Should I get a forklift or a tractor with forks? Gravel driveway use.
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  1. #1
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    Default Should I get a forklift or a tractor with forks? Gravel driveway use.

    The background- we are in a rural area, our drive is gravel. We have a paved pad in front of the shop. Normally when trucks come in we use a liftgate and pallet jack to load. The problem is our crates going out are not especially heavy, but they are large-
    Today I have a 2x4x8 600lb crate going out. That is tricky to get on the liftgate.
    Plus I keep getting older......

    So I have kicked around the idea of buying an old forklift, which will sit 99% of the time (somewhere, space is a problem too) or a 30hp Kubota or the like with a fork attachment, mower, blade etc that can be used for multiple things-like grading the drive..

    Occasionally we rent a forklift, having seen the rental guy get one stuck real good offloading from the trailer I am dubious about a solid tire lift on our drive- he got off to the side on softer ground. Is a pneumatic tire lift, essential for softer ground?

    your thoughts ?

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    Quote Originally Posted by stoneaxe View Post
    T Is a pneumatic tire lift, essential for softer ground?
    Yes. Re tractor vs forklift....depends on what you are loading/unloading. If uncrated machine tools tractor no good....too hard to control lift. But if well crated with captive pallet bottom the tractor might be ok.

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    Load capacity is the first question. That answer may or may not eliminate a small tractor. A Skytrack or LULL style machine would do it all but it would be 'spensive. A pneumatic tire fork lift will not do well in most cases off of the gravel and of course a Cushion tire lift will simply never work.

    Good Luck


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    Quote Originally Posted by Milacron View Post
    Yes. Re tractor vs forklift....depends on what you are loading/unloading. If uncrated machine tools tractor no good....too hard to control lift. But if well crated with captive pallet bottom the tractor might be ok.
    Yup, I move allot of machines (under 1200 lbs) with my skid loader, but DO NOT recommend it.

    I just moved a small turret lathe (weiler 5-c collet size) but called nieghbor over, and we used
    the forks with 2 nylon slings (I can't get in and out with the forks up) Would not entertain the
    thought of skidding it from underneath, unless firmly banded to skid.

    The small Kubota's now come with the loader with the standard Bobcat quick attach
    plate, now the universal norm. in the skid steer world.
    Forks go on easily. Attachments are plenty, and you can rent what you
    don't need very often.

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    Its hard to beat the control of a forklift for moving heavy objects. Anything else with wheels is second best.

    Pneumatic tired forklifts will work in hardpacked situations. You don't say whether you are on the wet side or the dry side of the mountains. Wet side and I'd be dubious unless you've spent several years and several thousand dollars improving your road. 6" of loose gravel over undrained dirt won't cut it.

    Forks on a light duty tractor are pretty iffy, even more so if the tractor is not front wheel assist. My choice for an off road forklift would be a skid steer loader. Keep in mind skid steers can be very violent to the load on the forks, even when driven as carefully as possible. I would rate them ok for pallets but poor to dangerous for machinery. Anything you don't mind picking up when it falls off is a good load.

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    A good option would be a rough terrain forklift (fork truck based on a tractor skid unit running backwards ,especially if they sell for the sort of money they do in the UK.

    You get the advantages of a normal forklift but it won't get stuck.

    I don't know about the US but front loaders here are not supposed to be used as a lifting device ,only for bulk material moving, doesn't mean noone does but If that is the main use for the machine it makes sense to buy the correct machine for the job.

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    A 30hp Kubota is probably $18k, new, and has a lifting capacity of 800lbs, at 20" out. And thats bucket capacity- if you add forks to a bucket, you are already past 20", and you are really looking at more like 400lbs.
    I dunno if you have ever been on a little tractor like that when the bucket is overloaded, and the rear wheels get a little light in the loafers, but it aint a fun feeling.

    In other words, a little tractor wont do what you want, and will cost a lot to not do it.
    A huge, multi ton 50hp tractor might- but it would be a pretty lousy compromise.

    I would spend your money instead on enlarging the area of driveway that is usable, and buy a cheap ($5000) forklift.
    I live in the PNW as well, and I did the driveway in front of the shop with road cloth, then 1 1/4" minus gravel, and then had it compacted. After the first season, this has been just fine for driving my regular warehouse forklift on. Been doing it for probably fifteen years now, just dont get off the driveway.

    A few grand in decent gravel, put down by somebody who knows what they are doing, will allow you to unload 4000lbs, not 400.

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    Every skid-steer with forks I've ever seen is difficult to control delicately - they seem more suited to moving pallets full of landscaping supplies than machine tools. Tractor lifts (the tractors with a forklift on the rear) are more controllable, but they need lots of space to turn around.

    Construction forklifts, like a Lull or a Pettibone, can move through muck, but they are as challenging as a skid-steer forklift.

    The best option would probably be to look for a pneumatic-tired forklift. I've driven some with dual front tires, and they do pretty well on gravel, particularly if the gravel is crushed rock and packed down.

