I am pretty familiar with using a Bobcat but have never used a backhoe before. I need to trench a new sewer line and I am wondering how difficult (learning curve) operating a small backhoe like this would be:
I purchased a John Deer 110TLB about two years ago and it took a good 1 to 2 days of becoming familiar enough with the controls to be able to perform any work in a fairly efficient manner. Oh I could pull stumps and dig holes almost immediately but it was quite a spastic operation. It's just a matter of training yourself to become "automatic" in your response and learning how to finesse the controls to coerce the machine to do what you want it to do. After a couple of years I could now hand you a cup of coffee with the backhoe bucket. Trenching is another matter that requires some level of experience to be good at it. It's easy to overdig and deter from your path line and if the trench is pitched, then that complicates matters worse. I'd say if you're not on a tight schedule and you can afford a little extra machine time then it's something that you could do with some patience.
Your biggest problem will be overdigging like SecretSquirrel said. Pause frequently as you get to depth and have someone with a laser and measuring stick give you feedback. (They should obviously stand clear of the backhoe swing area while you are digging.)
A backhoe can quickly cause a lot of damage so try not to work near buildings, fences, utilities etc. until you are very comfortable.
The most disappointing thing you will find with a compact tractor and backhoe is the lack of actual power. Do not set your expectations too high for what the machine will do. That being said, if you are a quick learner, a 2 stick backhoe is a piece of cake....at idle, so everything is slow, spend an hour getting in sinc with the machine, and as you get comfortable, pick up the speed. It isn't like climbing on a 580 Case......
Now the tip for trenching is with the bucket extended fully, and the stick (arm) setting on the ground, measure up and tie a string around the boom or mark it for the depth of the trench you are cutting...makes life simpler.
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