Steering the market
Skid-steer loaders (SSLs) have come to be recognised as an efficient and practical tool for use in infrastructure development and building projects, particularly in urban development. A skid-steer loader is a small piece of equipment made for confined spaces. This incredibly adaptable equipment can be used in a variety of industries including agriculture, industry, construction, demolition, material handling, and maintenance thanks to its large selection of compatible attachments. Also, because of its small turning radius, it is particularly useful for use in confined spaces with limited access.

According to the latest Off-Highway Research report, SSLs are forecasted to touch 800 units from 587 in 2021. This is almost a 36 per cent increase between 2021 and 2026. Based on all foreseeable factors at the moment the Indian construction equipment market is expected to follow an upward trend in the next five years. Off-Highway Research forecasts the market to grow by 9 per cent to 89350 units in 2023 but predicts it to fall 7 per cent to 83350 units in 2024 (the general election is scheduled that year). Nevertheless, it will bounce back with a 9 per cent growth to 90450 units in 2025 and a further 8 per cent to peak at 97550 units in 2026.

Almost all types of equipment will witness growth though the market will continue to be dominated by the five most popular products backhoe loaders, crawler excavators, mobile cranes, compaction equipment and wheeled loaders. The market for mini excavators, SSLs and telehandlers will expand significantly from current levels.

The need for small machinery like SSLs in India is being driven by growing urbanisation and the mechanisation of manual labour. The growth is anticipated to continue as end users become more aware of the equipment's true benefits in the future.

Rising demand

Bobcat SSLs can be used for multiple applications including material handling, grading and levelling, road cleaning, erection of road crash barriers, pavement repairs, brush cleaning in road sideways, and many other jobs. This versatility of Bobcat SSL increases the utilisation of machines at road construction job sites and helps in covering a wide range of job site requirements with a single machine.

Bobcat SSLs are the benchmark for the industry with a lot of unique features inbuilt into their design. On the current market of SSLs in India, Hyunsoo (HS) Kim, MD & CEO, Doosan Bobcat India, had this to say, “We are the market leader in this product category. We expect the demand for SSL to grow at a steady pace at 10 per cent CAGR mainly driven by rapid urbanisation and mechanisation of certain labour-intensive work is expected to increase.”

Most SSLs are designed to work in diverse climates of high ambient of 48 degrees Celsius or severe cold and high-altitude areas, no matter what climatic conditions. Bobcat SSLs can be used for multiple applications including material handling, grading and levelling, road cleaning, erection of road crash barriers, pavement repairs, brush cleaning in road sideways, and many other jobs. This versatility of Bobcat SSL increases the utilisation of machines at road construction jobs sites and helps in covering a wide range of job site requirements with a single machine.

Bobcat’s strength is its wide range. Says Kim, “We have two main categories based on the geometry of the lift arm which is radial and vertical lift path. Also, the different models we offer are based on the engine power and the rated operating capacity. We have a total of around seven different models.”

Built tough with more power and torque, CASE SSLs boost productivity and increase operator comfort. The cabs feature increased headroom and lap-bar width, along with improved forward, side, rear, and overhead visibility. Ergonomically positioned controls, industry-first side lighting, and improved reliability and serviceability help you get more work done daily. To deliver CASE-specific performance and productivity to an ever-wider range of customers, CASE Construction Equipment has developed the SSL SR130 with the radial boom.

Puneet Vidyarthi, Head of Marketing & Business Development - India & SAARC, CASE Construction Equipment, also observes a similar market trend as he adds, "SSL market in India is driven mainly by government tenders, used for municipality works and the civilian sector. In the last few years, the total industry demand for SSL has remained in the range of 500-600."

JCB India is seeing continued growth in urban projects where SSLs find more applications. Said a spokesperson from JCB, “With a significant increase in the number of urban rejuvenation projects, we also see a considerable opportunity for further demand growth for SSLs. As the development of India's infrastructure gains momentum, the need for modern material handling equipment like SSL is also expected to rise. The Swachh Bharat Mission is another segment where these machines are becoming vital in solid waste management. Municipal bodies are utilising its 6-in-1 shovel for waste handling or for general cleaning purposes as the machine can be converted into cleaning equipment with the sweeper collector attachment.”