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    We are on the wet side, but our drive is hard packed with years and years of use.
    We load pallets, and wood crates with skids. Weight usually from 250 to 800 pounds. I need long forks (48") to get to the balance point of an 8' crate. (often they have to go into the truck endwise)
    It would be nice to be able to use it to off load lumber as well- 5000 pounds max.
    We will use this once or twice a week for a few minutes.

    Sounds like a cheap 5000-7500lb lift with air tires is what I need- is gasoline going to be a hassle for intermittent use? Or should I look for propane.?

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    Our shop lot is hard pack gravel. At least 40 years old. The pneumatic tired forklift get stuck occasionally. Whenever there was something light enough to be loaded or unloaded we would use a 4WD tractor with the front end loader with forks. Now I hold my breath when I take the forklift outside. The landscaper with the tractor has left the building. I really miss the guy, not just for his tractor.
    The regular forklift is better in every regard for lifting with the exception of traction.
    With my intermittent use propane is better, the gas turns to crap before I would go thru a tank.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ries View Post
    A 30hp Kubota is probably $18k, new, and has a lifting capacity of 800lbs, at 20" out. And thats bucket capacity- if you add forks to a bucket, you are already past 20", and you are really looking at more like 400lbs.
    I dunno if you have ever been on a little tractor like that when the bucket is overloaded, and the rear wheels get a little light in the loafers, but it aint a fun feeling.

    In other words, a little tractor wont do what you want, and will cost a lot to not do it.
    A huge, multi ton 50hp tractor might- but it would be a pretty lousy compromise.
    I have a 11 year old John Deere 4500. Front end loader is good for about 3k pounds at the quick attach plate. And with forks on you are still around 2k pounds at 24" out. I've unloaded all manners of fragile and heavy things with it and find it only slightly more difficult to use outdoors than my electric forklift. Difference is that the tractor is fine to use in snow or mud and the forklift can get stuck on a coffee spill. I think a compact (but not too compact) utility tractor would be the ticket for the OP. The forklift wins, hands down, in terms of visibility and turn radius. But really, grabbing or putting a skid in a semi trailer isn't high precision work.

    39HP, <$20k out the door with 2000 hours, loader, bucket, forks, backhoe, and brand new tires. Put a couple hundred hours on it in the last 3 years and have spent just a couple hundred dollars in maintenance. And have build two homes, a garage, turned a farm field into a yard, built a driveway, unloaded hundreds of tons of building materials, machines, gravel, etc.

    I wouldn't consider it huge, but my JD is multi-ton. 3 or 4 tons. But any forklift is going to be in the same weight class. I initially looked seriously at buying a brand new Kubota. But those things are absolutely tiny. It's hard to take a tractor seriously whose wheels don't even come up to my hips.


    My vote would be for a utility tractor. It's hard to imagine how you lived without one once you have one. My second vote would be for spending some money to make a big concrete pad and then buying the cheapest worn-out but still functional indoor forklift you can find.

    FWIW,

    -Jim

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    Was helping neighbor yesterday IIRC this is what he had...about 30-40 h.p.

    Front loader rating don't look too bad:
    http://www.kubota.com/product/L3200/...eries_spec.pdf

    And of course de-rating for extened length of forks.

    Why not visit dealer, with box in back of your truck, have him demostrate
    unloading it ?

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    I would pour a pad outside and get a forklift. Then buy the tractor too. Trying to do a forklift job with a bobcat with forks or tractor will bite you sooner or later.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ries View Post
    A 30hp Kubota is probably $18k, new, and has a lifting capacity of 800lbs, at 20" out. And thats bucket capacity- if you add forks to a bucket, you are already past 20", and you are really looking at more like 400lbs.
    I dunno if you have ever been on a little tractor like that when the bucket is overloaded, and the rear wheels get a little light in the loafers, but it aint a fun feeling.

    In other words, a little tractor wont do what you want, and will cost a lot to not do it.
    A huge, multi ton 50hp tractor might- but it would be a pretty lousy compromise.

    I would spend your money instead on enlarging the area of driveway that is usable, and buy a cheap ($5000) forklift.
    I live in the PNW as well, and I did the driveway in front of the shop with road cloth, then 1 1/4" minus gravel, and then had it compacted. After the first season, this has been just fine for driving my regular warehouse forklift on. Been doing it for probably fifteen years now, just dont get off the driveway.

    A few grand in decent gravel, put down by somebody who knows what they are doing, will allow you to unload 4000lbs, not 400.

    Yes, what Ries said...
    If you go with a tractor (and you might need to due to terrain) the issue is primarily weight! Get the largest frame sized tractor you can fit and afford, it will be more important than HP when lifting. Get or build a counterweight ballast for the 3 point to help. HOWEVER, also be aware that if you try to lift a 2,000 lb skid your little front tires might not hold it. Make sure you get the industrial R4 tires, not turf tires. IF you go with a tractor, get the removable bucket and separate forks, you will set your load back 2 feet and effectively double weight capacity (get rated capacity, instead of half)

    I am in the same boat as you... And I also think Ries is right about the driveway. In the long run 5,000 in concrete and driveway improvements could be a lifesaver and allow a "real" forklift... Much safer!

