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12/2/2008 12:00:00 AM
Compiled by FacilitiesNet Staff
Mowers, blowers, edgers, spreaders, and sprayers have long been staples
of a landscape manager’s equipment arsenal, but many managers now
consider utility vehicles just as indispensable when it comes to
getting work done. Manufacturers are responding by continuing to expand
their product lines to meet user demands for more power and
versatility, as well as greater contributions to sustainability.
When specifying a turf maintenance vehicle – or utility vehicle –
managers need to understand staff needs based on their tasks and
identifying areas in which efficiency should increase. Deciding whether
a turf maintenance vehicle fits the bill includes listing specific
needs based on activities.
The list might include greater fuel efficiency, faster transportation
to work sites, debris collection and snow plowing. Based on these
needs, managers can list the desired equipment options and features and
start looking at available vehicles and their costs.
The most powerful utility vehicles are equipped with gas or diesel
engines — either liquid- or air-cooled — with a range of 8-40
horsepower (hp). Some models offer high-flow hydraulics and power packs
for attachments that require more power. Many vehicles now can haul up
to 1,500 pounds and tow up to 2,000 pounds.
A turf maintenance vehicle that runs on electricity often can be a good
option for areas where noise and pollution are concerns. They might
lack the power and speed to haul the heaviest loads, but some models
can efficiently carry people and pull a cart of hand tools.
Electric utility vehicles no longer are simply golf carts, and managers
can expect to find more advances in these units as environmental
concerns become an even higher priority.
With electric vehicles, traveling distance per charge might be a
concern. Electric vehicles have a more limited traveling distance per
battery charge than a typical gas or diesel engine has per tank of
fuel. An electric turf maintenance vehicle might travel 40-120 miles
per charge, depending on the terrain, battery type, climate, and load.
Managers also will find a wider selection of hybrid vehicles — those
that run on either electric or gas — that provide fuel efficiency,
along with the power and speed needed for top performance. Some utility
vehicle models also support a propane attachment, which allows the
vehicle to run on propane instead of gas or diesel fuel.
Passenger capacity can vary; some vehicles can hold up to six people.
This feature is another advantage of a utility vehicle over a utility
tractor. If operators plan to use the vehicle for transportation and
performing work, greater flexibility means greater cost-effectiveness.
For example, one model has fold-down rear seats so operators can use
the space for hauling when needed.
Turning radius also is essential for maximum efficiency when working in
tight or congested areas. Some models offer a turning radius of as
little as 5 inches, while others have a radius of 10 feet or more.
Additional features that make today’s models easier to maneuver include
rack-and-pinion steering, power steering, improved shock absorbers,
independent front suspension, and independent rear suspension.