While commonly thought of as a farm vehicle restricted to agriculture, tractors also play an essential role in the construction industry. This article introduces you to the tractor basics — including types of tractors, tractor components, tractor uses, and how to safely operate a tractor.
Table of Contents
- What Is a Tractor?
- The Components of a Tractor
- Tractor Use in Construction and Farming
- Types of Tractors
- How to Choose a Tractor for Your Job
- How to Safely Operate a Tractor
What Is a Tractor?
Although mechanically similar to a car or truck, tractors are specially designed to deliver high power at low speeds. This enables them to lift, pull, and push heavy loads, making otherwise difficult jobs much easier. These versatile off-road vehicles attach to a variety of implements, allowing them to perform a variety of tasks — from plowing snow to applying fertilizer. Often considered a piece of farm equipment, the durability of tractors makes them useful for many tasks in construction as well.
The Components of a Tractor
While tractors come in many sizes and serve multiple purposes, they often share the following basic components.
- Engine: Just like in a car, engines make up the power source for tractors, transforming fuel into motion. Tractors use internal combustion to power either gasoline engines or diesel engines.
- Fuel system: Fuel systems store diesel or gas in tanks and then deliver it to the engine via fuel injectors or a carburetor. The fuel system includes a fuel pump and fuel lines in addition to either fuel injectors or a carburetor.
- Cooling system: Cooling systems regulate the temperature of tractor engines, keeping them from overheating and allowing them to operate at a normal temperature when the weather is cold.
- Tires: While some tractors have rotating tracks, most have wheels fitted with tires designed for the applicable terrain and purpose. Tractors come in both two-wheel and four-wheel drive.
- Attachments: Tractors can attach to an impressive number of implements, allowing them to perform useful tasks including pallet lifting, post-hole digging, asphalt breaking, garden tilling, grain threshing, and much more.
- Power take-off (PTO): The power-takeoff component partners with the gearbox to allow the tractor to power various implements and attachments.
- Enclosed cab: Some tractor models have enclosed cabs that enable operators to control the tractor in a more protected space with windows, windshield wipers, and climate control.
Tractor Use in Construction and Farming
Tractors perform a variety of tasks in the construction and farming industries, including the following common jobs.
- Clearing land: Whether you need to move rocks, brush, dead trees, trash, or other debris, tractors have powerful land-clearing abilities.
- Heavy lifting: With moveable arms and tools for lifting, front-end loaders make an ideal machine for heavy-lifting projects.
- Landscaping: Attachable tractor implements allow you to perform multiple landscaping tasks, including leveling ground, disking, creating drainage canals, digging ponds, and mowing lawns.
- Drilling: Auger attachments, also known as post-hole diggers, allow tractors to drill holes for trees, posts, signs, and more.
- Digging foundations: You can dig out foundations with a type of heavy equipment tractor called a backhoe.
- Snow removal: With a front-end loader attachment and a blade, tractors offer powerful snow-removing capabilities.
Types of Tractors
You can divide modern tractors into countless categories – by size, purpose, terrain, budget, and more — but these five groups provide a useful big-picture view of the various tractor types.
Crawler tractors have continuous roller belts, or tracks, in place of wheels. They can be more expensive to maintain and require more experience to operate, but these powerful, heavy-duty machines are ideal for rough ground conditions.
Although less powerful than crawlers, wheel tractors generally cost less, move more quickly, and can travel on paved roads. Wheel tractors come in two-wheel or four-wheel versions.
Once called tuggers, industrial tractors mostly pull heavy loads on industrial projects. Rather than the three-point hitches used in farming tractors, industrial tractors have a drawbar to attach implements. Industrial tractors can be used for a variety of tasks on a construction site, such as fitting cranes for heavy lifting and engineering tasks.
Smaller landscaping tractors can work in the tight spaces of many landscaping projects. With both a front bucket and a rear blade, these versatile compact tractors can dig up dirt, move landscaping debris, and load materials onto trucks. They also attach to a variety of other devices including pallet forks, bale spears, disc harrows, and augers.
Among the most popular heavy-duty machines in construction, earthmoving tractors play an important role in preparing the ground for building. The large family of earthmoving tractors includes excavators, bulldozers, backhoes, graders, trenchers, and skid-steer loaders. These machines shovel dirt, dig holes and trenches, level surfaces, and otherwise move soil from one place to another.
How to Choose a Tractor for Your Job
To select the right tractor for your construction job, consider the following factors:
- Job requirements: Before choosing a tractor, you need to know the requirements of the job: specific tasks, such as lifting, digging, clearing, terrain, budget, and more. For farm machines, consider the size of the area you’re working on. For example, if working on a small farm, choose a smaller tractor.
- Horsepower requirements: Selecting a tractor with enough engine power to perform the tasks at hand is a crucial part of a smooth work experience.
- Job site conditions: A job with limited spaces and tight corners may require a mini excavator or skid-steer loader. Large, open work sites may call for a backhoe or bulldozer.
- Weather/seasonal conditions: Inclement weather makes enclosed cabs, all-year tires, and perhaps even a snow plow attachment must-haves for your tractor.
- Available attachments: The tractor you choose should have the ability to attach to and power the devices you need, whether that be buckets, forks, mowers, spreaders, sprayers, box scrapers, or wood chippers.
How to Safely Operate a Tractor
Like any other piece of heavy equipment, tractors can be dangerous. To reduce the hazards associated with tractor use, consider the following safety suggestions:
- Be aware of your surroundings: Use caution when operating tractors near other vehicles, ditches, embankments, holes, and slopes. Reduce speed when turning, during inclement weather, and in rough or muddy conditions to prevent rollover.
- Check tires and tire pressure regularly: As your vehicle’s only contact with the ground, properly functioning tires are crucial to a properly functioning tractor.
- Keep up equipment maintenance: Maintaining your equipment in good working order helps ensure that your tractor works as effectively and safely as possible.
- Read the operator’s manual: Every tractor is different, and it’s important to familiarize yourself with the specifics of your machine before operating it.
- Inspect machinery before operating: Whether you use a tractor every day, or once a year, make sure to conduct a pre-operational safety check to make sure everything is in working order.
- Be careful when lifting heavy loads: Heavy loads can take the weight off the tractor’s front wheels, affecting its stability and reducing its traction and control. If the load you’re lifting is heavier than your tractor, you can even lift the whole vehicle into the air rather than the load.
- Check surroundings before hitching/unhitching: Clear the area around your tractor before hitching or unhitching implements. Also make sure to tuck in loose clothing and long hair, as it can get caught in rotating PTOs.
Certification requirements for operating heavy machinery, including tractors, vary by state and by the employer. Heavy equipment that may require a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) include road graders, bulldozers, loaders, and other vehicles over a certain weight limit. CDL classes depend on the weight of the equipment you wish to operate. In the agriculture industry, youth under 16 may not work as operators of tractors or other farm machinery unless they receive certification.
Traditionally considered best suited for farm work, tractors play an indispensable role in the construction industry as well. Modern tractors come in an impressive range of available options: enclosed or open cab, ride on or walk behind, with wheels or with tracks, and much more.
Finding the right tractor for the job is just a matter of knowing the requirements of the job you need to do. Whether you need a smaller tractor for residential landscaping or a heavy-duty excavator to place pipes, BigRentz has all the heavy-duty rental equipment you need for your next construction project.