Backhoe Loaders, Earthmoving Machinery, Industry Training

Top five backhoe tips

Frank Cunningham and his backhoe loader.

Australian Earth Training’s Scott Lidster talks about the mighty backhoe – a versatile tool for any construction site.

Before the rise of little diggers and skid steers, the backhoe was the go-to/must have machine on any construction site. Why? Because they’re quick on their feet and are so bloody versatile, providing you with the best of both worlds. They have a bucket up front and hoe attachment down back, a centaur if you like.

Let’s talk about the front bit – the bucket. In most cases, the bucket has 4 in 1 capability – great for fine grading. They can load a truck, you can use them to backfill trenches, slap a set of forks on them and move pallets, pipes or whatever else takes your fancy.

Let’s look down at the back, to the hoe attachment which can be extendable. Obviously, its main jam is trenching. They can lift and lower pipes into their forever homes, plumb them up, and you can run a hammer or an auger off the end of the hoe attachment.

Now, my knowledge goes only so far about the backhoe. I could use the front half just fine, but the back half, particularly with the old BH control pattern – that used to melt my brain. So, what I’ve done for this top five is reach out to a good mate over in the good old’ US, Frank Cunningham, to pick his brain on backhoeing.

Frank’s been around backhoes since he was a young fella. Operating them on his family farm in Oklahoma and tagging along with his father who ran a small commercial plumbing business in the area.

Fast forward to 1999, Frank purchased his very first backhoe, New Holland 555E, to start his own backhoe service. He’s been in constant work ever since because he does super outstanding work.

Backhoe loaders offer a compelling combination of quickness and versatility.

Let’s rip into Frank’s top 5 backhoe tips:

  1. Easy tiger
    Don’t run full throttle. Most people can’t operate at that speed. A slower, steady, smooth pace will get more work done. Work with the machine, don’t fight with it
  2. Stay on the level
    Don’t raise the tires off the ground, only use enough stabiliser to get level and planted firmly, of course unless you need the height for reach loading trucks
  3. Practise, practise, practise
    Practise digging level from top to bottom of the ditch, making longer passes when filling the bucket will turn out a better trench than hogging, or trying to fill the bucket in a short pass
  4. Where are those tyres at?
    Keep the front tyres on the ground when doing loader work. Use the curl when loading, not the boom up
  5. Moves like Jagger
    Practice moving the machine with the backhoe when trenching. It’s always more efficient if you don’t spend time turning the seat around with every setup.

When asked what some of the things were that have helped him over the years operating, Frank said, “The first backhoe I ran was a total scrap heap, but it made me a better operator.

“A lot of operators seem to be looking for the next gadget to make them an operator. There is no easy button for being good because it takes hard work and a lot of patience.”

Frank also says that without the support of his better half, his wife of 31 years, Rebekah, his backhoe life would have been a lot more challenging.

Head on over to Frank’s Instagram page @mrfrankc to check out more of his incredible backhoe work.


Send this to a friend