Caterpillar Digger

Caterpillar DiggerThe massive US corporation Caterpillar Inc is synonymous with tracked vehicles.

The Caterpillar Tractor Company, renowned for its tracked vehicles, was formed in the US in 1925 and switched from steam to diesel power in the 1930s.

The first nineteenth century steam-powered tractors were heavy and prone to getting bogged down in soft ground. As early as 1901 Alvin Lombard was granted a patent for a continuous track which he put into production on steam log haulers.

Caterpillar Bulldozer

During the First World War the first tanks with continuous tracks were employed to traverse the difficult terrain.

The Caterpillar Tractor Company began in 1925 following the merger of Holt Manufacturing and Best Gas Traction.

Caterpillar Bulldozer ToysFollowing CAT’s switch to diesel power and successful campaigns supplying the US Navy Seabees fighting construction battalions in WWII, the company emerged in the 1950’s as a global force in the design and manufacture of construction vehicles.

Today Caterpillar makes an enormous range of diggers, bulldozers, loaders and excavators supplying a wide range of industries all around the world. In fact, the term ‘bulldozer’ is more or less synonymous with Caterpillar.

In recent years Caterpillar have licensed several toy companies including Germany’s Bruder Toys to make ranges of toys based on their renowned diggers and bulldozers.

Types of Digger

Backhoe Digger
There are several different types of digger all designed for different work environments and for carrying out specific jobs.

Backhoe Loader

This incredibly compact and versatile vehicle was invented in the UK by J C Bamford in 1953. The backhoe loader is also known as a backhoe and a digger as well as by the trademark JCB initials.

The JCB digger is a triumph of vehicle engineering. Widely used in many industries, though mainly construction, the digger is conceptually straightforward; its basically a tractor with a front bucket and backhoe attached.

A digger’s front bucket can typically be used for loading whilst the backhoe is used for digging. This vehicle, unlike some other types of digger, can be driven on the road as well as used on site. The digger driver can switch functions easily with the aid of a revolving seat in the cab.

When digging, the JCB can lower its hydraulic stabilizers and front scoop to give greater stability. The hydraulic systems employed in these digging machines allow them to exert tremendous forces and dig holes and trenches quickly and easily.


ExcavatorExcavators have just one arm at the front of the cab. The arm is made up of two sections called the boom and stick with a bucket at the end. The cab is mounted on a revolving platform with either tracks or wheels beneath.

The modern hydraulic diesel excavator developed from the steam shovel patented by William Otis in 1839. The steam shovel was very widely used in the construction of railways.

Common uses for excavators include grading, landscaping, digging and demolition. Some of the largest excavators are used in the mining industry. Smaller mini excavators are used in restricted spaces and some are even designed to fit through doorways and narrow gates. Mini diggers and most wheeled excavators have a blade at the front used for pushing muck and aggregates in a similar way to a bulldozer.


Bulldozers have huge front-mounted steel blades pushed along by powerful diesel tractor units mounted on caterpillar tracks. This formidable vehicle is principally used in roadbuilding, construction and mining.

Caterpillar BulldozerThe bulldozer developed from the farm tractor, its use first becoming widespread in America from the 1920’s. The first commercial bulldozer was the Caterpillar Sixty Horsepower, or Cat 60, developed by Holt in California. Holt subsequently merged with Best in 1925 to form the now legendary Caterpillar Tractor Company.

The word bulldozer is believed to derive from the term a ‘bull-dose’ meaning a large measure of medicine, and is sometimes shortened to just dozer.

As well as different front blades for different tasks, bulldozers are often fitted with claw-like rear ripper attachments for breaking up hard surfaces. The bulldozer’s wide tracks help it to traverse the most challenging terrain without assistance, a fact that has led to its adoption by the military in armoured versions. In fact, the bulldozer is the forerunner of the modern tank.


The Loadall was first introduced to universal acclaim by JCB Excavators Ltd in 1978, though similar vehicles have been developed by Caterpillar and Manitou. The loadall is also known as a telescopic handler or telehandler.

Compact and versatile the loadall is widely used in construction and agriculture. The loadall has an extendable pivoting arm or boom with, usually, a forklift attachment. It is ideal for lifting pallets stacked with bricks or other heavy materials and raising them to inaccessible heights with great efficiency, relative safety and exact precision.

