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There are several distinct types of heavy construction equipment, each with its own set of uses. As you evaluate the types of projects your company is taking on, you may decide it’s time to add to your fleet. While some pieces of equipment serve one specific purpose, there are others that overlap — for example, if you’re looking for heavy equipment that can help you move soil or lift materials, you have a few different options.

We’ve gathered 19 of the most common types of heavy construction equipment, along with a brief description of their primary uses below. Get to know your options so you can find the piece of equipment that will work best for you and your business.

1. Articulated Trucks

Think of articulated truck as next-level dump trucks.

Articulated trucks are ideal for navigating a construction site. These trucks have two parts: the cab — a tractor unit made to travel over rough terrain — and the trailer, created to carry heavy loads. These two parts are connected with a pivot, making the equipment easier to steer. Think of these as next-level dump trucks.

2. Asphalt Pavers

If you need a piece of equipment to lay asphalt on roads, bridges, parking lots or another surface, the type of heavy construction equipment you’re looking for is an asphalt paver. This type of equipment is often accompanied by a dump truck full of the asphalt and a roller. The dump truck feeds the asphalt into the paver, which distributes it onto the surface. While it does provide a small amount of compaction, it needs to be followed by a roller to ensure the asphalt is in place.

3. Backhoe Loaders

Backhoe loaders are versatile types of heavy construction equipment because they are a combination of three types of machinery: a tractor, loader and backhoe. The primary function of this tool is the backhoe, which can be used to dig hard materials, often compact earth. It can also be used to lift heavy loads and put them in a particular place.

You can use the loader to move dirt and supplies. The fact that it’s a tractor gives you the ability to move effortlessly over rough terrain. They can rotate 200 degrees and make an excellent fit for light-to-medium duty jobs. Think of backhoe loaders as tractors with attachments that make them a versatile addition to any fleet.

4. Cold Planers

Cold planers are also known as milling machines. This type of construction equipment is used to remove asphalt and concrete from a surface. Inside these machines, a big drum rotates and grinds the surface accompanied by cutters that will cut the pavement. Loose pavement is automatically pushed to the center of the rotating drum and fed onto a conveyor belt that’s attached to the machine. During this milling process, water is usually applied to the drum to minimize dust and heat.

5. Compact Track and Multi-Terrain Loaders

Compact track & multi-terrain loaders are built to maximize work with a minimal footprint.

If you need to move dirt or supplies from point A to point B on site, this piece of equipment is a powerful addition to your fleet. These machines are built to maximize work with a minimal footprint. Our compact track and multi-terrain loaders are equipped with a rubber track undercarriage, which is ideal for navigating through a variety of terrains and conditions. Not all heavy equipment types come with this level of versatility, traction and stability.

6. Compactors

There are several types of compactors, but they all are used to reduce the size of a material. The type of machine you need depends on the type of material you need to compact. If you are working with waste, a landfill compactor is the best fit. On the other hand, you’ll want a soil compactor if you’re working with soil. Tandem vibratory rollers are used to compact fresh asphalt, and pneumatic rollers are used with a variety of materials.

7. Dozers

A dozer is recognized by a large metal blade in the front, which is used to push massive quantities of soil or other material. If you need to move large quantities a short distance, pushing the load with a dozer is a great way to do it. If you need to move material more than just a short distance, the combination of a backhoe loader and an articulated dump truck will be a better fit.

There are two different types of dozers: track dozers and wheel dozers. Both provide the same function, but the way they navigate is different. Track dozers spread the weight of this large piece of machinery out evenly over the larger tracks you’ll find in place of the wheels, decreasing the amount of pressure on the ground overall and making it less likely to sink into soft ground.

In place of tracks, wheel dozers have large tires and can move up to three times faster than a track dozer. The type of dozer you need depends on the priorities for the various jobs you complete.

8. Excavators

Think of excavators as a relative of backhoe loaders, with a few key differences — they can rotate a full 360 degrees, are often larger than backhoe loaders and are used for medium-to-heavy duty jobs. There are mini excavators, which can be used for light-to-medium duty jobs. Think of them as a compact version that can perform similar tasks to digging, lifting, landscaping and demolishing — just on a smaller scale, within a smaller footprint.

You’ll find the same bucket attachment you can use for digging trenches and moving heavy materials, and you can choose between track excavators and wheel excavators. On tracks, you’ll be able to navigate a variety of terrains and conditions without worrying about leaving the deep impressions you can get with wheels. But with wheels, you’ll be able to move a lot faster.

9. Feller Bunchers

If you’re working with trees instead of soil, you may be in the market for a feller buncher. A “feller” is another name for a lumberjack, and you could say this machine replaces the function of several lumberjacks. It works like a weedwhacker for trees, except instead of leaving bits of trees everywhere, it gathers or bunches the trees as it works.

