Side Shift Backhoes vs. Center Mount Backhoes: Which is better?

Structural Differences: Backhoe & Loader Design

Backhoe design across the world is pretty universal, or is it? As a matter of fact, there is a very interesting design preference that varies between U.S. and European contractors. This design difference is between side shift backhoes, which European contractors have long favored, and center mount backhoes, which North American contractors can’t get enough of.

The structural difference between the two backhoes is actually very minimal. In fact, “the tractors are identical from the rear wheel forward and from the back of the boom to the dipper and the bucket,” according to the senior product marketing manager of JCB North America, Jim Blower. The structural difference is found primarily in the rear frame of the machine.

Side Shift Backhoes

The design of this construction equipment consists of the backhoes kingpost being mounted on a carrier. This carrier is capable of sliding from one side to the other along frame rails with stabilizers, which are mounted on both sides and can extend vertically.

This design allows operators to maneuver in tight spaces and very close to the edge of buildings. This may be the main reason these side shift backhoes are so popular in Europe; they are very good at working in confined spaces.

Since introduced in Europe in the early 1960’s, this design has become standard with European contractors and may even be considered tradition.

Center Mount Backhoes

Center mount backhoes, also known as center pivot backhoes, are mounted at the center of the rear portion of the machine’s frame. The equipped stabilizers extend out and down from either side of the frame.

This rigid backhoe design really offers no specific advantages over the side shift design. In fact, when JBC, a major construction equipment manufacturer, introduced them to the U.S. in the 1970’s, contractors did not accept the new design. JBC had seen great success with the side shift design in other markets around the world, however North Americans did not accept a change from the center mount design they had become accustomed to.

Which Backhoe Design Is Best?

While the design of side-shift backhoes has shown additional benefits over the design of center mount backhoes, including improved maneuverability, and improved visibility in tight spaces with decreased machine adjustment for bucket positioning. It turns out, equipment preference mainly has to do with tradition and geographic needs.

Obviously, the U.S. has gotten along with the center pivot design for years and still prefers it. There has been no major need for a change in design in North America. Europeans on the other hand really saw the benefits of a new arm and bucket design as well as the need for a machine that could easily be maneuvered in close places.

In conclusion, the appropriate structural design, when choosing backhoes is really determined by the need of the operator or contractor. Another factor to take into consideration is the availability of the different styles of backhoe. Depending on the area, one type of backhoe loader may be more abundantly available than the other, making it easier to find and less expensive to rent or purchase.

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