Backhoe Loader

Get the scoop on backhoe loaders

Invented over 50 years ago by Joseph Cyril Bamford, a backhoe loader is a piece of heavy equipment that typically consists of a tractor outfitted with a front-end shovel attachment and a rear bucket component. Most backhoe loaders are smaller than other kinds of heavy equipment, such as excavators, and their leaner frame makes them versatile tools for digging and shoveling in more confined roads and alleyways. It's not unusual to see a backhoe loader in a city's construction repertoire—it's a popular tool in urban engineering and private construction projects that can include home construction, highway maintenance, landscaping and snow removal.

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The difference between a backhoe and a loader backhoe can often be unclear. Indeed, the words are sometimes used interchangeably by construction experts. However, in many cases "backhoe" simply refers to the rear attachment (often a bucket) and "backhoe loader" means the entire machine, from the bucket right up to the front loader attachment (which is often a shovel but, in the case of certain projects, might also be an asphalt roller).

How Do Backhoe Loaders Operate?

Once situated in the driver's seat of a backhoe loader, an individual will be confronted with two major controls: a "stick" for the left hand and another for the right. The left typically controls the boom, or the part linking the backhoe with the bucket, while the right control operates the dipper stick and the more precise controls on the bucket itself. These controls operate in four directions: forward, backward, left and right. Getting used to the lack of 360-degree movement is all part of the operator's learning curve.

Figuring out the left-hand stick is fairly certain. Move it left and the boom, or "arm," moves left, too. Move it right, and the boom moves right, and so on. However, the right-hand control is slightly different. Moving it towards the operator, or backwards, will cause the dipper stick to shift closer to the cab. Pushing the right-hand control away from the driver, or forwards, will cause the dipper stick and bucket to angle up and away. Thus, to scoop the bucket (i.e., dig), the driver angles the stick in and moves the left-hand control so that the bucket is in place. Then, he or she angles the stick up, or away, to reposition the bucket and release the dirt in a new location.

Not too difficult, right?