Other attachments for the loadall include the shovel, grapple and bale lift.

Wheel Loader

The wheel loader, or front loader, is a large, powerful vehicle usually fitted with a big front bucket or scoop. Wheel loaders are used in the construction, mining and logging industries.

The front loader has a large bucket which can be raised, lowered and tilted for tipping. This makes them ideal vehicles for loading trucks with loose materials such as sand, rubble, rock or aggregates. When fitted with a claw, wheel loaders can efficiently be used to lift, carry and load logs.


The skid steer or skid loader is capable of turning in its own tracks making it extremely useful in tight situations. Although it has four-wheel drive, the wheels on each side of the vehicle can turn in opposite directions simultaneously.

The first skid steer was made by US company Melroe Manufacturing in 1960. It was called the Bobcat, a name which is now used generally to describe this type of small digger.

The skid steer can be fitted with a variety of tool attachments. Used as a front loader its compact front bucket can push, load and carry.

Digger Hire

Digger hire is vital in the construction industry especially when set against the substantial cost of purchasing expensive plant that may sit idle for much of the time

Before you hire a digger its essential to know what type of machine will be required as well as some of the pitfalls. This obviously depends on the job in hand.

Micro digger hire and mini digger hire are very common as these compact vehicles are ideal for smaller digging jobs. Whats more anyone can hire these vehicles weighing up to 1.5 tonnes without a digger drivers licence, provided that they are used only on private land.

Diggers and excavators can be hired by the day, weekend, week or for longer periods. For residential use it is often the case that extremely good hire rates are offered by hire companies for weekends since they are less likely to be required for commercial use at that time.

Before hiring a digger it pays to read the small print of the rental agreement’s terms and conditions.

In order to compare costs its important to know whether VAT is included in the hire rate and if an extra charge is made for delivery.

Commonly a cleaning charge will be payable if the digger or excavator is returned ‘dirty’, meaning in a less clean condition than when it was initially hired.

The hirer will be responsible for maintaining the digger in good working order. This means ensuring that sufficient diesel, water and grease levels are maintained. More grease will be required in wet or particularly arduous conditions.

Reasonable wear and tear will be acceptable, but confirm whether the hirer is responsible for damages and repairs and to which parts of the digger. Punctures and hoses may be down to the hirer, other more involved breakdowns may be the responsibility of the digger hire company.

When hiring a digger it is important to remember that the insurance cover for the machine may well be down to you as the hirer. Similarly, insurance cover for accidents to the machine, property or yourself will most likely be down to the operator. Check with the digger hire company whether insurance is included in the rental contract or can be added.

Diggers are high value items and, though they will almost certainly be fitted with good specification immobilisers, and even if they can be stored overnight in locked premises, they should be insured. If the hire company does not offer insurance, then it is not unusual to add the digger to your house insurance, though a premium will have to be paid for this. To arrange this type of insurance you will require the make, model and serial number of the vehicle as well as the dates of the hire period.

It is perfectly possible for a private individual to hire a micro digger or mini digger up to 1.5 tonnes without any prior experience of operating these types of vehicle. The hire company will usually arrange a brief lesson on how to operate the digger, normally provided by the driver of the loading vehicle on which the digger is delivered. For example, the 1.5 tonne JCB mini digger hire operator will find just four levers in the cab; two levers for the front bucket, one for forward and one for reverse. Track driven mini excavators such as the JCB 0.8t or 1.5t units are ideal for hiring to use in confined areas such as driveways or gardens. These diggers can be hired with a range of buckets for ditching and grading etc.

Although in principle a brief lesson is sufficient to learn the basics of these smaller machines, and obviously saves on the cost of hiring the digger with a driver, clearly great care must be taken in practice to ensure the safety of the hirer and anyone assisting with the job. It is strongly advisable to attend an appropriate training course provided by an accredited training provider prior to hiring any digger with which you are unfamiliar.

When considering the larger machines, such as excavator hire or backhoe loader hire, it is necessary to have a driver with the appropriate licence and experience to drive such vehicles. This may be the hirer himself or else the possibility of digger and driver hire can entertained. Small or large contract owner operators can alternatively be engaged instead of a digger hire company. Clearly, in this latter case you get the expertise of the driver as well as just the hired digger. Bear in mind that a hire digger is of limited use in the hands of an unskilled operator.

