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10 Types of Construction Equipment That Rely on Hydraulics

Construction Equipment

It’s probably not something you think about very often, but most of the construction equipment you see in operation on major development projects around the country rely on hydraulics for their ability to lift or transport heavy loads such as earth, wood, or stone. Underneath the effectiveness of hydraulic equipment is a recognized principle of physics which has to do with pressure being applied to incompressible fluids like oil.

To simplify that principle, any pressure applied at one end of a pressurized fluid must be equalized at the other end, which is what provides the energy to do all that lifting and transporting. There are many kinds of construction equipment in current usage which rely heavily on hydraulics for their functionality, hydraulics systems are a large aspect of what makes them so effective.

Types of Heavy Construction Equipment

There are many different types of heavy construction equipment in use on development projects these days, and of course the specific type being used will be matched up to the kind of task that needs to be performed. If hydraulic equipment were not used to accomplish these tasks, it would undoubtedly take several weeks longer, and would require a great many more people to be involved to complete the job.

From this, it can be seen how crucial it is for heavy-duty hydraulic equipment to be used when large, bulky loads are involved. Bulldozers and graders are in use all throughout the life of a construction project, especially at the beginning when it is necessary to clear out an area to establish the site of construction.

Later on, they will be used again to position topsoil in place around the structure, so that it can be prepared for the final landscaping. Dump trucks are needed to transport topsoil, stone, and gravel from loading sites to the construction site, and in many cases, it is also necessary to transport clay and fractured concrete pieces away from a construction site.

In addition, there are many other types of specialty equipment available to satisfy specific construction needs:


Excavators are one of the most widely used pieces of equipment in the construction industry. Primarily used for excavation, they can also be put to use for demolition purposes, tree-cutting, dredging rivers, and all-purpose general heavy lifting. An excavator consists of a long arm at the end of which is a digging bucket which can lift tremendous loads. There is also a cabin in which the operator sits and operates the machinery. Excavators can come in both wheeled form and tracked form, so they can reach otherwise inaccessible locations.


Backhoes are virtually ubiquitous on construction sites, primarily because they are extremely versatile and can accomplish a great many tasks. There is a loading bucket on the front of the backhoe which is useful for loading dump trucks, and the backhoe attachment itself is often used for digging trenches.

Dragline Excavator

This kind of equipment is most often used in large depth excavations, and it consists of a long length boom with a digging bucket that is suspended by a cable from the top of the boom. Dragline excavators are commonly used underwater, for sediment removal from bodies of water, and sometimes even for the construction of ports.


Bulldozers are most commonly put to use for removing a topsoil layer from any given construction site, generally to a prescribed depth. There is a wide metal blade at the front of the bulldozer which accomplishes the soil removal, and it can be either raised or lowered by hydraulic pistons when it’s being operated.


Graders are often used in road construction, and their function is to level a surface to prepare it for what follows. The horizontal blade in front is generally lowered to the ground during operation, and this will dig in to level whatever surface is being operated on. Although they are more commonly used to move dirt and soil, graders can also be used to move snow during winter.

Wheel Tractor Scraper

These large pieces of machinery consist of earth-moving equipment which produce a flattened soil surface. In the front of the machinery, there will be a wheeled tractor vehicle, and in the rear there will be a horizontal blade, a conveyor belt, and a hopper which collects the soil. When the front blade gets lowered to the surface and the vehicle begins moving, the blade will dig into the soil, which will then be collected in a hopper by means of the conveyor belt. Once the hopper gets full, the rear section gets raised and the load will be offloaded either to a dump yard or to a truck.


Trenching machines are most commonly used to dig trenches through the ground, and the most common applications for these are for constructing drainage systems, laying cables, and sometimes laying pipelines. There are two main kinds of trenching machines, those being wheeled trenchers and chain trenchers. A wheeled trencher has a metal wheel and a digging tool, which accomplishes the excavation, and these are most often used where hard soil layers are encountered. Chain trenchers have a long fixed arm, and there is a digging chain attached to this arm for accomplishing the trenching activity. Both these kinds of trenchers are mounted either on wheels or on tracks.


Just as the name would suggest, loaders are typically used in construction work to load various materials onto dump trucks. Some of the materials involved are demolition waste, soil which has been excavated, and raw materials, but it could really be almost anything you would find at a construction site. At the front of the loader will be a large-sized bucket which is used to contain the materials, along with a relatively short moving arm. While some loaders are mounted on tracks, others have wheels, and the type used will depend on how accessible a given site is. Sometimes wheeled loaders are unable to operate in rough terrain or in somewhat inaccessible locations, but tracked loaders can handle almost anything.

Tower Cranes

These are fixed cranes generally used for hoisting extremely large objects, and on jobs where tall structures are being constructed. Using a tower crane, it’s a fairly simple matter to lift super heavy materials such as frames, steel trusses, and concrete blocks into position wherever they are needed in construction. A tower crane consists of a mast which provides a tower for vertical support, a jib which is responsible for being the operating arm, a counter jib which provides a counter-balancing feature, and of course the operator cabin where all operations are initiated from.


This type of equipment is commonly used to lay down asphalt on a road which requires re-surfacing, or on parking lots and bridges. Usually, an asphalt paver will work with a dump truck which supplies the blacktop material to the paver, while the paver itself lays down the new surface. In most cases, after the paver has laid down some level of asphalt, a heavy-duty roller will follow it so that the blacktop can be compressed into place securely.

If any of your equipment requires maintenance, search for a local repair shop. For example, in Houston, Sapphire Hydraulics is a local leader in hydraulic hose repairs and may be able to assist with your heavy equipment.

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