JCB India is positioning its two models of SSLs—JCB 135 and 155—as a highly application-driven, material handling, productive machine, featuring high safety standards. The JCB SSL 155 is a compact wonder that is designed to work efficiently. This SSL has the best-in-class fuel efficiency, lowest maintenance cost, and very high productivity among SSLs in India. This resourceful Loader also offers unmatched safety and operator comfort in any condition. This SSL has IP 67/69 certified dust and waterproof electrical connectors. It is also designed to work efficiently for any kind of application and designed to give maximum returns with the lowest cost of maintenance.

Manish Handa, Business Head – Earthmoving & Road Construction Equipment Division, Action Construction Equipment, says, "The market SSL s is still in a nascent stage and needs strong concept selling, moving ahead.”

"The SSL demand is witnessing growth from all municipal/urban development bodies, besides industries," says Handa.

As urbanisation is growing in the country, there is an increased need for compact equipment at project sites with limited space. SSL is the most suitable equipment to perform jobs in such sites. Also, in the waste management and rural construction segments, SSLs are gaining traction for various jobs. According to Kim, the construction segment, industries and waste management are predominantly the growth drivers for smaller capacity SSLs, whereas for bigger SSLs, process industries have been the traditional growth drivers. "We also feel that the rural road development and road widening projects can be the new drivers," he adds.

On the demand drivers, the JCB spokesperson adds, "Given its versatility and loading output, SSLs are being used in wide range of applications such as agriculture, industry, construction and maintenance. Its compact size provides enhanced mobility in projects such as multi-level parking. The smart innovative features of the machine and its versatile, safe and efficient nature have always been the key demand driver for JCB SSLs. Moreover, government's plans for infrastructure development and announcement of big-ticket projects also drive growth for this multi-utility product. The compactness and manoeuvrability make it best suited machine for solid waste management, construction and industrial applications in compact area."

Automation: On the rise

Said Himanshu Sharma, Head – Marketing & Corporate Communication, B&R Industrial Automation, “The current innovative trends in this industry are exponentially high, looking at the new buy-out strategies and the development of newer machines, changing the old-fashioned way of equipment and inculcating innovations to it, it is very clear the industry is boosting high. Also, the construction sites have newer projects, developments seen in the industrial sector of manufacturing construction equipment has given new dimensions in manufacturing and in turn, the upliftment of urbanisation is rapidly changing the face of the city. It is seen as per recent reports that the growth of the earthmoving equipment market will significantly contribute to the growth of the construction machinery market, which is expected to increase exponentially in coming years. Thus, as the consumer demand is increasing there has been a significant uplift of market size too.”

He added, “Also, it has been seen manufacturers are more engaged towards building multifunctional tools, this reduces your expenses and uplifts the demand of the product as this is the need of the hour. Companies are investing more from where they can reduce the overhead expenses and invest on tools and software which can perform more than one function and reduce the load of the overall equipment. Thus, manufacturers worldwide are investing on their design, research and development teams to bring out a product that is sustainable, provides fewer breakdowns and has multi utility.”

Said Sharma, “Technological advancements are the need in present times within every industry. Newer technologies give boost to new opportunities and developments, this in turn uplifts the market opportunities and a significant growth can be seen in the market size. As the technology and products gets updated, there is more space for new designs and advancements in machine build up, this gives new dimensions to the technology trends. It is seen the emerging technology, or the innovations gives rise to new ideas of product upgrade too. Market is continuously exploring for newer technologies but recently multifunctional earth moving equipment are in higher demand such as a backhoe loader, which can be used in many applications like material handling, excavating, and re-filling. As the consumer demands are increasing manufacturers are turning towards implementing advanced automation. Thus, the manufacturers are introducing new models of earthmoving equipment with multiple functionalities.”

He added, “Automation has become vital at present in every stage of construction equipment industry, from design and planning till maintenance. The evolution of automation has given rise to a mass spectrum of different options in handling the equipment. More of that it has refrained human dependency, thus reduced the faults and errors. The alarm and remote monitoring systems has eased human dependency and machine errors rectification. Under the Make in India scheme, as per reports it is expected that Billions of investments for infrastructure sector would be accomplished in years to come. Today the construction industry has evolved exponentially with the rise of automation need awareness. The importance of construction automation has grown rapidly in developed countries but in developing countries like India, the construction industries rely on automation technologies mainly to automate new machineries, electronic devices, the automation of road, tunnel, and bridge construction, earthwork, etc.”