And finally, when it comes to digger hire always remember, safety first!

Buying A Digger

Digger sales represent a major capital expenditure and should be weighed up against the relative cost of hiring a digger.

Perhaps the biggest decision to make is whether to buy a new or a used digger. Further considerations include digger insurance, licencing and driver requirements and storage. Transportation between sites may also be a factor and will affect the size of the machine purchased.

If you are looking to buy a new digger you will have to decide on the make and model as well as the size of the digger required.

The size of diggers and excavators is classified in terms of their relative weights as measured in tonnes. For example a fairly typical mini digger might weigh 1.5 tonnes. A heavier machine will have a heavier counterweight or cab weight to support a boom and stick with greater reach.

Several companies specialise in the repair and rebuilding of used diggers. It is perfectly feasible to buy a digger specifically with this aim in mind. Many dealerships and small plant specialists will offer completely or part refurbished diggers and excavators for sale. Look out for any warranties offered along with the sale, though always read the small print to be certain of what is and covered and, more importantly what is excluded.

Of course, its important not to lose sight of what the digger will actually be required to do. Is it an all-purpose relatively compact, general digger such as a JCB backhoe loader that is required, or a more specialised micro digger or giant excavator? The type of terrain on which the vehicle will be used is also important to consider. Tracked excavators can work on a greater range of terrains but do not have the road speed and capability of thier wheeled counterparts.

Before you buy a digger consider the maximum height you will be loading to and the greatest depth you will be digging to. Consider the height of the machine and its diameter; will it be able to access and effectively work in smaller jobs and, if the intention is to store the digger inside, does it fit into its storage location?

Theres little point in buying a digger you cannot transport efficiently and cost effectively. Ask yourself, if you require a trailer, do you have a suitable vehicle to tow it? Will the digger require a low loader to travel meaningful distances in a realistic time or could it be driven on the public highway?

There are a tremendous number of jcb diggers for sale through a network of official JCB dealers. JCB sales have the greatest market share in the UK. Other possible makes to consider include Caterpillar, Kubota, Volvo, Bobcat and Hitachi.

Digger plant sales are handled by a variety of heavy plant dealers throughout the UK, most of which offer for sale both new and second hand diggers. Some specialize in particular makes, others are general plant dealerships that will also offer digger buckets and attachments for sale. It is adviseable to take good note of any special aftersales service contracts offered.

Before you buy a digger consider the cost of servicing, maintenance and spare parts. If buying a new digger, you may also wish to compare the relative resale values of different makes of digger.

When buying a digger it may or may not have licence plates depending on whether it has been used on the public highway. In either case its important to check that the serial number of the vehicle, located on the chasis, ties in with the make, model and year of manufacture. Check the engine number against the serial plate. Check the details on the serial plate with the digger’s decals; is it what it claims to be? The theft and ‘ringing’ of stolen diggers is a fact of life; as usual, caveat emptor. There are specialist organisations who can perform a data check on the digger to see if it has been reported stolen, written off, or has outstanding finance on it. These organisations will also provide a useful estimate of the value of the vehicle.

Be wary of grey market imports from outside the EU. The digger’s specifications may be hard to ascertain and unsuitable and there will be potentially complex registration and insurance issues to resolve.

Unlike most other vehicles whose relative wear can be ascertained with reference to the number of miles travelled, digger ‘mileage’ can be measured in hours of operation. In general, the lower the hours the better, depending on the type of use the vehicle has been subjected to. Very hard use over a short number of hours may cause more wear than light use over a longer number of hours.

If you decide to buy a used digger, an easy way to search for used diggers for sale is on ebay. Used digger sales can easily be reviewed by price and location.

Digger Insurance

Whether bought new, second hand or hired it is vital that at all times you have full digger insurance.

When insuring a newly purchased digger it makes sense to get a quote from a specialist insurer used to dealing with heavy plant and construction machinery.

Some specialist insurers that offer liability insurance to the construction industry may extend their cover to provide insurance for excavators and jcb diggers. This can be a simple and cost effective route to heavy plant insurance.

