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Evaluating ASV skid steers and CTL loaders

Grainews reviews features and performance in tough conditions

When ASV launched its newest compact track loader, the VT-70 High Output, it invited Grainews to its manufacturing plant and proving grounds for a look around. The company also offered us a chance to see for ourselves what we thought of the full product line and let us compare their machines to competing models.

Naturally, we took them up on the offer.

But when we first arrived, we took a look around the assembly plant. Grand Rapids, Minnesota, isn’t exactly known as a manufacturing hub, so we wanted to see ASV’s facility for ourselves.

ASV’s assembly plant is in Grand Rapids, Minnesota.
photo: Scott Garvey

ASV has been building equipment at the Grand Rapids plant for 35 years. In the past, you may have seen their machines wearing the Terex name. That company was a majority owner until a few years ago. Since going independent again, management at ASV says it has embarked on some major R&D efforts, and the new line of skid steers and compact track loaders is the result of that effort.

But the company proving grounds, three miles down the road from the plant was where we wanted to be to see for ourselves what that R&D has delivered. When we arrived, ASV had a full line up of models there along with a couple of machines from competing brands so we could compare performance characteristics.

One of the machines ready for us to field test was the new VT-70 High Output model. A 2.2 litre Deutz diesel powers it, offering 74.3 horsepower and 207 ft-lb of torque, hence the high output moniker.

Comparing ASV CTLs with suspensions to competing brands on the bump track demonstrated the difference between them and rigid track machines.
photo: Scott Garvey

ASV offers what it claims to be the widest range of models in the industry, from the compact 25 horsepower machine all the way up to a 120-horsepower version best suited for heavy-duty jobs. It was easy to see that one being of interest to custom corral cleaners.

One of the engineering achievements ASV is most proud of is its unique track system on the compact track loaders (CTLs). The company has been an OEM supplier of them to Caterpillar, which still uses them on one of its CTL lines.

The overall module design and its suspension as well as the rubber track itself are unique to ASV.

Buck Storlie, ASV product line manager.
photo: Scott Garvey

“If you compare model size to model size, you’ll find we have a longer track than anybody else in the industry,” said Buck Storlie, product line manager at ASV. “Moving the front wheel forward helps in the rated operating capacity. Having our long tracks, we can still get that 50-50 weight balance and still get that rated operating capacity.

“If I can pivot a track on its centre point, I actually wear less on the tread. It can also be a performance advance, particularly in off-camber terrain. If you have a heavy rear end, you need to fill the bucket to climb uphill. If you are evenly balanced you can climb that hill with an empty or full bucket. We’re able to do both.

“If you set them (other brands) on a scale, they’re very much 70-30 rear (weight) bias.”

ASV’s longer track length gives it a lower ground pressure rating.
photo: Scott Garvey

That longer track also equates to a lower ground pressure rating. And with suspension on the undercarriage as well as on the mid-rollers and drive axles, the machines offer a pretty smooth ride.

The track module uses an open design, which also sets it apart from some other brands. By keeping the mid-rollers and suspension components open and exposed, dirt doesn’t build up and the mechanism remains much cleaner than a shielded system.

We could see that on the test track as we ran the machines in the rain and material was building up on both competitor models that used the closed track design. The ASV machines stayed cleaner, with no buildup at all.

Using a bump track set up at the ASV proving grounds we ran an ASV machine with a loaded bucket along with a couple of other brands over it to compare the performance. Not surprisingly, the suspended track models did much better and spilled far less material out of the bucket. It was also a much more comfortable ride for the operator.

“We have torsion axles across the machine that suspend the entire undercarriage from the machine,” said Storlie. “The second level is we also have suspended wheels. At the first level, we absorb the bump with the axle and at the second level absorb it with the wheels.”

The suspension also allows for improved traction, keeping more of the tread surface on the ground as it rolls over obstacles like rocks. And ASV claims the track weighs much less than those used on other brands, because it uses poly cords for strength rather than steel cords.

“The weight of an ASV track is about 1/3 that of a competitively sized track,” he added. “We can put our track on without a jack or forklift. With ASV’s track, it’s a poly cord track. On competitive designs, a grease tensioner actually pushes on a spring. As you grease it you’re preloading as spring, because the track has a steel cable. If something goes through you don’t want to break the cable, so the spring is there. It allows the track to become lose momentarily.