Said Vidyarthi, “The industry also increasingly utilising sensors and the Internet of Things (IoT). With the use of sensors, equipment performance may be tracked and problems or malfunctions can be found, which enables proactive maintenance and helps decrease downtime. IoT technology can be used to connect machines and equipment, providing real-time data that can be used to optimise operations and improve efficiency.”

At CASE Construction Equipment, the manufacturing, research and designing process are both aided by automation on various levels. Added Vidyarthi, “Our Pithampur facility is designed with cutting-edge automation technologies to manufacture superior-quality products. The automation includes robotics welding which gives welding joints superior strength and robustness. This helps in the repeatability of the same welding, minimises human error and maintains consistency in quality. Our ultra-modern paint shop uses both Manual and Automated Paint operations providing aesthetically appealing products. It also boasts eco-friendly next-gen technology ensuring that the paint lasts longer. Additionally, we use automation in laser cutting, gas cutting, and in our machining centre.”

“The use of data analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning further assists in the manufacturing of construction equipment. At a group level, CNH Industrial, our parent company has recently inaugurated the India Technology Center, specifically to use new tools for RD and collaboration with CNH global team. This includes tech tools like Cloud, VR, SW, Electrification, Autonomous, Advance Analysis, Simulation, Automation, and Mechanical & Electrical design, etc. Technologies such as these help in efficiency and dexterity in the industry,” he added.


With the construction and infrastructure development activities are growing in the country, contractors are looking for machines of better efficiency and productivity to meet the escalating demands. In order to meet the emerging demands from customers for better productivity and efficiency, equipment manufacturers are introducing innovative features and technologies in their products. SSLs are also seeing similar innovative developments. Kim explains, "In terms of innovation, we are the first and only manufacturer to offer an I-phone (smartphone)-based remote control operation for our SSLs. This is currently available only in the US. But work is going on to look at the possibility of making it available in other regions as well."

The JCB 135 and 155 SSLs have best-in-class performance and fuel efficiency, and lead in performance with its ability to enter narrow lanes. With unique zero turning radius feature, this machine is designed to perform in restricted areas effortlessly. The versatile machine comes with 25+ attachments for different industrial jobs. It has an increased fuel efficiency of up to 5 per cent in SSL 135 and up to 10 per cent in SSL 155. The machine also has a side door entry with easy accessibility by improving 50 per cent door opening.

These models are also equipped with JCB's advanced telematics system Livelink enabling to monitor and manage machine and a four-inch informative LCD display with information like HMR, Aux Hour, Error Code, Service Reminder, time and ambient temperature display, etc.

Mobilising growth

It is a fact that SSLs have many advantages compared to other construction equipment that can well go into the current market requirements, such as compactness, versatility and maneuverability. However, the user market is not fully aware of these advantages. There is a need to bring in more awareness among the customers about the advantages of SSLs to mobile their growth. Kim adds, "We have introduced a Segment Application Market Management (SAMM) concept wherein a designated SAMM demo truck which could carry SSLs with different attachments has been developed. This demo tuck is used to give demonstrations at all significant potential pockets to provide awareness to customers about the versatility of SSL. This is one of the initiatives we are doing for market reach and creation in India. Another aggressive step is providing attachments to customers on rental basis through our dealers."

Turning challenges into opportunities

While lack of awareness among the users about the advantages of SSLs is a major challenge for SSL's consolidation in the market, winning over this challenge is the major opportunity. Kim adds, "The awareness of the end-user about the versatility and concept of a SSL is the key to succeed. And this is both our challenge as well as opportunity. The price for renting an SSL for a day is higher when compared to other machines. This is mainly because of low hour utilisation which is again due to lower awareness. However, there are certain working conditions and applications where SSL is the best machine for the job and cannot be replaced. In construction segment, basement works, working between pillars are few examples. Today, in building construction segment there is awareness for SSL and we have a stable rental demand."

