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Compact Track Loaders vs Multi Terrain Loaders: How Do They Differ?

Compact Track Loaders vs Multi Terrain Loaders: How Do They Differ?

A track loader with a bucket attachment dumping dirt on an existing pile

Compact Track Loaders vs Multi Terrain Loaders: How Do They Differ?

Reading time: 6 min

Loaders are critical machines on construction projects of all sizes and types. Two common types of loaders, compact track loaders and multi-terrain loaders, are prevalent in today’s construction industry. 

Compact track loaders, characterized by their maneuverability and compact footprint, are versatile and commonly used on a variety of terrain. 

On the other hand, multi-terrain loaders, while similar in function, feature a more intricate undercarriage system designed specifically for sensitive surfaces. Their lighter footprint and advanced suspension systems enable them to glide over sandy, wet or landscaped areas.

In this guide, we’ll explore the nuances between these two types of loaders, shedding light on their design differences and typical applications. Our goal is to equip you with a thorough understanding of compact track loaders and multi-terrain loaders, so that  you can choose the best machine for your next project.

A yellow compact track loader carrying rocks along a dirt path

Compact Track Loaders

Compact track loaders (CTLs) are engineered to tackle a wide range of tasks with ease. Since they feature a rigid-mounted undercarriage and steel-reinforced tracks, compact track loaders are durable and can handle heavy workloads.

Equipped with a universal quick-attach system, CTLs can seamlessly connect with various attachments including buckets, forks, augers and brooms, making them suitable for a wide range of tasks from excavation and grading to debris clearance and material handling.

However, there are some downsides to consider. Compact track loaders typically come with a higher initial cost and maintenance expenses compared to their counterparts due to the complexity of their track systems. Tracks and undercarriage parts may require more frequent replacement or repair, especially when operated on abrasive surfaces.

A yellow track loader pushing dirt next to a tree

Multi Terrain Loaders

Multi Terrain Loaders (MTLs) are specialized loaders designed specifically for sensitive work surfaces where ground pressure is a concern. Although they look similar to CTLs, MTLs have a suspended undercarriage and their tracks are not steel-reinforced. This makes them lighter and faster while causing less disruption to the surfaces they operate on.

The core functions of MTLs are similar to those of compact track loaders. They are equipped to handle a variety of attachments for tasks such as loading, digging, grading and site cleanup, making them highly versatile for construction, landscaping and agricultural applications. 

MTLs shine in scenarios where the preservation of the ground surface is critical. Their light footprint and sophisticated suspension systems allow for operation on sensitive surfaces such as grass and soft soil.

Whether it’s moving materials across a golf course without leaving a trace or operating in wet conditions where heavier machinery would sink, MTLs can tread lightly while handling demanding tasks.

Differences Between CTLs and MTLs

Compact track loaders (CTLs) and multi terrain loaders (MTLs) are differentiated by their designs, particularly their undercarriages, which significantly affect their performance.

Undercarriage Differences

The primary difference between CTLs and MTLs lies in their undercarriages. CTLs have a rigid-mounted undercarriage designed for durability and traction with steel-reinforced tracks that provide great stability and performance. The tracks are typically steel-embedded rubber and are designed to handle rough, abrasive surfaces without significant wear.

MTLs, on the other hand, feature a more intricate undercarriage with a suspension system that allows for a smoother ride over delicate terrains. The tracks are usually lighter and made of a softer rubber compound, with more flexibility to conform to the ground. This design minimizes ground pressure, making MTLs ideal for working on soft, sensitive or landscaped surfaces.

Usability and Capabilities

CTLs, with their durable tracks and even weight distribution, are better suited for heavy-duty tasks and can operate on a wide variety of terrains.

MTLs are preferred in environments where the preservation of the ground is a primary consideration. Since they’re lighter, MTLs are also more nimble than CTLs.

Terrain Suitability

CTLs are designed for rugged, uneven surfaces where their tracks and weight distribution can maximize stability and efficiency. Operating an MTL in such environments might cause excessive wear on its softer tracks and damage its suspension system.

Conversely, the operation of a CTL on delicate surfaces like turf or landscaped areas could result in significant ground damage, whereas an MTL can handle these surfaces with minimal impact.

Weight Distribution and Suspension

CTLs distribute their weight across a broader area because of the  more rigid tracks, providing excellent stability and reducing the risk of sinking in soft ground. 

The suspension system in MTLs contributes to a smoother ride, also plays a crucial role in distributing the machine's weight more evenly across the tracks, further reducing ground pressure.

Track Design Compatibility

Due to key differences in their design, the tracks of a CTL are not interchangeable with those of an MTL. The tracks on a CTL are steel-reinforced and designed for heavy-duty tasks. On the other hand, MTL tracks are soft and flexible.

A yellow skid steer with a bucket attachment pushing dirt

Comparison to Skid Steers

CTLs and MTLs share some key features with skid steers, especially their ability to maneuver in tight spaces and their compatibility with a wide range of attachments.

However, the key difference lies in the way they move. While CTLs and MTLs use tracks, skid steers operate on wheels. This distinction affects their suitability for different environments. 

Tracks distribute the machine’s weight more evenly across a larger surface area, reducing ground pressure. On the other hand, wheels offer higher speed and less maintenance on hard, stable surfaces like concrete or asphalt.

Skid steers are preferred in scenarios where ground conditions aren’t a concern and speed is a priority.

Choosing Between a CTL and MTL

When deciding between renting a compact track loader, multi-terrain loader or skid steer, these crucial factors should guide your decision.

Terrain and Ground Sensitivity

CTLs are best suited for rugged or uneven terrains where their robust tracks offer superior stability and traction. MTLs, with their softer tracks and advanced suspension, are ideal for sensitive surfaces that require minimal impact, such as landscaped areas. Skid steers, with their wheeled design, excel on hard, stable surfaces, such as asphalt.

Maintenance Considerations

CTLs and MTLs often have a more complicated and costly maintenance schedule compared to skid steers. Tracks require regular inspections and cleaning, especially when used in abrasive environments. Skid steers generally have simpler, less expensive upkeep due to their wheeled design.

Investment Costs

CTLs and MTLs typically have higher purchase prices and operational costs than skid steers. The tracks and suspension systems can lead to higher maintenance expenses over time. 

In the short term, the rental cost may reflect these differences in purchase price and maintenance requirements, with CTLs and MTLs often commanding a premium over skid steers.

Final thoughts

In conclusion, the distinction between Compact Track Loaders (CTLs) and Multi Terrain Loaders (MTLs) lies in their design and capabilities. CTLs are engineered for durability and traction, making them suitable for rugged, uneven landscapes. On the other hand, MTLs are designed with a focus on minimizing ground pressure and impact.

If you’re in need of parts for your compact track loader, the EquipmentShare Shop serves as a solution. Our online shop carries an extensive range of compact track loader parts, helping you keep your equipment in good working condition. Don’t see exactly what your machine needs? Reach out to our dedicated parts experts and get personalized assistance.

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