The last decade has seen a rise in the popularity of utility vehicles among grounds managers looking for versatile equipment that can meet the demands of institutional and commercial facility landscapes. Strong industry forecasts have brought new overseas manufacturers and untried models into the utility vehicle market. These vehicles offer build quality, performance, and access to service that ranges from awful to awesome. But the best of today’s work utility vehicles can do the work of pickup trucks. Rustproof aluminum frames are vital for grounds maintenance. Many manufacturers offer these as options with an upcharge. Fewer include them as standard equipment. In 4x4s, managers can look for automatic four-wheel drive systems and four-link semi-independent suspension systems built for carrying loads. Managers looking for vehicles that can meet the demands of daily grounds duties might want to be wary of recreational vehicles that are being marketed for commercial applications. New accessories, including bed-based attachment systems that protect equipment, reduce round trips and save time, have hit the market. Also new to the market are vehicles designed for specific tasks, including grounds maintenance vehicles configured just for this application. The green movement also has affected new-generation utility vehicles in a number of areas. In the past, managers often overestimated the power and performance they needed for utility vehicles. The green movement is helping them realize the importance of right-sizing their vehicles for the tasks at hand. As a result, they are discovering that well-built electric utility vehicles with powerful controllers can do the work of trucks, with zero emissions and at a fraction of the costs. Replacing just one or two full-sized vehicles with electric vehicles can save thousands of dollars. Right-sizing often involves adding task-speeding accessories to the vehicles. As a result, manufacturers have launched new bed-based attachment systems and other accessories.
Noise abatement also has become increasingly important on college and corporate campuses, resorts and other sites. This issue is fueling the switch to electric vehicles and has resulted in some manufacturers adding rugged bed liners, such as those found in pickup trucks, to their vehicles to further reduce noise. Patrick Steinkuhl is utility product manager with Club Car, www.clubcar.com.
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