One way to make important buying decisions easier is stay abreast of industry trends. Tree Services recently asked several leading manufacturers to share their insights regarding equipment and products for arborists and how the market trends they’re witnessing impact buying decisions. These experts also asses the overall outlook for the tree care equipment market and analyze what the future holds, as far as equipment and product advancements:

WHAT ARE SOME GENERAL TRENDS YOU’RE SEEING IN THE TREE CARE/ARBORIST MARKET?

  • The growth of compact loaders in the tree care industry has been meteoric in the last several years and we expect this trend continue. The reduction of manual labor and the increased efficiency of mechanically feeding chippers with compact loaders helps tree care professionals’ margins get tighter. Vermeer is dedicated to continued innovation in this market, in terms of attachments and new equipment for the arborist in the coming years.
  • Both national and regional diseases and infestations — such as emerald ash borer — are continuing to drive demand for skilled arborist services, for either extended treatment or the takedown and disposal of large trees in urban environments.
  • The need for larger equipment and arborists certified in technical tree removal is a growing trend we see as well.

Matt Hutchinson, Product Manager/Vermeer

  • We continue to see industry professionals seek out new ways to increase their efficiency and productivity.
  • We’re noticing more mulching head users switch from carbide cutting teeth to sharpened knives. Although knives require regular sharpening, they’re providing a productivity boost that operators want. The knives also produce a more attractive end product that customers desire.

Bill Schafer, Product Development Supervisor/Loftness

  • Difficulty in finding employees.
  • Difficulty to hire and retain CDL drivers.
  • Difficulty to find drivers that know how to drive manual transmissions.

Andy Price, Tree Care Market Manager/Altec

  • We are seeing growth in the battery-powered product segment as more and more professionals are seeing the multitude of benefits offered by battery-powered technology. Noise and emissions regulations in certain working environments — such as municipalities, schools, hospitals and many residential communities — continue to be a contributing factor in driving this trend. Arborists are also increasingly recognizing the cost-saving benefits and efficiencies battery products can provide.
  • Tree care professionals are continuing to buy the vast majority of their equipment from independent servicing dealers.

Kent Hall, Senior Product Manager/STIHL

  • One of the primary trends we’re seeing is the need to do more with less. Although the tree care industry is poised to experience moderate growth in the short term, many arborists and tree care contractors are looking to optimize their equipment fleet with smaller, nimbler and more productive equipment.
  • Both skid steer and compact track loaders have been popular equipment options for the industry; however, many tree care professionals are now looking at smaller equipment options with comparable lifting capacities as a substitute for their bulkier cousins.

Sean O’Halloran, Marketing Manager/Toro

We continue to see battery-powered products and innovation in sustainability as the number one trend. More and more arborists realize the benefits of battery-powered chainsaws when it comes to both rear-handle as well as top-handle saws. This is still an emerging trend and we’re just seeing the beginning of where the industry will take this over the next years. We are certain, though, that it will shape and define the future not only in replacing low-displacement gas saws but also more powerful, higher-displacement saws as well.

Christian Johnsson, Product Manager, Husqvarna

WHAT ARE SOME NEW OR RECENT PRODUCT OFFERINGS/TECHNOLOGIES YOUR COMPANY HAS FOR THE TREE CARE MARKET?

  • Labor seems to be the limiting factor in the growth of many of our customers’ businesses. There is available work, but skilled and qualified labor is in short supply. This has led Vermeer to continue focusing on the efficiency and productivity of our equipment. The launch of the newest Vermeer brush chipper, the AX19, is intended to continue to address this labor issue. The enhanced crush capability and pull-in force of our infeed system helps reduce operator interaction at the chipper to process large, branchy material and process more material in a normal day.
  • The Tree Commander remote control is also a standard feature, which allows control of the feed system when not standing next to the chipper. The fully featured, deluxe Tree Commander remote-control option can even adjust the chute and apply hydraulic crush. This remote operation allows us to create a unique synergy with our compact utility loaders, like the CTX100 mini skid steer.
  • The Vermeer brush chipper line now features the BC1000XL with an 89-hp gas engine, the BC1200XL with a 135-hp gas engine and the recently released 165-hp gas option for the BC1800XL.

Matt Hutchinson, Product Manager/Vermeer

  • Loftness has recently introduced a new Battle Ax drum mulcher, featuring a redesigned rotor to meet the needs of today’s industry professionals. The Battle Ax has unique depth gauges that maximize the performance of cutting knives, as well as carbide teeth.
  • Keep an eye out for a new disc mower, which we will be introducing soon.

Bill Schafer, Product Development Supervisor/Loftness

  • Our EC175-5S-FG remote-controlled tree-trimming unit.
  • An intentional and strategic expansion of both brick and mortar and remote service capabilities.

