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Equipment

Tracks or Tires? Tips for Selecting the Right System for Your JLG® Boom Lift

Blog Posts - Nov 21

Tracks or Tires? Tips for Selecting the Right System for Your JLG® Boom Lift

Daniel Ippolito
Sr. Project Design Engineer
____
JLG Industries

Because boom lifts are one of the most commonly used aerial access tool on construction job sites, having the ability to complete a project — or multiple tasks — with a single machine really makes a difference in your crews’ ability to maintain productivity and meet project timelines.

But there are so many different types and configurations of boom lifts to choose from, and many of them may seem similar — like the choice between tires or tracks. 

There are many advantages (and disadvantages) to having your boom lift outfitted with either tires (we’ll also call them wheels in this article) or tracks. How do you know which one is right for your job site?

At A Glance Tracks or Tires

Let’s dive into each system to better understand how each provides specific features and performance on the job site, which will enable you to successfully choose the right system for your job site needs.

Wheels

A boom lift with wheels can be beneficial on job sites where the drive surface has been finished or the off-road ground is relatively firm and dry. 

For example, when working in tight areas or indoors, such as warehouses and commercial buildings, a boom lift with wheels provides far easier accessibility to operate and move through tight areas because wheels offer a tight turning radius and allow the machine to drive in a familiar manner, similar to other wheeled vehicles. This can make operating and moving through tight areas easy and comfortable. 

Wheels are also a popular choice in the rental industry as the tires are a more cost-effective solution, requiring less maintenance, offering higher maximum drive speeds, making the machine easier to transport and having an overall longer lifecycle compared to tracks.

On the flip side, traditional wheeled machines have higher ground pressures, which means these machines are more likely to sink into soft ground, have a bouncier ride while driving over small obstacles (i.e. rocks, curbs, potholes) and offer far less traction in soft or wet ground — which could cause the machine to get stuck.

Tracks

Boom lifts on tracks (we’ll also refer to them as crawlers) can be an ideal option if you plan to work year-round on challenging job sites. 

Continuous tracks give the machine superior flotation, which enables operators to easily move across muddy, soft-soil, sandy, snowy and wet ground conditions. This enhanced floatation and traction enable you to get to areas that would normally be inaccessible to wheeled machines.

In addition to superb traction in challenging off-road conditions, continuous tracks evenly distribute the machine’s weight over a larger area, which reduces ground bearing pressure and minimizes impact to work surface.  

An added benefit of the crawler undercarriage is the ability to spin the tracks in opposite directions to provide zero-radius turning.

However, it is important to keep in mind that there are times where a machine with continuous tracks may not be ideal. For example, tracks do have a rougher ride quality, 68 percent slower top drive speed and reduced steering capability compared to a traditional wheeled boom lift. 

Also, operating a boom lift with continuous tracks requires great care when driving over crests and obstacles with sharp transitions. This is because continuous tracks suffer from the “break over” effect in which the machine may transition abruptly when driven over sharp changes in ground slope.  

Both

There are many situations when it can be difficult to choose between tires or tracks, such as when you need a boom lift with the benefits of both. You want tracks for the excellent floatation, minimal rutting at job sites, improved traction, superior comfort over obstacles and best of all no “break over” effect whatsoever of tracks, and you want wheels for more comfortable driving in challenging off-road conditions and urban environments (paved streets with curbs, potholes and sharp transitions).

When this happens, you should consider investing in an alternative solution: A JLG® quad track system. This option provides the best of both worlds in that it is a set of four triangular, independent rubber tracks that bolt directly to the standard wheel hubs. This means that the quad track system offers you the ability to switch between continuous tracks and traditional wheels — whenever you need one or the other. 

The JLG quad track system offers low-profile, high-capacity design, developed to minimize impact on ride height, track width and effect on max drive speed. This enables the JLG quad track system to be a simple swap for traditional wheels and does not require additional wide load transport accommodations for machine shipping. 

The ease of swap ability is paramount since the same set of JLG quad tracks can be put on and off various JLG machines in the same rental fleet, depending on the customer needs. This increases machine utilization and fleet flexibility, as well as avoids excessive downtime that a dedicated continuous track machine may see between applications.

Adding a quad track system to your machine can be an additional cost, so it is important to weigh the pros and cons of supplementing your fleet with this accessory. While a machine equipped with quad tracks leaves less of an impact than wheels, it cannot fully replace the advantages of a dedicated continuous track boom lift, which offer lower weight bearing and less ground disruption. 

Understanding the Job Site is Key 
When it comes to deciding on tires or tracks, it is important to consider the conditions in which you will be working. You also need to keep in mind the nature of work that needs to be accomplished, as well as the capabilities of each machine to choose the option that best enables you to create a safe and productive worksite. 

For situations where you can see the advantages of having both tires and tracks in your fleet, adding JLG quad tracks can increase productivity by converting a normal wheeled machine into a highly capable, comfortable tracked machine — allowing you to cover a wide range of different job sites with one machine.

For more information about JLG boom lift options, click here.

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