When you hire a digger, insurance may not be offered for the rental term. It is therefore the hirer’s responsibility to arrange adequate insurance cover for the duration of the hire period.

The hire company will provide you with the necessary information to insure the digger on hire. Before approaching an insurance company or broker you will need the make, model, year of manufacture, value and serial number of the vehicle.

The insurer will also want to know where the digger will be used, for example at a private residence, by the roadside or on an isolated site. For insurance purposes you will be asked if the digger will be driven on the public highway; this may increase your premium. It will also be important to state (accurately) whether the vehicle will be locked up overnight and/or attended at all times and if it has an immobiliser.

You can arrange your JCB insurance from one day to whatever set period you specify, to begin immediately or at a predetermined date and time, for example from the moment of delivery on site.

Due to the high rates of theft of plant (and low rates of recovery), equipment and vehicles such as diggers, dumper trucks and excavators, are increasingly being security marked with CESAR mini electronic transponders tags as well as high visibility tamper proof triangular identification plates and fitted with other telematic locating devices such as Tracker or A-Track. Where these are fitted the insurer will want to know; providing this information should help reduce your premiums. Insurance companies, hire companies and the construction industry itself are very supportive of such measures.

Indeed, A-Plant, for example has recently introduced CESAR in many of its hire vehicles including mini excavators, telehandlers and dumpers. Digger insurance will be reduced where such technologies are fitted.

Digger Licence

You might assume that the DVLA would be responsible for issuing a digger licence. In fact it is the CITB that issues the only recognised industry standard digger licence.

You will not get a digger licence from the DVLA. You must undergo the appropriate digger driver licence training to get your approved CITB card. Whether you need a 360 digger licence or a jcb digger licence you must first pass your digger licence training at a CITB accredited training centre or college.

Whilst there is a special DVLA licence requirement for large goods vehicles (LGV), ‘digging machines’ are exempted. However you do still need a full current category B (car) driving licence to drive a digger on the public highway.

The Drivers and Vehicle Licencing Agency classify diggers or digging machines in the following way:-

  • vehicles which are limited to travel on public roads only for the purpose of proceeding to/from sites – used for trench digging or any kind of excavating or shovelling work eg vehicles with digging buckets/shovels

Driving an exempted goods vehicle is determined by its weight. Vehicles with a maximum authorised mass weighing between 3.5 and 7.5 tonnes may be driven at age 18 years. Vehicles which weigh more than 7.5 tonnes can be driven from the age of 21 years.

For licencing purposes the maximum authorised mass of a vehicle is calculated as the total weight of the vehicle plus the maximum load it can carry.

CITB-Construction Skills is a statutory body funded mainly by the construction industry. Their card scheme provides industry standard accreditation across the construction industry. Plant operators have their own particular scheme called the Construction Plant Competence Scheme (CPCS). This effectively is the digger driver’s licence to operate and is widely recognised on all NHBC construction sites.

The Construction Plant Competence Scheme is a card based licencing scheme to demonstrate the holder’s competence in plant operation (eg digger driving) and health and safety awareness. It is the most approximate qualification available to a digger licence.

To learn more about training for the digger licence go to the digger training page.

Digger Training

By far the most widely recognised digger training is the card scheme run by the Construction Plant Competence Scheme.

The CPCS is the plant operators section of the CITB Construction Skills organisation funded mainly by the construction industry. Many large contractors insist that digger drivers carry the card to demonstrate that they have undergone training in machine competence and health and safety awareness, though there is no legal requirement to do so.

There are two types of card issued by the CPCS. The first red Training Route card is designed for new entrants, those with limited experience and operators who would benefit from digger driver training. The full blue or green competence card is obtained by the Direct Route for which operators must be over 21 years of age with at least three years general plant operating experience and two years experience on the category of plant named on the card. Blue cards are for machine categories that have an NVQ or SVQ training qualification available.

Digger TrainingThe first two steps to acquiring the full card are to pass the CPCS operator test and the CITB-Construction Skills Health and Safety Test. If successful you can apply for the red trained plant operator card which most large construction companies require before you can drive a digger on site and begin to acquire greater experience.

