Utility vehicles have undergone a remarkable evolution in the past 15 years. Initially conceived by John Deere, first-generation Gators sported a three-wheel design and hailed as handy machines for moving limited payloads and people over sensitive terrain. Landscapers can now opt for a basic Gator for general turf management chores, new designs reminiscent of large pickup trucks, down to independent suspensions and four-wheel drive, or new, larger rubber track machines like the ASV Scout, which uses the size and power of its shared skid-steer loader design to deliver extra performance in tough job conditions.
“Utility vehicles have a wheelbase that is less than half that of a standard pickup truck, which makes them more maneuverable on a crowded jobsite,” explains Robert Gilles, utility vehicle product specialist, Bobcat. With the rising cost of diesel and gasoline, utility vehicles are also a more economical solution for transporting employees and supplies on jobsites.”
Bobcat makes a distinction between its utility vehicle line and larger utility work machines. “Utility vehicles are great for transporting hand tools and compact equipment under 800 pounds around jobsites. They can drive up and down narrow roadways where a pickup’s size or weight becomes an issue,” Gilles says. “A utility work machine is larger than a utility vehicle, weighing a little less than 5,500 pounds. They can carry between 1,500 pounds and 4,000 pounds of cargo. A utility work machine can also do more because of the more than 38 available attachments it can use.”
Attachment and tool use has become so important to productivity with utility vehicles that
Kubota has integrated an exclusive remote hydraulic circuit into the design of its RTV900 Turf Utility model, allowing landscapers to use the vehicle as a mobile power source. “This circuit can be used to power a complete selection of powerful hydraulic hand tools such as pole pruners, pole saws, concrete saws, earth augers and post drivers,” says Dan Muramoto, utility vehicles product manager, Kubota. “So it’s exceptionally desirable in remote areas where you have to perform routine maintenance work or where the possibility of fire or electric shock hazards presented by the use of electric or gas-powered tools is too dangerous.”
Other features can provide extra productivity, too, adds Jerry Sandy, utility vehicle product manager for Husqvarna. “You can spec your vehicle with power dump beds to make soil placement less labor intensive, or fit it with plows and back blades make gravel and soil spreading much faster than conventional methods.”
Sandy notes that utility vehicles are powerful enough to tackle tough tasks usually slated for utility tractors. “Small utility vehicles are strong enough to pull down small to medium-size, unstable dead trees that are too dangerous to cut with chain saws,” he says. “They also make tree cleanup a snap after trees have been felled and cut to bed length. They can pull stumps out of the ground as well.”
There are many considerations involved in matching a utility vehicle to your business. “Most landscapers buy a utility vehicle and find out they use it 10 times more than they ever thought they would,” says Kevin Lund, Gator group product marketing manager for John Deere. “But day-to-day use is the key to getting maximum return on your investment. If you have a clear set of tasks for the machine, you can easily measure its usefulness and the impact it has on your productivity.”