He also points towards some other challenges that can be turned out to be opportunities, "Besides awareness, some conventional products being abundant in supply in the hiring market is one of the challenges. Next would be the availability of low-cost manpower which still poses a challenge for mechanisation of jobs. SSL as a product is slowly and steadily reaching the hirers segment looking to add new products and we hope it's just a matter of time and effort towards creating awareness which will shift the hiring segment's attention to SSL."

Vidyarthi sees opportunities in the market despite the current challenges. "SSLs despite their versatility have limited demands due to popularity of the loader backhoes and the availability of cheap labour. However, with increased mechanisation and the scarcity of manual labour, the market should expand in the future. Demand from government sector is likely to continue especially in the civic bodies. With the government policies at the start of the year to give the construction sector a boost, we can assume 2020 as a good year for the CE market which will provide a lot of opportunities for the mini equipment sector as well."

Handa points out, "One of the major challenges is the high import content of components like motor and hydraulic pump. Besides, most of the attachments are not localised and imports are very expensive. With the focus of the current government on schemes like Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan and applications in municipalities and gram panchayat (rural development), we foresee a big opportunity for SSLs."

Road ahead

Vidyarthi says, "Looking at the boost in the infrastructure sector activities, we aim at supporting the government and ready with our offering for the construction projects. There is a lot of scope this year for all our equipment due to the government's keen focus on the construction equipment sector."

Handa adds, "SSL holds good potential in the market, however it requires extensive concept selling to come to its full potential. We would like to become a dominant player in this product category by localising most of the components/attachments and offering best return on investment for our valued customers."

While lack of awareness among the users about the advantages of SSLs is a major challenge for SSLs consolidation in the market, winning over this challenge is the major opportunity. Kim adds, "The awareness of the end-user about the versatility and concept of a SSL is the key to success. And this is both our challenge as well as opportunity. The price for renting a SSL for a day is higher when compared to other machines. This is mainly because of low hour utilisation, which is again due to lower awareness. However, there are certain working conditions and applications where the SSL is the best machine for the job and cannot be replaced. In the construction segment, basement works, working between pillars are a few examples. Today, in the building construction segment there is awareness for SSL and we have a stable rental demand.”

Going forward, the need for SSLs will definitely be on the rise due to the kind of demand going to be there in various construction, waste management, and urban infrastructure applications considering their compactness, multi-utility, and manoeuvrability. Once the primary challenges of awareness and dependence of imports are effectively addressed, this mini construction equipment will definitely become a major contributor to India's growth story.

Skid-steer vs telehandler

SSLs are extremely versatile machines. The wide variety of attachments and sizes means they can be used for all sorts of tasks. Like any loader, skid steers excel at digging and back dragging. Their compact size and excellent maneuverability also allow them to access tighter areas that other machines can’t. This makes them a popular choice in a number of different industries, including construction, landscaping, and mining.

Besides digging tasks like landscaping and trenching, skid steer loaders are also great for minor demolition, moving heavy materials, leveling, debris removal, road maintenance, brush clearing and snow removal. However, as versatile as a SSL is, it does have its drawbacks. Because it doesn’t have a telescopic boom like a telehandler, it has a limited reach. It can’t lift or pick up items that are too high off the ground, so it’s best used for dealing with materials that are at ground level.


Like any other equipment, SSLs also face certain challenges. Here are some of the common challenges in SSLs:
  • Safety: SSLs are powerful machines that require proper training and safety precautions to operate. The lack of proper training and safety measures can lead to accidents and injuries.
  • Maintenance: SSLs require regular maintenance to ensure their optimal performance. Maintenance can be time-consuming and expensive, which can pose a challenge for some businesses.
  • Terrain: SSLs are designed to work on flat and stable surfaces. Working on uneven or soft terrain can be challenging and can affect the performance of the machine.
  • Capacity: SSLs are typically smaller in size and have limited load capacities compared to larger equipment. This can be a limitation when working on large-scale projects.
  • Cost: SSLs can be expensive to purchase or rent, which can be a challenge for small businesses or contractors.
  • Operator comfort: SSLs can be noisy and cause vibrations, which can affect operator comfort and productivity. Operators need to take regular breaks to avoid fatigue and discomfort.