Develon excavator on jobsite
Consider these factors before upgrading from compact to larger crawler excavators

Compact excavators are nimble and versatile, navigating tight spaces and digging with precision. They are the unsung heroes of confined spaces. But as projects evolve, so do jobsite demands. 

Enter larger crawler excavators, otherwise known as the heavyweights of construction. These 14- to 100-metric-ton machines have the power, size and capabilities to create new possibilities for you and your jobsite.

Upgrading your equipment fleet could be a smart investment. And now may be the perfect time to move up a size class, especially if you want to bid more accurately and increase your jobsite productivity. If you plan to move up to a larger excavator, review these considerations first.


Evaluate the Jobsite

Each project has its unique requirements. Factors such as budget, project scope, site conditions and available resources should all be considered in making the best equipment choice. Since the upfront cost of buying or renting a larger excavator is typically higher than that of a compact machine, make sure the machine can meet your daily production goals and has the capabilities to perform daily tasks with room for growth. This can help reduce the strain on project budgets, especially for smaller companies or projects with limited financial resources. If your current excavator is not meeting your needs or daily production goals, then it may be time to move up to a larger size.

Before you select a larger excavator, make sure it can access your jobsite and has the capability to maneuver and do the work once it’s there. Look at the dimensions, including width, height, length and weight. The excavator size should be determined by the application, environment, tasks you anticipate, transportation and storage requirements. 


Understand Machine Advantages

Moving up to larger crawler excavators can offer several benefits, depending on your project requirements and your tasks. A few advantages include:

  • Increased digging power — Larger crawler excavators have higher horsepower than mini excavators, allowing them to handle heavier workloads and dig through tougher materials more efficiently. This can lead to increased productivity and reduced project timelines.
  • Greater reach and depth — These machines have longer booms and arms, enabling them to reach deeper into excavations and access areas that might be out of reach for compact machines. This is particularly useful for tasks such as digging deep trenches or excavating foundations for tall structures.
  • Enhanced lifting capacity — The larger an excavator, the more lift capacity you can expect, which provides additional efficiency. However, it is imperative you refer to the lift charts found in the operation manual to make sure that what you’re lifting falls within the capabilities of the machine. This is especially important for tasks that require moving and placing large rocks, concrete blocks, steel beams or other heavy materials.
  • Improved stability — Larger excavators typically have wider tracks and a more robust undercarriage, which improves their stability on uneven terrain. This stability is essential for maintaining operator safety and preventing accidents, especially when working in challenging ground or soil.
  • Larger bucket capacity — A crawler excavator uses a higher-capacity bucket, allowing it to move more material in a single scoop. This speeds up tasks like digging trenches, loading trucks and excavating large volumes of material.
  • Impressive attachment versatility — Crawler excavators can be equipped with a wide range of attachments to expand their versatility. These can include buckets, thumbs, grapples, rippers, augers and tiltrotator accessories. Attachments enable your operators to perform a variety of tasks without the need for multiple specialized machines. Consider adding a quick coupler if you need to change attachments regularly.


Follow Your Customized Maintenance Schedules

Unplanned maintenance work for crawler excavators can place stress and expense on your company that directly affects your profit. Follow hourly, daily and monthly excavator maintenance schedules based on your manufacturer’s recommended guidelines outlined in the operation manual. Complete a daily walk-around, checking for obvious machine damage or wear. Inspecting fluids, oils and filters, as well as track wear, is crucial in residential and commercial construction applications. 

Some manufacturers offer ground-level access to all filters and convenient access to regular inspection points. Access panels open from the top, bottom and sides of the excavator. Centralized grease banks on the arm and base of the boom can make daily maintenance easier.

Working with an equipment dealership that can offer a customized approach to maintenance can also be extremely valuable. Some manufacturers offer fleet management tools that assist dealers with calculating maintenance costs, creating unique packages that address their customers’ specific needs.


Save With Built-In Fuel Efficiencies


No matter whether you’re monitoring fuel costs monthly or yearly, they play a fundamental role in your operation that can directly impact your bottom line. And the larger the equipment, the greater the expense can be. 

There are equipment innovations and best practices that can help improve your equipment’s fuel economy and reduce fuel costs on your profit-and-loss statement. If you are considering upgrading to a larger excavator, look for such built-in fuel efficiencies as automated idling functions, power optimization systems, advanced transmission and hydraulic systems, programmable engine control units and sight gauges that monitor fuel efficiency by the minute. Some aftertreatment systems can reduce particulate matter without use of a diesel particulate filter. These can all contribute to more economical operation.

Regarding fuel usage, it’s important to recognize that various applications can affect consumption rates. The fuel consumption rate for crawler excavators also depends on several factors, including engine size, equipment condition, your habits or your operators’ habits, the load, environmental conditions and a machine’s basic design. Monitoring a machine’s fuel usage can alert you to the need for routine maintenance that will keep your machine running more efficiently.


Know Transportation Requirements

Moving a machine from site to site may not be the norm for most crawler excavators. However, if you anticipate that your crawler excavator will need to be transported frequently, make sure to select the right towing vehicle and trailer. The towing vehicle should account for the total excavator and attachment weight being transported. If you are moving oversized loads, you will likely need a larger transport device with a larger weight rating to handle the heavy load. Special approval or permits may be required for oversized loads along your planned route, and these can add to your operational costs. A transport vehicle’s load rating can be found on its identification plate or in the equipment operation manual.


All states and local municipalities have regulations based on gross vehicle weight rating — the maximum operating weight or mass of a piece of equipment as specified by the manufacturer. Load ratings vary from state to state, so check federal, state and local laws and regulations regarding weight, width, length and height of a load before making preparations to transport your machine on public roads, bridges, highways
and interstates. 

For the largest of crawler excavators, some heavy construction equipment manufacturers offer a hydraulic removable excavator counterweight to quickly and easily reduce the overall machine weight. This option may allow you to utilize a standard-size trailer to transport an excavator and help reduce hauling costs and avoid the need for oversize or overweight permits. The counterweight, attachments and sometimes the arm and boom can be transported on a second trailer. Always follow the operation manual for proper counterweight installation and removal.


Visit Your Local Dealer

If you’ve decided that upgrading to a larger excavator is right for you and your business, visit your local dealership. They will understand your needs and help you decide what size machine is best for your jobsite.

In addition, dealers are a good resource for hands-on equipment demos through a rental. Dealers have the product knowledge and experience to help troubleshoot and maintain a machine. They understand and can articulate new technologies and encourage demonstrations and are dedicated to maximizing machine performance. Some manufacturers provide instructional videos about how to properly operate and maintain construction equipment. Having a responsive and trustworthy relationship with your dealer, who stands behind their manufacturers’ machines, can be one of the biggest buying factors in your heavy equipment purchase. 

Making the move up from compact to larger crawler excavators can be beneficial, but it takes careful consideration. By following these tips, you can best determine if upgrading your excavator is right for you and your operation. 

Popular Options for Crawler Excavators

Want to outfit your crawler excavator with more options on the jobsite? Check out some popular ones:

  • Side-view camera — Improve visibility and safety
  • Dozer blade attachment — Perform light grading and leveling tasks
  • Track pads for steel tracks on smaller crawler excavators — Minimize damage to surfaces
  • Optional heated and cooled seats — Enhance operator comfort
  • Thumb-ready arm — Handle materials with ease