“One of the things we found in tests, is that can lead to derailment. In the ASV design it’s a rigid bolt. It’s a more reliable design and you don’t need a spring. Because our track is all rubber and cord, it’s able to absorb those objects itself. It doesn’t need a spring, because there’s no steel (in the track).”

The suspended mid-rollers and drive wheels along with a poly cord track that can stretch to clear obstacles improve traction and reduce the risk of track derailment.
photo: Scott Garvey

The poly cord also makes higher travel speeds possible, because the tracks have less resistance to curving over the drive wheels. And those drive wheels use a unique roller design to significantly reduce wear on the track. That is part of the reason ASV can offer a full 1,500-hour warranty on the track.

“Steel doesn’t like to bend, you bend it long enough and eventually it breaks,” he explained. “That tends to be the death of steel-imbedded tracks. Making that circle, the cable is consistently resisting that. With a poly cord, the bend’s not a challenge.”

Unlike some competing brands, ASV’s CTL models also use a different chassis than their skid steer brothers. The reason for that, explains Storlie, is it allows for a more stable design and improves ground clearance at the same time.

“When you take a skid steer chassis and set it on a set of tracks, you lose ground clearance, because of all the framework that’s there for the chain case housings,” he said. “We don’t have those. That leads to improved ground clearance. With ASV’s design, the engine is actually sitting very low even though the ground clearance is high. We won’t tip over on hills some of our competitors can’t even get up on.”

Because ASV uses a different chassis design on CTLs and skid steers, the tracked machines maintain a high ground clearance.
photo: Scott Garvey

Depending on the specific model ASV uses Deutz or Cummins engines. But both types use only a DOC emissions system, so there are no regeneration stops necessary to clear a DPF.

“We didn’t want DPFs and the additional maintenance that goes along with that,” Storlie said. “So all of our products are going to be DOC only.

“When you ask us what engines we’re using, the answer is the best available engine for that product. We chose our engines according to the best available package for different sizes. There’s really no one manufacturer that offers the best available package for 25-horse all the way to 120.”

A look at the engine compartment shows the regular service items are easily accessible, and Storlie said improved serviceability was a major design focus.

“One of the commitments we made was to improve serviceability,” he said. “On serviceability and reliability was where we wanted to move the bar.”

ASV’s new VT-70 High Output

In May, Minnesota skid steer and compact track loader manufacturer ASV added one more model to its product line: the VT-70 High Output. The company claims this machine offers one of the highest power and torque outputs of any in its class, hence the “High Output” moniker. This model uses a turbocharged Deutz 2.2-litre, four-cylinder diesel for muscle.

“It features 74.3 horsepower,” said Buck Storlie, product line manager for ASV. “So it’s an additional almost 10 horsepower over our VT-70 standard machine. It’s got an exceptionally good torque curve so it makes 74 horsepower down at 2,200 r.p.m.”

ASV’s VT-70 high output.
photo: Scott Garvey

With more power coming out of the Deutz engine, engineers used a new mounting design to minimize noise and vibration.

“We’re using a hydraulic motor mount with this unit,’ Storlie explained. “So rather than a traditional rubber mount, this one has hydraulic material inside the mount as well. We feel fewer vibrations inside the cab, and it’s a little over four decibels quieter inside the cab at idle and a little over two decibels quieter at wide-open throttle.”

There is a new design at the front entrance to the cab, which lowers the sill, allowing for easier access.

“The new design drops the front loader step almost three inches,” he added. “By dropping it we made for easier ingress. It also improves the line of sight from the operator’s seat.

“The other thing we did for comfort is we have a new foot well in this machine that allows for an additional three inches of toe clearance as well. I can get a nicer seating position and taller operators are more comfortable. The new seat has a higher back for better support.”

And under the rear hood, the company believes it has significantly improved the ease of service and routine maintenance.

The specs:

  • Gross horsepower: 74.3
  • Peak torque: 207 Ft-Lb
  • Emissions system: Tier 4 compliant without a DPF, so no regeneration periods needed.
  • Rated operating capacity 35% of tipping load: 1,056 kilograms (2,328 pounds)
  • Lift height at bucket dump: 2.32 metres (91.7 inches)
  • Ground clearance: 330 mm (13 inches)
  • Top speed: 17.1 km/h (10.6 m.p.h.)

ASV remains a component supplier to Caterpillar, building track modules for one of that brand’s lines. These tracks await shipment in the ASV plant.
photo: Scott Garvey

About the author

Machinery Editor

Scott Garvey is the machinery editor for Grainews.

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