The next step in the training is to log 300 machine hours in the CPCS log book and complete the appropriate NVQ or SVQ qualification. At that point you can apply to become a full CPCS cardholder. The reverse of the card will list the categories of digger you have qualified to drive, for example, excavator 180 or 360 above/below 5 tonnes, wheeled or tracked loading shovel, telescopic handler, crawler tractor/dozer and skid steer.

Training must be carried out with a CPCS Registered Training Provider, though its worth checking several providers since the rates for digger driver training courses will vary widely.

Digger training courses are of varying durations dependent upon the level of prior experience and the type of digger. For instance, typically for 360 excavator training a complete novice might need upwards of two weeks training. This excavator training would be part theory based classroom learning and part practical 360 excavator training.

Excavator training courses do vary in length and examples given are for guidance only. JCB digger training, categorised by CPCS as 180 excavators, would also require approximately two weeks of tuition. Whereas, Telescopic Handlers, JCB Loadalls, Wheel Loaders and ‘Loading Shovels’ require less driver training, typically a one week course for beginners.

The Registered Training Provider will provide certificated evidence of your attendance at the course. They can also assess candidates for the CITB Construction Skills Health and Safety Test. National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) testing can be done via On-Site Assessment and Training (OSAT). This involves an NVQ assessor watching you operate your digger on site, speaking to supervisors and taking photographic evidence.

Digger Theme Parks

Digger worlds, digger lands and digger theme parks are becoming increasingly popular throughout the UK as the rush for digger fun, digger adventure and digger days out takes hold.

DiggerlandDiggerland is the UK’s largest digger theme park. Most people searching for digger world or diggerworld are actually looking for Digger Land or Diggerland.

Diggerland have four seperate digger parks. They are located at:-

  • Langley Park in County Durham
  • Castleford in West Yorkshire
  • Strood in Kent
  • Verbeer Manor in Collompton, Devon

At this giant JCB park you can:-

  • Ride on digger plant including mini diggers and excavators
  • Have a go at driving various types of construction machinery including dumper trucks and diggers
  • Learn about the diggers on display from fully trained instructors
  • Race JCB diggers and dumpers
  • Enjoy a JCB Experience with a trained instructor including a safety talk and practical session

Other rides at Digger Land include ‘Spindizzy’ where kids can ride in the scoop of a digger and the Diggerland Train which is pulled by a dumper truck. There are also more interactive activities such as ‘Dippy Ducks’ where you have to operate a JCB with a lifting attachment to hook a duck from a pond and ‘Skittles’ where you use a wrecking ball to demolish giant skittles.

Note that some of the Diggerland parks close in the off season. Children must be at least 3 years old to ride on the machinery and over 5 to drive the machines.

If you are looking for digger fun, digger adventure or digger days out the Diggerland digger park is without doubt the most spectacular and amazing digger world theme park in the UK.

Other UK digger theme parks:-

  • At Legoland in Windsor children can safely have fun operating a JCB digger simulator. The digger simulator has its own cab with controls just like the real thing. By operating the levers the ‘job’ is to scoop up plastic balls from one section and tip them in another. Legoland also has the ‘Digger Challenge’ in association with JCB. To win the challenge both children and parents can perform a series of tasks behind the controls of a real JCB digger.
  • Paultons Theme Park in Ower near Southampton is not a dedicated digger park but does have its own ‘Digger Ride’ attraction. This fun digger day out gives younger children the opportunity to ride unaccompanied on a mini JCB digger which is guided on rails around a ‘real’ construction site.
  • Deeside Activity Park near Aboyne in Scotland has a ‘Digger Manoeuvres’ experience with an opportunity to drive an 8.5 tonne backhoe loader with a trained instructor.
  • At the Treasure Park near Redruth in Cornwall there is a chance to operate both real and miniature mechanical diggers in the ‘Gold Diggers’ and ‘Treasure Hunt’ attractions. After a treasure hunt around the park kids use the mini sand diggers to dig for buried treasure.
  • Wood Park Off-Road at New Moat in Pembrokeshire offer ‘Recreational JCB Driving’. You must be at least ten years of age to have a go at driving a JCB with the help of a qualified instructor.

Remember that at any digger world adventure, digger land or digger theme park safety is the most important thing. This is not the usual family day out and its only fair to point out that accidents are not unknown. Always ensure that you and any children in your supervision follow the correct safety procedures at all times.

