Those hard-to-access areas don’t have to be so difficult to enter.
Brian Vint just couldn’t bear to fight another winter without an adequate tool to deal with the gobs of snow Ocean, N.J., can get. That’s the main reason why the operations manager for Four Seasons Contracting acquired the Bobcat Toolcat 5600 utility vehicle in 2007. One of Four Seasons’ accounts is a large shopping center with sidewalks up to 15-feet-wide, so the prospect of making snow removal easier was tantalizing to Vint.
“Snow was the biggest selling point,” Vint says. “The amount of snow it can handle and push is unbelievable. Plus, it has a great turning radius, and the fact that you can lift a bucket of snow seven feet in a small area and stockpile it was huge for us.”
Also, the all-wheel steering of the Toolcat offers solid traction in icy conditions, says Vint, and the turning radius allows for ultimate maneuverability in parking lots jammed with vehicles.
Four Seasons also services some large condominium communities, where they’re constantly moving trees, shrubs and flowers around. That’s where the pallet attachment comes in, allowing them to move up to 15 flats of flowers. Plus, they can transport mulch to remote areas, two yards in the bucket and two yards in the bed, a task that would normally require manpower and the use of a wheelbarrow.
“(The Toolcat) has been huge for moving trees and shrubs around and doing sod work on our 50-acre, 67-unit high-end residential condo site,” Vint says. “We almost keep it there for the entire summer because it comes in handy so often. If we didn’t have the Toolcat, it would be a real struggle trying to move some of those trees around using little tree carts and a couple guys.”
They can even do tree and shrub spraying with an attachment that plugs into the Toolcat’s cigarette lighter that runs a small pump on a 25-gallon tank. The recent purchase of an angle broom attachment allows them to clear snow from sidewalks in the condo community.
Vint plans on adding to the Toolcat’s versatility in the future with the purchase of a mowing attachment.
Walk this way. Walking is expensive. As vice president of operations for Valley Crest Landscape Cos., Howard Mees knows that very well. That’s why he relies on hundreds of utility vehicles to get his crews to where they need to be fast. And as big of an operation that Valley Crest runs, even a few minutes saved here and there can mean big bucks.
"On some sites where we were using trucks before, we're now using utility vehicles," Mees says. "Not only can they access tight areas, they eliminate guys having to go back to the truck, open the door, start the truck and move it. That whole process can take an additional two to three minutes compared to carts where you can get in on either the drive or passenger side, press the pedal or turn the key and go."
Mees has a mix of different makes/models of utility vehicles: John Deere Gators (TS, TX, 650i, HPX), Club Cars (Turf 2 and Turf 6) and Kubota RTVs. Besides using them to access tight spaces and move swiftly from point A to point B on large sites, his crews use them to haul brush and spray or spread pesticides, fertilizer, seed and deicer.
"We use the 650i with a spray rig in the back rather than pulling out 300 feet of hose because we can't access an area," Mees says. "The operator can control (the sprayer) from the seat and it's calibrated to deliver X amount of material over X amount of area at a certain miles per hour. Needless to say, it's a lot faster than walking."
Another advantage to allowing heavier duty UTVs handle, say, bulk applications is that it doesn't tie up a $40,000 tractor for the same chore.
"If you don't have full-time usage for a tractor, then it sits for a certain portion of the year versus a UTV that you can use year-round," Mees says.
For additional carrying capacity, Mees outfits the Club Car Turf 6 with racks for weed trimmers and leaves the center of the bed open so crews can still load their burlaps full of trimmings into it.
Mees admits that when the company was initially looking at acquiring UTVs, they underestimated the savings they would gain. First, there was the upfront savings in the initial purchase: $6,000 to $7,000 for a new cart versus $20,000 for a pickup truck. Then there was the time savings. They replaced a pickup truck with two UTVs on large commercial sites and, after timing the crews, figured out that they were saving 25 percent on time since the crews could now access areas they previously had to walk to when they drove pickup trucks to the sites.
"Now we figure some of that efficiency into our estimates," Mees says. "If UTVs will work on the site, instead of 100 hours on the job, we can take 15 percent out and make it 85 hours and price accordingly. Everyone says that's not a big deal but it actually is."
Jason Stahl is a freelancer based in Cleveland.