An Overview of an Excavator

An excavator is a standard machine found on construction sites to remove and relocate dirt from the ground. It is also used to help demolish structures and dig trenches and dredges. You can likely find an excavator on every construction site in Australia.

Each excavator relies on a large bucket, arm, and hydraulic system to pick up dirt or materials from the ground and carry it to another location. The arm is attached to a bucket on one end and the cabin on another. Hydraulic motors provide power to the arm to lower and raise the bucket as needed. The arm is probably the most critical component of an excavator because it does the digging, lifting, carrying, and pouring of the materials in the bucket.

Traditional excavators run on diesel or petrol fuel, but newer models have been made with electric motors. Underneath the excavators are continuous wheels or tracks they use to navigate the terrain and move around on construction sites.

Tracks are much better for excavators on uneven terrain because they grip the ground better. You would only use excavators with wheels if you brought them onto concrete, paved, or other flat surfaces.

The Different Types of Excavators

Excavators come in many different brands. Australia’s most popular excavator brands are Caterpillar, Komatsu, CASE, Kubota, Volvo, and many others. These brands are used in all major Australian cities like Perth, Sydney, Brisbane, Darwin, and Melbourne.


Choosing an excavator from a reputable brand is always a good idea because it’ll give you confidence in its durability and performance. However, the type of excavator chosen plays a role here as well. Contractors must choose the best excavator to do the work needed on their construction site. Otherwise, selecting the wrong excavator type could become counterproductive, slow productivity, and cause property damage or personal injury on the worksite.

Various excavator types differ in their attachments, configurations, sizes, technologies, and skillsets. Pay particular attention to the skillsets because each excavator is best suited for a specific construction project and environment. The different characteristics and skill sets of excavators include long reach, high reach, hi-rail, amphibious, demolition, chameleon clamshell, spider, and wheel mounted.

For example, if you have a demolition project to tear down an existing structure, you’d want an excavator with long-reach, chameleon clamshells, and high-reach. It may also need to be able to do plate shearing, dismantling, secondary processing, steel shearing, and crushing. So if you don’t choose an excavator that can handle these tasks, you will waste time and money having to replace it.

Another example is projects involving drenching, dredging, shallow water work, or any project where water is on the ground surface. An amphibious excavator is better suited for these projects because it can tolerate watery, swampy, wet, and salty trenches and terrains. In fact, an amphibious excavator will float on top of a shallow water surface to dig and remove earth from underneath the water.

Returning to land projects, consider whether the land has muddy, sandy, uneven, or rugged terrain. You cannot use amphibious excavators for any land project, but you can use an excavator with tracks mounted underneath them. A track-mounted excavator will work better in off-road muddy or rough land conditions because the tracks can grip the terrain better than wheels.

On the other hand, it is not a good idea to use track-mounted excavators on hard, flat road surfaces made of asphalt or concrete because the tracks will damage the surfaces. Instead, you’d need to choose an excavator with wheels on the bottom to navigate road-type surfaces without any issues or damage inflicted.

Let’s take a closer look at the various types of excavators to understand better what they can do and which environments best suit them.

Wheel Mounted Excavators 

Wheel-mounted excavators are appropriately named because they have wheels underneath the main cabin area to navigate hard surfaces. In addition, they can dig into the ground as well as track-mounted excavators. But you may find the wheel-mounted excavators do a better job lifting materials and debris from the ground because of the stabilisers built into them.

However, the major difference is that wheel-mounted excavators use wheels to navigate surfaces, while track-mounted excavators use steel tracks. This could be beneficial if you need to drive your excavator on road surfaces between worksites.

Hi-Rail Excavators

Highway rail (hi-rail) excavators are like hybrid excavators because they have mounted tracks and train line track attachments underneath them. So if you need to operate an excavator on a worksite involving train tracks, you can drive your excavator on the lines without causing damage to them.

Most train lines throughout Australia depend on hi-rail excavators for repairs, enhancements, and installations. You will see them on train lines in Melbourne, Hobart, Sydney, and other major Australian cities.

Of course, proper safety precautions must be taken to clear and block incoming traffic from the tracks, such as train halting services like boom gates. These technologies allow train safety systems to detect them far away before reaching the site.

Track Mounted Excavators

Track-mounted excavators are often referred to as crawlers or crawler excavators because of the continuous tracks mounted on them. Military tanks use similar track technology because it is suitable for crawling on muddy, sandy, boggy, uneven, rugged, and rough terrains. The tracks are outside a continuous conveyor belt rolling over the ground, allowing the excavator’s weight to be dispersed across the ground evenly. Furthermore, the mounted tracks cannot sink into muddy or wet terrain like mounted wheels.