Digger Ride Ons

Digger Ride Ons come in three basic types – push along, pedal driven and electric.

Push along ride on diggers are for younger kids to simply scoot along safely and easily. Push alongs are suitable for indoor and outdoor use.

Pedal driven ride ons are chain driven digger toys and include realistic tractors with front loaders and detachable trailers. Kids need a relatively flat, smooth surface, as well as space to turn, to really get the best out of these pedal ride ons.

Caterpillar KIds Ride On DiggerAlso available are a range of excavators and diggers with working front loaders and lever operated backhoes. These are especially ideal for use in or around sandboxes and for slightly older kids as they do require greater coordination.

Electric backhoe ride ons are operated by rechargeable batteries and usually have foot operated accelerator pedals and incorporate a range of safety measures.

There are several big companies that dominate the market for ride on diggers including Falk, Smoby, Big and Rolly Toys. Arguably the best known of these are Rolly Toys and Falk.

JCB Ride on Digger ToyFamily-owned German ride on manufacturers, Rolly Toys, make computer-designed precision-engineered ride on tractors, trailers and diggers for toddlers and kids. Rolly make ride on diggers licensed by top manufacturers including JCB, John Deere, Massey Ferguson, New Holland and Case. This makes Rolly Toys diggers some of the most desirable ride ons you can find, combining a top quality product with an internationally recognized brand.

Claas Ride On Digger by Falk ToysAlso well known in this space are French company Falquet trading as Falk. Falk make a wide range of kids ride ons including several digger and tractor and trailer ride ons. Falk have agreements with Claas, McCormick and Kubota to manufacture licensed ride on toys. Falk make ride ons for kids aged from just one to seven years of age.

Ride on diggers for kids are a great way to inspire the next generation of construction toy fans and get them outdoors playing and away from their increasingly sedentary screen-based lives.

Britains JCB 3CX Backhoe Loader

Britains JCB 3CX Backhoe Loader is a 1:32 scale model digger.

Britains is a brand of the giant Japanese Takara Tomy toy company. Britains are renowned manufacturers of accurate scale farm toys and vehicles.

As a scale model this toy digger does have a lot of small components. For this reason it should be stressed right away that the digger is unsuitable for children under the age of 36 months.

Toy JCB 3CX by BritainsHowever, because of its incredible accuracy and attention to detail, Britains JCB 3CX will definitely appeal to older digger fans. Immediately in the box at first glance this toy digger looks absolutely superb. What’s more in hand its solid and weighty at over 800g, or nearly 2lbs.

This is a quality die-cast model. Plastic is used only for the cab, the silver exhaust pipe and the linkage to the backhoe.

The paintwork is superb with the iconic gleaming JCB yellow coachwork highlighted by the black components. The JCB decals are similarly impressive giving the whole piece a ringing air of authenticity.

JCB 3CX by Britains Toys

The front loader has a very good range of movement and holds whatever position it is posed in extremely well. The boom and stick of the backhoe articulate well as does the bucket.

The entire backhoe can be made to slide from side to side along the frame on which the stabilizers are fixed. It should be pointed out that the stabilizer legs themselves are fixed in position and cannot be moved up or down.

Another unexpected bonus is that the wheels at the front of the cab can be moved simultaneously on their axle through roughly 45 degrees to make the free-wheeling digger turn in a circle.

The tractor unit of the digger, that’s not including the front loader and backhoe, measures roughly 12cm from the front grille to the stabilizers, and just under 10cms from the top of the operator’s cab to the bottom treads of the tyres.

The tyres are solid rubber with a good moulded tread pattern.

JCB 3CX CabThe interior of the cab is well detailed, though not accessible. The operator’s station features front and side instrument panels, a detailed steering wheel and a driver’s seat with double arm rests and a JCB logo in the seatback.

In summary, the JCB 3CX by Britains is a wonderfully detailed scale model of an iconic JCB digger. If you are looking for more of a kick-about toy digger that kids can play and dig with outside in the dirt and sand this may not be your best bet. But for a truly impressive display piece or indoor bedroom toy, you cannot go wrong with this superbly designed digger toy.

Britains JCB 3CX Toy Backhoe Loader