Why Large Dozers Are Built With Tracks vs Wheels

By Robert Romboa •  Updated: 08/17/23 •  7 min read

Bulldozers come in different shapes and sizes. And most of them have tracks as a common trait. Are you wondering why all bulldozers share this component ? We have the answer here. 

To get into the topic, let’s discuss the benefits that tracks have in front of wheels.

Benefits And Differences Of Tracks Vs Wheels

Benefits Of Tracks Vs Wheels

For a long time, people have wondered when it comes to dozers and other heavy types of machinery, which one is better: track or wheels?

There are times where people prefer wheels over tracks. However, a dozer with tracks can work and ride areas that can’t be accessible to a traditional design of rubber tires. As such, when it comes to the contractor, construction, and even homeowner projects, they offer a broader scope of “do-ability.”

Fuel Efficiency

The less you slip, the more fuel you save. For operators that work on wet or soft land, the tracks can help to save multiple gallons of fuel every day on large bulldozers – and other machinery. So think about it, for business owners, investing in something that will help save money over time makes sense. Also, there won’t be a need to air wheels anymore.

Less Slip

A tracked system can help your dozer prevent slipping when the ground is muddy or wet. Yes, to prevent the machine from getting locked up or stuck, wheels are meant to slip. But when you know the surface will be hard to work in (such as mud, ice, or sand), then a track grip is likely the best bet.

Tracks Vs Wheels: What Is The Difference?

On different types of construction equipment, you’ll see both tracks and wheels. For example, small machines like Skid Steel Loaders use rubber tires to operate to job sites rapidly. While their counterparts – Compact Track Loaders, are propelled by linked tracks that move slower. Some Compact Track Loaders have steel tracks. And some of them use tracks made of rubber. 

Some small loaders even use a system to fit the rubber tracks over inflatable tires to help by giving the machine additional traction in ground conditions that change.

Now, let’s move up to the larger construction machinery, where the tracks vs. wheels dilemma continues. We can find large loaders that operate on tires, and some operate on tracks. And the same applies to excavators. 

On excavators, tracks are the main propulsion choice. However, there’s no shortage of diggers running on wheels.

So, what’s the difference? And why are some on crawlers and some on wheels? It all comes down to protection and traction for the particular ground and site they’re operating. These equipment operators pay attention to the reason they’re using their machines in the first place. That is vital in determining why they choose tracks or why they choose tires. 

Why Do Bulldozers Have High Tracks?

High tracks offer five main purposes, which are:

They Display Better Performance

Compared to traditional wheels, high tracks have better performance. In addition, their optimized traction system fuels power delivery efficiency.

Overall, continuous tracks improve bulldozers ’ power efficiency, which is an important factor when using vehicles on uneven areas.

They Provide Even Distribution Of The Weight

Companies build bulldozers to be close to the ground , allowing them to push heavy objects out of the way using their weight.

Tracks play a crucial part as they take the weight and distribute the weight around the engine. If the dozer has wheels, it can only distribute the weight on the four corners.

They Provide More Traction

High tracks are well known for their grip. Their traction is high even on wet concrete or snow, making them a great choice for heavy vehicles. However, on a wider range, it provides more friction of soil conditions.

By maintaining traction, tracks also offer more stability on hillsides.

They Are Easy To Move On Rough Land

High tracks make it easy to display higher flotation and ride smoothly on rough fields. In addition, the track can bridge over irregularities instead of sinking into soft soil, which is common in normal wheels.

Where tires get stuck in muddy terrains, high tracks can slide without effort across them. These continuous bands of treads can go up and down areas and plenty of obstacles with no problem.

They Increase Ground Friction

Any bulldozer riding on tracks doesn’t require air like a tire does, which means that, unlike normal vehicles, the suspension doesn’t use any of the force. Also, the ground’s increased impact, especially in heavier models, creates even more friction and provides extreme gripping power. Although because of the track’s build, the machine speed decreases.

Dozers With High Tracks: What Does Research Show?

Studies show that tracks are more effective than wheels for pulling loads. The reason is simple; tracks have a larger surface area that distributes weight better, thus minimizing rut depth. And at the same time, you get a larger rut to cross with wheels.

The bottom part of a tire has a smaller area for weight distribution than in tracks, and this causes the tire to sink. It makes a rut and pulls the tire against it as the vehicle attempts to move out of it. Accordingly, all you have left is disturbed soil and even compact rut, and spend more fuel on a fairly simple task.

All these points prove that high tracks are the best choice for heavy bulldozers.

Why Do Bulldozers Have Caterpillar Tracks?

Continuous tracks, widely known as caterpillar tracks, are most preferred in heavy and robust machinery. The tracks’ large surface area distributes the vehicles’ weight evenly, enabling them to cross soft grounds. Therefore it eliminates the chances of getting stuck. 

What Exactly Are The Caterpillar Tracks? How Are They Used?

Caterpillar tracks are continuous bands of treads that rotate around a series of wheels. They use a rubber or steel belt to make them, and they fasten it around the wheels. 

Caterpillar tracks move across uneven terrain, creating high traction. In short, the metal chain fastened around the wheels of heavy vehicles like bulldozers and tanks helps them move through rough grounds.

Caterpillar Tracks: Are They Worth It?

So far, we have used theoretical explanations to convince you of how efficient caterpillar tracks are. So, let’s discuss numbers.


Traditional machines with wheels require a specific amount of room to be able to turn. However, based on the design of the machine, machines with tracks can often provide a zero-turn radius, which makes it easier to tackle projects in tight spaces.

Most bulldozers feature caterpillar tracks – instead of wheels – because they avoid sinking into ruts. Tracks allow them to remain above the ground, converting that saved engine power to pull and push power. 

Without tracks, a dozer loses most of its capabilities , and it is because it consumes most of its power while coming out of ruts.

Robert Romboa

Just amazed daily by the heavy machinery used to make our days easier and allow for fast and simple construction from your backyard to a city!

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