Thanks to its shorter profile and enhanced agility, the stand-on mower is becoming the preferred mowing machine for more landscape companies.
Nate Hrobsky, owner of Nate’s Landscaping & Snow Removal in Milton, Wis., first began using stand-ons several years ago. Now he won’t use anything else. It’s all about productivity.
“We mow some very large commercial properties,” Hrobsky says. “We typically need three 60-inch mowers going at once. The biggest advantage we’ve found with stand-ons is that we’re able to get as many as four on our big trailer. When we were using riders, we could only fit two.”
Some landscape companies have found that a stand-on is a good match for smaller properties, too.
“If we are mowing anything less than a half-acre, we use either a 48-inch rider or 36-inch stand-on,” says Alex Kirby, owner of Trifecta Lawn Care in Lexington, S.C. “I personally wouldn’t want to be standing all day to mow. But in our market where there are a lot of smaller subdivision yards, a 36-inch stand-on is great. It fits through any gate, is excellent around beds and eliminates the need for push mowing. A stand-on is also lighter which is good for delicate turf. Plus, we can flip the platform up and turn it into a walk-behind if we have to, like if the grass is pretty wet. Overall, the flexibility of the stand-on has been awesome for us. We don’t even own any walk-behinds.”
Brad Behr, owner of Copper Creek Cuts in Macclenny, Fla., also uses a 36-inch stand-on for his smaller residential accounts. For increased productivity, he switches to his 48-inch stand-on to cut the larger front lawn, like common areas of an HOA or spots where gates aren’t an issue. Added productivity is just one of the reasons why.
“There is some slope to the terrain surrounding two ponds in those common areas,” Behr says. “The larger the wheelbase, the better the mower is going to do on slopes. From a safety standpoint, I wouldn’t even want to attempt mowing those ponds with a rider.”
Kirby says that by completely removing walk-behind mowers from his operation, maintenance crew productivity has skyrocketed.
“Using stand-ons instead of walk mowers has allowed us to add another two or three properties to each route,” Kirby says. Having a stand-on on the trailer also helps when a rider unexpectedly becomes inoperable. “Before, the crew would have been done for the day because it wouldn’t have been possible to finish the route by push mowing. But with a 36-inch stand-on, the crew can still get through the mowing without too much lost time,” Kirby says.
DJ Aldrich, co-owner of Aldrich Landscape in Sylvania, Ohio, says stand-on mowers have been a boon to his crews’ productivity as well. The company began experimenting with its first stand-on a few years ago, replacing one of its intermediate walk-behinds. Now all of the company’s intermediate walk-behind mowers have been replaced by stand-ons. In fact, at Aldrich Landscape, the zero-turn rider has even been replaced.
“We have found that a stand-on is quicker than a sit-down,” Aldrich says. “You have a much better point of view. Everything is out in front of you so you don’t have to worry about anything that might be a couple feet behind you. Your turns can be faster. We’ve also found that the balance is a lot better. For the most part, your center of gravity is over the back wheels. You can turn a bit faster with less risk of tearing up the turf.”
Hrobsky says his crews have come to appreciate the fact that visibility is better on a stand-on. Since an operator is standing upright, it’s easier to see over hills, shrubs and other obstacles.
Stand-ons can also be advantageous when debris is in the mower’s pathway. “The operator can easily step off of the mower because the blades shut right off,” Hrobsky says. “Then the operator can grab the piece of trash, stuff it in a garbage bag or pail, jump back on and get back to mowing. It’s so much faster than if you’re on a riding mower.”
For veteran employees who are used to sit-down mowers, switching to a stand-on may be met with some initial skepticism. It pays to be patient and to remain enthusiastic. “Experienced employees will eventually come around,” Aldrich says.
Aldrich says it was interesting to watch his employees come to accept the concept of stand-up mowing. For those who had experience operating riders, it took a few days to get the feel. “The quality of their mowing was the same, but it took a little while until they became comfortable and started getting really efficient,” Aldrich says.
To help expedite the learning curve, Aldrich set up cones in his parking lot so employees could get some extra practice at the end of the day. “The hand controls are a little different,” Aldrich says. “Our new employees who had never operated a zero-turn rider picked it up pretty quickly. They’re all 19 to 25 years old and play video games, so the hand controls came pretty naturally.” Another slight difference employees might run into relates to preventive maintenance.
“Since a stand-on is more compact, it might be a little harder to work on than a zero-turn,” Behr says. “A lot of it depends on the manufacturer and how it designs things. With one brand I’ve tried in the past, you have to bolt from both the bottom and top of the spindles. With the kind of lift I have in my shop, changing the middle blade was almost impossible for me.”
On the other hand, Aldrich says that with the right design, a stand-on mower can actually make preventive maintenance a little easier.
“The nice thing with a stand-on is that there are no safety bars going around the mower to block off parts of the engine,” Aldrich says. “With the stand-ons we use, the engine is right there and easy to get to. Oil changes are easy.”
When asked if there are any downsides to a stand-on mower, Hrobsky could only point out how someone feels at the end of a long day of work.
“Honestly, the only thing I can say is that for a guy like me who is 44, comfort can be an issue,” Hrobsky says. “Stand-up mowing for eight hours can leave me pretty exhausted. But that’s not really an issue because my crews are doing the mowing for me now. They are mostly in their 20s and have no issues whatsoever. In fact, they all tell me that they would never go back to a riding mower now.”