10. Forwarders

Once your feller buncher has taken care of gathering, cutting and stacking the trees, you can quickly load and remove the cut trees from the area with the help of a forwarder. If you also have a loader and a back that resembles an open basket, this type of equipment can help you get a big job done quickly.

11. Harvesters

If you reviewed the description of a feller-buncher but weren’t sure it did everything you need it to, chances are a harvester will be a good fit for you. In addition to bunching and cutting trees, a harvester strips the limbs from the tree, combining the jobs of a feller-buncher, delimber and slasher. Think of this as taking your logging to the next level.

12. Knuckleboom Loaders

Knuckleboom Loaders move surprisingly quick for a large piece of heavy construction equipment.

When the trees have been cut down, stripped and cut to their desired size, they need to be loaded onto a truck and transported to their ultimate destination. Loading a logging truck takes a unique piece of equipment known as a knuckleboom loader, a swing machine with a boom specifically designed for picking up and loading logs. They move surprisingly quick for a large piece of heavy construction equipment. 

13. Loaders

There are two different types of loaders: track loaders and wheel loaders. If there were such a thing as an extra-large skid steer loader, it would be a track loader. This type of construction equipment does everything a skid steer loader can, such as lifting, pushing and moving, but on a larger scale and with a larger capacity. Their tracks give them the ability to distribute their weight evenly among the surface they’re traveling on, making them less likely to sink into soft ground.

Wheel loaders can tackle the same jobs but have wheels. This makes them comparable to a backhoe loader, just without the backhoe. The wheels give them the ability to lift, push and move at a faster pace than a track loader, but they also make them susceptible to leaving their mark on a job site, as the weight of the machine is not spread out over tracks, but over the four wheels.

14. Motor Graders

A motor grader has a blade, as many other pieces of construction equipment do, but the difference is its location between the front and rear axles. The most common function of a motor grader is to level ground, usually in anticipation of adding more layers to prepare a new roadway.

However, that’s not the only purpose they serve. They can also be used to move a relatively small amount of soil from one location to another, eliminate a layer of soil from a surface or to remove snow.

15. Off-Highway Trucks

When a truck is designed specifically for off-highway use on a construction site, mine or quarry, it’s sure to give you more flexibility in moving large quantities. With big tires and a huge bed for materials, this is one type of construction equipment that comes in handy for a variety of construction projects.

16. Skid Steer Loaders

When it comes to skid steer loaders, remember: size matters.

One of the most important things to remember when it comes to skid steer loaders is that size matters. These machines are recognized for being some of the most versatile on the market. However, a small skid steer, which is ideal for interior demolition projects, won’t be able to tackle the excavating projects a larger skid steer can.

In addition to size, part of what makes these machines so versatile is the diversity of attachments available for them — everything from lifting to pushing.

17. Skidders

When you’re working on construction projects that involve the clearing of wooded land, skidders are used to pull trees that have been cut down out of the woods and into the landing area, where they are usually delimbed and cut to size. There are two types of skidders: cable and grapple. Cable skidders are the classic models, which require pulling the trees with a cable. A grapple resembles a claw, grabbing the trees and pulling them that way.

18. Telehandlers

There are several types of heavy construction equipment that can help you lift materials, and telehandlers are one of them. With a telescopic boom that enables them to reach forward and upward, along with the different types of attachments you can get — such as pallet forks, buckets and lifting jibs — you’ve got a machine that can help you move almost anything. In some cases, telehandlers can even be a cost-effective alternative to cranes.

19. Wheel Tractor-Scrapers

Another option for earthmoving is a wheel tractor-scraper. This piece of equipment is long and has two axles with a complex assortment of features. It combines the ability to begin to grade a surface with a scraper, but instead of solely pushing the dirt, it collects it. The scraper has a sharp edge that digs into the ground, making it loose.

The scraper is angled and has a conveyor belt so that as the soil loosens, it moves from the edge into the hopper, or bowl, which is kind of like an enclosed truck bed. That bowl collects the soil until it’s full, and then can be transported to another area on site to be dumped. The hopper moves hydraulically, making it possible to dump the soil you’ve collected.

Construction Equipment for Sale in California

As you can see, there are several heavy construction equipment options to help you get the job done. It’s important to choose the right piece of equipment for the job to maximize productivity and cost-effectiveness. Holt of California can help you choose the right piece of equipment to add to your fleet.

It's important to choose the right piece of equipment for the job to maximize productivity & cost-effectiveness.

Regardless of which of these types of construction equipment you need, Holt of California has an extensive selection of equipment for you to browse. As a local dealer with more than 85 years of experience in the California construction industry, we know keeping up with emissions requirements can be confusing. That’s why our staff is knowledgeable on the emissions requirements and will work to ensure your piece of equipment fulfills those standards in the most cost-effective way.

Once you’ve had a chance to browse our equipment online, we’re here to answer all your questions. Fill out our online contact form or give us a call at (800) 452-5888. If you’d like to get a quote on a piece of our equipment, please fill out our request a quote form, and we’ll be in touch.