A front-end loader is a large engineering vehicle used to pick up and move materials. They are often used in construction sites to move materials into a dump truck, container or other large piece of construction equipment.
This type of heavy-duty equipment has very large wheels with thick tread. The front of the loader has a large, square-shaped bucket that is connected to the base with two hydraulic arms. There is an enclosed operator cab located directly behind the arms, where the operator sits and controls both the horizontal movement of the loader and the movement of the arms.
The front-end loader is used to pick up and move large quantities of dirt, sand and other materials quickly and efficiently from one location to another. The most common use of a front-end loader is to move materials off the ground into a container at a higher level of elevation, such as a truck. The bucket on the front can be either removable or a permanent fixture. Although the loaders with a removable system cost slightly more, they are very useful, as there are a wide range of accessories that can be attached to the front-end loader. Options include lift forks, bale grappler, snow plow or a clamshell bucket.
One of the features that separate front-end loaders from other heavy duty construction equipment is the use of wheels instead of tracks. Wheels increase the flexibility of these units to move over paved roads, mud and other surfaces without damage. Although some degree of traction is lost with the use of wheels, the benefit of increased flexible outweighs the small degree of stability that is lost.
The steering on a front-end loader is unique in that it is based on an accurate pivot point, which is between the front and rear axle. This is called articulated steering, and it allows for a greater degree of maneuverability control and an increased weight load. Another benefit of this design is the larger arc of movement that the operator can achieve with a full load.
Front-end loader operators must be aware of the load capacity of the unit, balance and the degree of arc they are moving on. A mistake can result in the unit tipping over due to excess weight on one side when the load is lifted above a specific point on the horizontal axis. Basic training and an understanding of basic physics will address these concerns.