What’s a crawler tractor?

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Tracked tractors, also known as Caterpillar bulldozers or jacks, use tracks instead of tires to traverse difficult terrain. They disperse weight over a larger area than wheeled tractors, reducing soil compaction. The design inspired the modern military tank and is used in heavy earthmoving, construction, and agriculture. Steering is done using a double lever brake system. Tracked tractors have enabled successful construction projects and agriculture in areas previously impossible to traverse.

A tracked tractor is a machine that operates on a set of tracks instead of tires. Commonly called Caterpillar brand bulldozers or jacks, these multi-purpose vehicles can traverse the most treacherous terrain without getting stuck. The tracks allow the tractor to put less weight on the ground than a comparably sized wheeled tractor. This allows the crawler tractor to be used in conditions where a wheeled vehicle cannot be used.

The advantages of a tracked tractor are its ability to disperse its weight over a much larger area than a wheeled tractor. In doing so, a tracked tractor does not compact the soil as much as a wheeled tractor. This is monumental in agriculture where the soil suffers from compaction. The disadvantage of a tracked vehicle lies in the complexity of the tracks and the expense of repair over that of a tire.

The tracked tractor was the inspiration for the modern military tank. While the design has been improved since the first tank was built in England, the basic concept remains as it was in the 19th century. A continuous track vehicle was conceived and built at the end of the 19th century by a Russian farmer. The design has been tweaked and reworked by many since, resulting in the modern tracked tractor.

Most of the crawler tractors are used in heavy earth moving and construction. The basic track chassis is equipped with a blade or crane attachment. Many tracked vehicles are also used in agriculture. The crawler tractor gained popularity as a farm tool in the United States during The Great Dust Bowl. In many books and movies from that era, the symbol of the times is that of a tracked tractor plowing through the dusty fields of Oklahoma.

While the basic operation of a tracked vehicle is similar to that of a wheeled vehicle, the main difference lies in steering. Instead of a steering wheel, a tracked vehicle uses a double lever brake system. The operator applies the brake on the track in the direction of the turn. To turn right, the right track stops and the left drives the vehicle to the right. To turn left, the brake is applied to the left track and the right track pushes the vehicle to the left.

The crawler tractor is responsible for successful construction projects in areas that would have been impossible to traverse with a wheeled vehicle. It has been the basis for the construction of military vehicles and has allowed agriculture to take place in areas of soft dust. They are also the inspiration for recreational vehicles like snowmobiles.

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