Why Is A Wheeled Excavator Known As A Rubber Duck?
A fascinating aspect of heavy machinery and the worksites that they are used on is how quickly certain machines develop nicknames both to give a machine character and to make it easier and quicker to instruct operators and warn workers.
Many of these are genericised trademarks, with small-form hydraulic equipment (especially skid steer loaders) often being known simply as “Bobcats” irrespective of manufacturer, backhoe loaders are known as “JCBs” and there are many other examples of this.
In other cases, however, the nickname can be somewhat confusing, such as the strange case of the wheeled excavator.
Excavators are most commonly fitted to caterpillar tracks (itself a genericised trademark) but there are also many attached to wheels to help with manoeuvrability and ease of use, particularly for more complex construction sites where the long tracks could get stuck and caught.
Wheeled excavators are also required for work on roads, streets and paved areas because conventional tracks use steel teeth which can rip and tear into the terrain.
The compromise which comes from this is that a wheeled excavator lacks the lower centre of gravity that is commonly seen with heavier and wider tracks, which results in a lot of wheeled excavators that do not have telescopic stabilising arms bobbing about.
This is something that many operators get used to very quickly and does not affect their usability or operational control at all, but it does mean that moving from one work position to another causes them to wobble around before, during, and after completing a task.
This, combined with the common yellow colour scheme of many pieces of heavy equipment and the rather characteristic silhouette has led to wheeled excavators becoming known as rubber duck diggers.
Whilst this is a rather endearing name by itself, it also helps to point the wheeled excavator out amongst other equipment on a construction site.