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    I am basically in the same situation. (rural area/gravel drive) I purchased a Bobcat on tracks (T190) It handles everything I need it to.
    Pallet forks for moving crates/pallets and a 4 way bucket for everything else. The T190 will pick up about 2500lbs and control very well.

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    Get a rough terrain forklift. Many of them have 8,000 lb capacities. and the tires up against the mast are about like backhoe tires.

    If you're on gravel, uneven or muddy ground, a regular forklift, even with pneumatic tires, is worse than useless.

    I have a backhoe with a set of forks, which I use for moving a great deal of stuff around. We also have a skid-steer, and I have a set of forks for that. The skid steer is going down the road soon, and I probably will never own a skid steer again. They're useful machines, but for most of what we do, they're an annoyance.

    Neither a tractor with loader (or backhoe) or a skid steer is as good at putting a pallet or a machine exactly where you want it. Both of them have very limited lift capacities compared to a forklift. Both of them don't allow you to side-shift the forks, which is a very useful capability to have.

    In general, I advise people who need to move more than about 2,000 lbs to go seek out a forklift or teleboom if you don't need the capability to dig dirt or do tillage. If lifting things is only one of many jobs you need to do in addition to digging ditches, moving snow, etc... OK, let's talk about forks on a backhoe or on a ag tractor.

    But if the vast majority of what you need is heavy lift capacity - no ag or construction machine is going to do what you want until you're into very large equipment.

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    Get a Wiggins or a Champ rough terrain forklift. I have been very happy with my Wiggins. Wide track so the load doesn't sway much on uneven ground, triple mast low profile so I can get in the garage, side shift is a big plus. My machine has 4,000 lb capacity and cost me $6,000 from a dealer.

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    I use my 2500 Hyster in the packed gravel area in front of my shop year round. It has smooth hard tires. The only times I've actually gotten it stuck were when I parked it in softer areas of the driveway in the winter time.

    Before getting the Hyster I had a Ford 30HP 4x4 diesel with a loader. It weighed about 3500 pounds with calcium. The Ford could lift about 1800 pounds at the bucket pivot with the front tires squished flat. With forks on it I would guess it could lift a 1000 pound pallet depending on how it was loaded. The loader only goes up so far which was never far enough for me.

    The tractor will cost 10 times what a good forklift will and won't be nearly as useful. Forklifts do fine on surfaces they can't sink right into. Mine has SMOOTH hard tires and I hot rod it down a long gravel driveway to the road no matter what time of year it is. I just make sure when I park it that it's on a part of the gravel that's driven on frequently in the rainy season (the 10 month window we have here).

    When it has sunk in It's in the driveway. Pretty easy to chain the truck to it and give it a little tug. Even by myself.

    Regarding lift capacity, Forklifts can lift pretty much anything at the mast. A tractor with a loader is downright scary with much weight on it. Loaders aren't built for that, forklift masts are. Forklifts weigh considerably more than tractors for a given size. You'd need a 75+ HP tractor to equal the lifting ability of my little 2500 hyster. That Hyster has done 5000 a few times, no sweat.

    Definitely go propane.
    Last edited by Garwood; 06-11-2013 at 12:48 AM.

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    I have used a Champ rough terrain at my place a bunch- nice machine, very controllable, wont get stuck- but HUGE. Especially compared to a standard warehouse forklift. 8' wide, ten feet tall, 12' long or more.
    If you have the room for one, and dont need to use it inside (I run my little forklift inside my buildings all the time, and wouldnt be without that capacity) then, yeah, its a great machine. And they are in the five to ten grand range, used, around here.

    I have also rented Lull style teleboom forklifts a lot- and I love driving those, too. But they are even bigger. They will drive thru mud and over bumps, and be stable and safe, but they cost a lot more, and are a lot bigger to store, wont work in tight spaces, and, again, wont fit in the shop buildings I own.

    I have used tractors with forks, too- and its do-able, but certainly not my choice. As mentioned, you need a bigger one than the standard "gentleman rancher" Kubota style. Where I live, I wouldnt own a 2WD tractor, and a big enough 4WD to lift 2000 lbs is well over twenty grand. Used 4WD tractors hold their value up here incredibly well, to the point where it usually makes more sense to buy new, rather than save ten percent and inherit problems.

    I absolutely live on the "wet" side, and I can tell you that properly installed gravel can pack down to where it is usable all year in the northwest with a hard tired warehouse forklift. I need to lift 4000lb from time to time, and I really like the flexiblity of a real forklift myself.

    As for gas versus propane- if you are not using it everyday, go with propane. Gas will foul and need constant fiddling with if you routinely let em sit for a couple weeks between uses, whereas propane will always start right up. Most used ones are propane anyway.

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    A small pneumatic tired forklift works OK on gravel for me. It is far better with the addition of dual front wheels. More traction, but the reason they seem to stick is they sink and you only have to sink a couple of inches to get high centered on the boom. The dual wheels have twice the floatation.


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