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The backhoe is a piece of heavy construction machinery made out of 3 main parts: a tractor, a front loader and a backhoe. It is generally used to move earth and dig trenches. Unlike what many people think, the name does not refer to the fact that the attachment is at the back but to the fact that the movement of the digging tool goes from the outside toward the back of the tractor.
Backhoes are so versatile that they are one of the only pieces of equipment present on almost all construction sites as well as small to medium landscaping projects. It can replace a bulldozer, front-end loader and excavator but still is compact and easy to maneuver. They are one of the smallest and most versatile descendants of the digger. They can also be accessorized with different sized and shaped buckets that basically depend on the type of work that needs to be done and the type of material handled. For instance, wide buckets will be used to work with dirt, sand and earth but a narrow bucket will be chosen for rocky grounds and blasted rocks. Thanks to easy couplers, these accessories are very easy to mount on and interchange. Because backhoes also have the ability to lift, time and money is saved as there is no need to bring in any lifting machinery to take over.
In the 50s, a boom in residential development sparked a need for new and faster machinery. The first backhoe as we know it was made in 1953 by JCB. The need for footings for houses and grading jobs required a small machine able to perform various tasks. For years a backhoe was actually known as a JCB no matter who the manufacturer was. Case later brought a lot of improvements to JCB’s design.
Initially the backhoe lowered its entire frame to the ground to stabilize it, and then legs were introduced. This allowed the machine to lift heavier substance without falling. Backhoes are animated by hydraulic systems that can apply tones of pressure working faster than tens of men at once. Overtime, hydraulics was improved, cabins became more comfortable for operators, and the cooling system was bettered as well as easier servicing, road adaptability and heavier lifting capacity.
A problem of mobility was still there: it was very important that the backhoe loader could go from site to site without being transported. In the 1980’s, Four-wheel drive machine were out and made easier for construction work. Backhoes can be mounted on wheels or on crawler tracks. Wheel mounted backhoes are not designed for heavy excavation but more for mobility and general purpose jobs.
There are numerous manufacturers and various new models are regularly launched on the market. The main manufacturers include Case, Caterpillar, JCB, Kubota and Volvo amongst other.