Digging Into Future Backhoe Innovations

Backhoe-loaders will continue to be an important machine in construction, offering unparalleled versatility. 
“We’re confident that the backhoe-loader will continue to maintain, if not slightly grow, its industry market share,” says Caterpillar’s Dustin Adams, product application specialist, Caterpillar. “Our challenge is to develop a backhoe-loader that is versatile and compatible with various hydromechanical attachments.
“Having the ability to optimize performance and increase machine utilization for various applications will make backhoes more desirable,” he continues. “Coupling versatility with machine technology and control without over-complicating the machine and maintaining simple digging performance will be the balance we are challenged to strike.”
“There will always be a market for backhoe-loaders. It is a cornerstone equipment style that allows for easy transportation via roading and still provides extreme versatility for utilities, municipalities, general contractors and owner/operators who don’t require multiple units on a single site,” says Ed Brenton, product marketing manager, Case Construction Equipment. “[Backhoe-loaders] can run the full gamut of attachments that you can run with both skid-steers/compact track loaders and mid-sized excavators — extremely valuable for those types of operations.” 
There will be some migration from backhoes down to a combination of a mini-excavator and a skid steer or compact track loader. “But we do not see that as an evolution that endangers the long-term viability of the backhoe platform,” says Brenton. “Conversely, with the added lifting and digging power we are currently building into backhoes — and with the extreme speed and maneuverability provided by a backhoe-loader over a steel-tracked excavator — we are seeing backhoes moving into applications where mid-sized excavators were previously preferred.”
Look for future designs to offer more automotive-style features. “With the popularity of backhoe-loaders among owners/operators, and with a platform that most resembles the trucks these guys drive to and from the site every day, you will continue to see automotive influence built into the cabs and controls of these machines,” says Brenton. “This includes everything from the seat and fabric options up to the inclusion of Bluetooth radio and related functionality, as well as the continued focus on visibility and jobsite awareness.”
The key to the product’s sustainability is versatility. “While the industry has been under pressure from alternative utility machines, many customers remain that require the versatility only offered from the backhoe,” says Brian Hennings, product marketing manager, backhoes and tractor loaders, John Deere Construction and Forestry. “Key customer segments including underground utilities, site prep and local governments highly value the all-in-one jobsite tool that can be self-transported from jobsite to jobsite. Various types of buckets, couplers and attachments (e.g. breakers, thumbs, sweepers, 4-in-1 buckets, snow pushers, plate compactors, grapples, augers, etc.) continue to make it an indispensable, multi-functional tool that quickly gets the job done.”