With more uses than a Swiss army knife, utility vehicles (UTVs) are gaining popularity with landscape contractors wishing to improve efficiency, reduce labor and make things safer for their employees. If you’re hesitant about making a $10,000 investment in a UTV, you may want to hear what two landscapers have to say about their UTVs.
“We’re always looking for a product to bring on board to save labor and increase efficiency, and that’s why we selected one of these (UTVs). So far it’s working out pretty good for us,” says Barry Wolff, president of Seasonal Solutions Lawn & Landscape in Kansas City, Kansas. Wolff’s crews need a vehicle that is versatile to match the variety of services it offers to clients in what Wolff describes as an “expansive market” in the Midwestern city.
With as many as 35 employees during peak season, who service more than 200 mostly commercial accounts, his John Deere Gator is quickly becoming indispensable for a wide range of work they do, including landscape installation, hardscaping, lawn care and irrigation.
Wolff says the Gator beats moving product in wheelbarrows and finding a place to park a truck and trailer. Like construction workers, landscape contractors are quite often working in busy thoroughfares where there is a lot of vehicle and pedestrian traffic.
UTVs allow crews to get into these spaces without having to park a pickup and trailer alongside a busy roadway or weave wheelbarrows in and out of traffic.
“It pains me to see our associates walking back and forth with wheelbarrows,” Wolff says. He says in the spring and summer months they’re working in homeowners associations, large retail centers, office complexes and a large national health care facility, sprucing up beds, fertilizing and mowing.
He says more times than not, products, including mulch beds and plants, are brought directly to the site and unloaded in the far corner of the property.
With their new UTV, which has the capacity to carry up to a dozen bags of mulch, they can more easily move the product to where it is needed, keeping the truck and trailer out of everyone’s way.
Wolff says he didn’t want a UTV with a lot of bells and whistles.
“It’s not a play toy for my employees or myself, but it does come in pretty handy right now for setting up my deer stand,” he says. The Gator has a 3,500-pound winch and a cargo box rated to 400 pounds and lined with polyethylene copolymer so it won’t rust.
Seasonal Solutions has what Wolff calls a tailgate meeting with workers when new equipment is purchased to go over the safe use of the equipment.
He says staff are briefed on the safe use of the Gator, seat belt use, special features and maintenance needs like checking the oil.
Wolff is pretty much sold on using UTVs in the business. He doesn’t have exact figures on how much is being saved using UTVs, which he just brought on board this past season, but he thinks it’s significant.
He’s ready to purchase another one for the upcoming snow removal season. The area receives, on average, about 20 inches of snow and sometimes up to 30.
The Gator, with a front blade attachment that is not as wide as a truck plow, can get into tight spaces around condos and retail centers.
They can also haul salt into areas where walkways need to be salted to melt ice.
While Wolff thinks his Gator can’t be beat, Ryan Kirkham, owner of U.S. Lawns of Cincinnati East in Ohio wouldn’t own anything but a Gravely vehicle.
U.S. Lawns of Cincinnati East has large ongoing contracts with homeowners associations and commercial properties in the Cincinnati metro area.
“We’re always looking for a product to bring on board to save labor and increase efficiency, and that’s why we selected one of these (UTVs).” Barry Wolff, Seasonal Solutions
His crew works five days a week in one of the commercial properties, which Kirkham describes as a small city. The layout includes tight turns and cul de sacs, where his UTV comes in handy. “The Gravely is good for small spaces,” Kirkham says.
“We can leave the truck and trailer parked during the day and concentrate on one area.”
Kirkham bought his UTV last spring and the crew has been running it hard, working it eight hours a day.
He says it really comes in handy for the work they do, which includes maintenance around a 53-acre lake and along a creek that meanders through one of the properties. They use it to haul river rock, tools, plants and mulch. They can use the hydraulic dump bed to unload rock and other materials on site.
“Not having to shovel the rock out of a truck bed saves a lot of time,” says Kirkham of the hydraulic dump bed they use on the Gravely.
“It has a lot of features the others didn’t have. The payload is good,” which he says is an important consideration if you intend to use it to haul stone.
The Atlas also comes with a 4,500-pound winch line that is indispensable for the crew, which must get into wooded areas by creeks to pull out fallen trees and branches. The vehicle itself makes it easier to get in as close as possible to the downed trees and limbs, and pull them out with the winch.
Like Wolff, Kirkham hasn’t sat down and tried to tally the savings from using the UTV.
However, he says they’ve been able to pick up another contract which perhaps they wouldn’t have if they didn’t have the labor saving features of a UTV.
He’s sold on using the UTV in the business and is also looking to buy one for snow removal.
No matter what you plan on using a UTV for, both Wolff and Kirkham have advice for shoppers. “Do the research first; don’t necessarily focus on price,” Wolff says. “Focus on functionality and hauling capacity.”
“Every job has a different purpose,” Kirkham says. “Understand what it comes with. Know your dealer and dealer support.”L&L