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Pushing their weight around: wheel loaders offer recyclers power and versatility.

Wheel loaders are a common sight at paper recycling plants and material recovery facilities (MRFs), where they can often be found herding material or loading processing equipment. Some recyclers and MRF operators prefer wheel loaders to skid steers because of their power and versatility, but this mobile material handling machine can offer other benefits, as well.

MATERIAL MOVERS. Perhaps the biggest advantage a wheel loader has over the skid steer is its ability to move a greater volume of material.

"A wheel loader pushes more material," Mitch Davis of Midland Davis Corp., Moline, Ill., says. The company operates a large loader outfitted with a five-yard bucket in its wood recycling operation, in which it grinds pallets and sells the resulting material as boiler fuel. Here, the loader pushes piles of pallets around the plant and loads trucks with the processed material.

Midland Davis also uses a smaller wheel loader with a 1.5-yard bucket in its paper recycling operation, where the loader pushes bins around the facility and feeds material onto the baler's infeed conveyor. "The wheel loader moves more material a little bit faster than the skid steer," Davis says.

FCR-Casella employs a fleet of wheel loaders in its MRF operations. "They generally perform the loading of sorted glass culler and facility processing systems and maintain incoming material on our tip floors," FCR Mid-Atlantic Regional Operations Manager Steve Gray, who works out of Camden, N.J., says. He says the primary advantage of wheel loaders is that they are capable of efficiently handling and moving large volumes of material.

The Sutta Co., based in Oakland, Calif., uses five wheel loaders at its facility to bring material to the conveyor, according to Darrell Hirashima, plant manager. The company prefers wheel loaders to skid steers because they enable The Sutta Co. to process more material throughout the day, he says.

He says that even companies that process less material should consider moving up from a skid steer to a wheel loader. "If you can bring more material with each trip, you would do it no matter what the volumes were," he says.

Davis also says that volume is secondary to a facility's space considerations when it comes to selecting a wheel loader. "Skid steers go into tighter spots and get around more quickly in a smaller space," he says. "You need more space if you are going to use a wheel loader. That is where you are going to gain efficiencies, because you won't be backing up all the time," Davis says.

Gray says most newer material recovery facilities have ample room to accommodate wheel loaders. "Generally, newer facilities are designed to limit the need for wheel loaders to tip floors and product load-out only," he says.

Rocco Volpe of Volpe Paper Fiber Co., based in Concord, Ontario, says front-end loaders make sense for facilities processing more than 100 tons of material per day because the loaders would be well matched to the baling equipment the facility would be using. His facilities use wheel loaders to funnel OCC from the yard into the plants, where skid steers load it onto the baler's conveying line.

"Generally, our facilities that handle in excess of 50 tons per day of either residential fiber, commingled containers or OCC streams utilize front-end wheel loaders," Gray says of FCR's MRFs. "We do, however, utilize skid steer units to move material from bins and piles to the baling operations. Inbound material volumes and processing equipment capacity can impact this decision as well," he says.

Gray adds that rather than the speed of the processing equipment, the volume and type of material that a facility handles daily should determine whether the company uses wheel loaders to handle the material.

"Generally, equipment manufacturers will design in-feed conveyors to accommodate the loading from various equipment," he says. "There are numerous baler designs on the market with varied hopper dimensions, some can accommodate the width of a wheel loader bucket while others cannot. My experience is that just about any hopper can be modified (flared) to accommodate the direct loading by either a wheel loader or a skid steer," Gray says.

Volpe says that in addition to moving more material, wheel loaders also provide a safer, more comfortable ride for the operator.

ADDITIONAL ADVANTAGES. Volpe compares operating a skid steer to driving an Austin Mini while he says operating a wheel loader is more like driving a Lincoln Continental. "It's hard to see in a skid steer," he says. "Your arms are at eye level and it cuts down on visibility."

Wheel loaders also sit higher than skid steers, which is also safer. Volpe says in addition to offering the operator a clearer view, wheel loaders are more visible to trucks that may be driving through the facility.

Because of their articulated frames, wheel loaders generally get more mileage out of their tires than skid steers do. Davis says his company goes through a couple of sets of skid steer tires per year because they operate on concrete, which chews up even solid tires. "Wheel loaders are articulated, they steer differently, and tires are going to last a lot longer," he says.

Gray also notes that skid steers require more frequent tire changes. "The solid rubber tires on skid steers in our applications generally have a life of six to seven months, and foam filled, four to six months, while wheel loader [tires] have a life of 16 to 28 months," he says. "This is also dependent on which material they are handling and exposed to on a regular basis."

Volpe also says that skid steers tend to consume tires more quickly than wheel loaders. "Wheel loaders save 30 percent to 40 percent on tire life," he says, adding that skid steers "rip the tires apart.

Despite the savings on tires, Gray finds that preventive maintenance programs for wheel loaders are generally 40 percent to 50 percent higher than for skid steers.

Hirashima notes, though, that The Sutta Co. performs fewer repairs on its wheel loaders than on its skid steers, pushing up maintenance costs for the smaller machines.

Volpe stresses, however, that wheel loaders and skid steers can both be valuable pieces of equipment for recyclers and MRF operators and suggests that they often work best when paired with one another. He says he likes the versatility that wheel loaders offer, enabling Volpe Paper Fibers to perform various facility maintenance tasks, like plowing snow and laying gravel.

Davis also has noticed wheel loader use increasingly among paper processors. He says the price differential between a large skid steer and a mini-wheel loader is not that great, adding that the smaller loaders "compare pretty favorably with skid steers."


Ventilation could be a concern for a recycler or material recovery facility that is considering upgrading to wheel loaders from skid steers.

"Whenever a fossil-fuel-burning piece of equipment is used indoors, provisions must be made to evacuate the fumes from the general working environment," Steve Gray, FOR Mid-Atlantic regional operations manager, based in Camden, N.J., says. "The exact amount of venting is dependant on several factors, including the size of the building, number of units used, exhaust emissions, open-door ventilation and results from monitoring the CO and C[O.sub.2] concentration levels within a specific facility." He continues, "Generally, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) states that concentration levels about 50 ppm for CO and 3.5 milligrams per cubic meter for C[O.sub.2] needs to be abated to ensure levels below those thresholds."

Rocco Volpe, owner of Volpe Paper Fiber Co., based in Concord, Ontario, says that wheel loaders generally require better exhaust fans that are compatible with the size of the loaders. When his facility added wheel loaders, Volpe says he changed the exhaust fans to accommodate the emissions from the new equipment.

The author is managing editor of Recycling Today and can be contacted at
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Author:Toto, Deanne
Publication:Recycling Today
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2005
Previous Article:Living large: recyclers say bigger is better when it comes to choosing a skid steer.
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