheel skid steer. The addition of a fourth wheel improved performance on rough terrain and opened the door to many of the applications skid steers are commonly employed in today, such as demolition, construction, and municipal work.
In 1962, the M440 was launched—the first skid steer with the Bobcat moniker that, to this day, is still closely associated with skid steers. It’s said that the name Bobcat was chosen because the dictionary description of the animal reads “tough, quick, and agile,” all attributes associated with a skid steer. It was also the first model to wear white, a color that hid fertilizer dust and signaled cleanliness, which were important factors to the fertilizer and dairy markets, two markets they were pursuing sales in.
The Skid Steer Today
Bobcat was first to the market, but today almost every major equipment manufacturer has a skid steer in their product line, most of which have an offering for all three sizes of skid steer:
- Small frame: 1,750 lbs., under 50 hp
- Medium frame:1,750-2,200 lbs., 50-70 hp
- Large frame: 2,200 lbs. and up, over 70 hp
The size and power of skid steers have come a long way since the little over six horsepower Keller Loader. So have the applications skid steers find themselves employed in. The compact nature and maneuverability of the skid steer allow it to operate everywhere from construction sites, to recycling centers, to backyard landscaping projects. It also has helped reduce the need for manual labor—one of its original intentions and a trait that remains vital as labor shortages plague industries across the board.
The Development of Skid Steer Tires
The rise in the use of skid steers led to the need for a tire specifically designed for them and Yokohama Off-Highway Tires’ Galaxy brand delivered. Galaxy developed the first tire designed for the skid steer market, the Beefy Baby. Featuring beefy and long-lasting construction, the Beefy Baby remains in the Galaxy line up today; now in its third iteration, the Beefy Baby III delivers the same durability and low cost per hour that launched the original to prominence, with a host of innovations that help make it our best version yet.
As the market continues to develop new applications for the skid steer, subjecting them to different environments, terrain, and stresses, Galaxy continues to engineer and produce tires to handle their needs—from traditional pneumatic bias-ply to high-tech radials to super-tough pneumatic solids.
Pneumatic bias-ply tires remain a favorite among skid steer owners, offering a cost-effective and durable solution for skid steers operating in industries ranging from agriculture to excavation to landscaping to rental. Galaxy offers a broad range of pneumatic bias-ply skid steer tires, allowing skid steer owners to tailor tire choice to the terrain they spend the most time in. For example:
- Galaxy Hulk: Excels at rock, salvage, and concrete work
- Galaxy Beefy Baby: Acclaimed for its versatility.
- Galaxy Muddy Buddy: Built to handle the slickest, slushiest, and muddiest conditions
- Galaxy Mighty Trac ND: A general-purpose tire ideal for rental skid steers
In recent years, users have turned to radial tires like the Alliance 550 MultiUse as a way to improve the efficiency and productivity of their skid steers along with maximizing their investment in tires. Radials produce a larger footprint than bias tires, providing better traction and enabling the tires to transmit more horsepower to the ground—which, to an extent, are traits associated with a track loader, but without a track loader’s high costs of acquisition and operation.
Another benefit of radial tires is that they dissipate tire-killing heat better than their bias-ply counterparts. Radials also deliver a softer ride, making for more comfortable operation and putting less stress on equipment. You’ll find radial skid steer tires like our Alliance 550 operating in applications such as road maintenance, ag, and material handling.
Severe Duty Solid
As skid steers worked their way out of the barn and into demanding applications like demolition, scrap yards, and recycling, they needed tough tires engineered to stand up to the puncture-prone conditions. Featuring impenetrable tread faces and puncture-proof sidewalls, solid tires ensure equipment uptime. They also last three to four times longer than pneumatics, which keeps machines on site, out of the shop, and helps deliver a low total cost of ownership. Galaxy’s solid tire offering is as wide as the applications they’re employed in, a few favorites are:
- Galaxy Beefy Baby SDS: The classic skid steer tire with picture-proof construction
- Galaxy Hulk SDS: Renowned for long life and low TCO while working in the most challenging conditions
- Galaxy Super Smooth: Flat tread and the maximum amount of usable rubber make this a favorite for hard-surface applications
No matter what application you use your skid steer in, Galaxy will have a tire for it. Galaxy has been there since the beginning and continues to set the standard for skid steer performance by both updating their classic offerings, creating new tires, and adopting new technologies to handle the growing list of applications they are expected to perform in.