Crawler excavators are perfect for navigating the toughest terrain conditions. However, they are not versatile excavators because you cannot take them on roads or hard surfaces without damaging them. Because of this, you must request towing services to deliver the crawler excavator to different worksites.

Long-Reach Excavators

Long-reach excavators are known as demolition excavators. Each long-reach excavator has a long arm reaching anywhere from 20 to 150 feet. This extended reach allows the excavator to dig through enormous piles of rubble or scrap metal after demolishing a building. It can also lift higher and heavier loads, especially from hard-to-reach locations.

An experienced operator should take control of a long-reach excavator because it is a bigger machine requiring focus and precision. You wouldn’t use a long-reach excavator on a small residential demolition or construction project. These excavators are better for demolition projects involving skyrises and larger buildings.

Amphibious Excavators

We touched upon this briefly before, but let’s explore more deeply. Amphibious excavators are suitable for excavation projects on shallow water, swampland, or wetlands because of their floatable chassis crawler and sealed pontoons. So if you need to have your excavator floating on the water’s surface, you could do that.

Amphibious excavators have mounted tracks and long-reach capabilities, making them suitable for both land and water-based excavation projects. The mounted tracks are perfect for operating the excavators on sandy, rugged, muddy, or uneven terrain surfaces. They are the kinds of surfaces you can expect around watery areas like swamps and wetlands.

The versatility doesn’t stop there because amphibious excavators have cabins that can rotate 360 degrees with ease. You’ll appreciate this feature because turning 180 degrees by floating would be extremely difficult and time-consuming. It helps to have a turning mechanism to eliminate the need to “float-turn.”

High-Reach Excavators

High-reach excavators are also demolition excavators. They are used specifically for demolishing or tearing down the top floors of a structure or building because of their high reach capabilities. Each high-reach excavator can extend its arm from 50 to 160 feet into the air. That is a far reach for contractors wishing to remove the upper floors of high-rise buildings and structures.

Another great thing about high-reach excavators is that they can work in tight spaces while demonstrating precision.

Chameleon Clamshell Excavators 

A chameleon clamshell excavator is a long-reach excavator suitable for various projects, including demolition, vertical shaft digging, and construction projects involving high-rise and underground car parks. It features a boom, base, bucket, cab, and either crawler tracks or rubber-wheeled tires.

The unique thing about a chameleon clamshell excavator is the bulletproof glass surrounding the cabin. Of course, no one expects anyone to shoot the glass, but it is durable glass that can protect the operator inside the cabin from falling debris. Since demolition projects may cause debris to fall from demolished buildings, this durable glass is a needed safety precaution.

Demolition Excavators 

Demolition excavators are suitable for demolition projects, such as plate shearing, general dismantling, crushing, steel shearing, and tearing down buildings or the upper floors of sky rises. The effectiveness of a demolition excavator for a particular project depends on the attachment you use with it.

For instance, you may need specific attachments for steel shearing or crushing concrete if that is the nature of your demolition project. These attachments are usually small, powerful, and easily integrated into the excavator. Most importantly, the clamp arm must have power and flexibility to maintain a tight grip effectively.

Licensing Requirements

Many Australian states no longer require excavator operators to obtain a license or certificate to use excavators in their jurisdictions. The 2011 Workplace Health and Safety Act is the legislation that eliminated the requirement for excavator operators to obtain licenses because excavation operations were classified as “low-risk” operations.

However, all construction site and workplace owners are still responsible for the excavators and other machinery used on their properties. They must ensure the machinery operators have the necessary training and follow safety and maintenance protocols. If an accident occurs on a worksite, the manager or owner could be liable for the damages or injuries.

Therefore, requiring your excavator operators to obtain licenses is still a good idea regardless of whether your state requires it. After all, you wouldn’t want to be held liable for the mistakes or errors made by untrained operators. So you should instruct your excavator operators to obtain a Class LE license for excavator operations. Then you can have peace of mind knowing your excavator operators have undergone the proper training and acquired the necessary skills to remain safe on your worksite.

Transporting an Excavator

Do you need to transport excavators to or from your worksite in Perth, Western Australia? Operating an excavator is one thing, but transporting it is another. You need to hire a responsible and trustworthy towing and transportation company with the proper trucks, tools, and equipment to safely move a heavy excavator from Point A to Point B.

Executive Towing Services has almost two decades of experience transporting all types of excavators to different areas of Western Australia. You can depend on us to use our sophisticated tow trucks, tilt trays and low-loader trailers to transport any type and size excavator you want.

We take every safety precaution imaginable to prevent property and personal injury and to ensure your excavators arrive at their destinations on time and in the same condition they were before. Our reputation and track record of customer satisfaction should give you the confidence to call us whenever you need an excavator relocated to or from a worksite in Perth or any location in Western Australia – Find our more here Excavator Transport Perth