Andy Price, Tree Care Market Manager/Altec

  • The new STIHL BR 700 X backpack blower is one of the most powerful (64.8 cc) blowers in the STIHL range, delivering 34 Newtons (the force needed to accelerate 1 kg of mass at the rate of 1 m/sec2) of blowing force. Its fixedlength tube is a half-pound lighter than the BR 700 and features a more flexible pleated connecting hose, reducing fatigue and increasing the speed of cleanups by up to 20 percent (depending on battery and usage).
  • Earlier this year, STIHL launched several new high-performance pole pruners (HT 103, HT 132 and HT 133) featuring a redesigned gearbox, making the machines lighter and easy to maneuver (compared to previous models). With 710 cc fuel tanks, each pole pruner provides 30 percent longer run times than the previous models. The result is that users can spend less time refueling and more time cutting.
  • The STIHL Lightning Battery System is consistently expanding its professional lineup. Designed for professional use and long run-times, the AP Series features commercial-grade products such as the MSA 200 C B-Q chain saw, the extended reach HTA 85 pole pruner and the BGA 100 blower.

Kent Hall, Senior Product Manager/STIHL

  • Leading manufacturers of tree care equipment, like Toro, are focused on incorporating more operator-centric features into their equipment to enhance productivity and improve safety. One way these companies are doing this is by listening to the concerns of tree care professionals themselves and working with research and development teams to engineer solutions that can meet those needs.
  • With the recent launch of the Dingo TX 1000, compact utility loaders are now rivaling — and surpassing — the lifting capacities of some skid steer loaders and compact track loaders. This means tree care professionals can accomplish the same work at the same rate with a lower upfront equipment investment. Additionally, they can take advantage of all the benefits a compact utility loader offers, including easier mounting and dismounting, a better vantage point and improved accessibility in tight areas, among others.

Sean O’Halloran, Marketing Manager/Toro

A highlight of Husqvarna’s professional-grade 500 Series battery lineup is the 536Li XP chainsaw, which features a 14-inch bar and produces a high chain speed of 65.62 fts at max power. The chainsaw’s performance is complemented by ergonomic features, including a lightweight design, quiet operation and reduced vibrations, which minimize user fatigue. The Li-ion battery can be used interchangeably with the 536Li XP chainsaw along with the rest of Husqvarna’s battery-powered products, making it a natural fit for on-the-go professionals looking for efficient, high-quality outdoor power equipment that is also quiet and environmentally friendly.

Christian Johnsson, Product Manager, Husqvarna

WHAT’S THE OUTLOOK FOR THE TREE CARE/ARBORIST MARKET IN 2018, IN TERMS OF PRODUCT AND EQUIPMENT ADVANCEMENT?

  • All indications are that 2018 will continue to be a good year for tree care — consumer confidence, new housing starts and a rise in discretionary income all point to a positive growth trend. As a company, Vermeer will continue to listen to the needs of our customers as we innovate for the future.

Matt Hutchinson, Product Manager/Vermeer

  • At Loftness, we’re optimistic about the market and our opportunity to supply tree care professionals with the equipment to help them succeed.

Bill Schafer, Product Development Supervisor/Loftness

  • Products that utilize technology that can reduce the number of employees needed to perform tasks.
  • Products that can eliminate or reduce labor.
  • Products that allow tree work to be done more safely and by keeping workers on the ground, when possible.

Andy Price, Tree Care Market Manager/Altec

  • We believe the market will continue to progress in delivering product advancements that enhance arborists’ productivity in the field. This includes increased durability, improved ergonomics/comfort and fuel efficiency.
  • Manufacturers and suppliers are continuously evolving their products to better meet customer demands and the needs of the industry.

Kent Hall, Senior Product Manager/STIHL

  • In the short term, the tree care market is looking forward to moderate growth.
  • Equipment selection is more important than ever.
  • Equipment is getting smarter and more sophisticated by the day. Savvy tree care professionals are taking the time to properly evaluate their options on a regular basis.

Sean O’Halloran, Marketing Manager/Toro

We think there will be a lot of focus on lighter, gas-driven chainsaws dedicated for climbing and crown reductions as professionals continue to look for high-quality products that provide the best possible solution for each type of job.  At Husqvarna, we will also continue our focus on innovative battery products across the entire landscaping and tree care portfolio.

Christian Johnsson, Product Manager, Husqvarna

WHAT INFLUENCES PURCHASING DECISIONS FOR TREE CARE PROFESSIONALS?

  • Environmental, regulatory and labor issues are helping to define the future of the professional arborist. The acquisition cost of new equipment has continued to rise, as regåulatory emission standards have led to an increase in cost and complexity of diesel engines used on chippers, stump cutters and other arborist-related equipment.
  • The result of this has started to shift equipment purchasing decisions toward industrial gas engines in the 75- to 200-hp range. Provided we don’t see an inverse in fuel costs, we see this trend continuing based on the lower purchase price of gas-powered equipment.

Matt Hutchinson, Product Manager/Vermeer

  • Tree care professionals are looking for new products to increase their efficiency and productivity. But most of them are also looking for an equipment supplier that will support them long after the sale to help ensure their success in the field.

Bill Schafer, Product Development Supervisor/Loftness

  • Demonstrated and effective after-the-sale service.

Andy Price, Tree Care Market Manager/Altec

  • Tree care professionals are continuously seeking high-quality, durable products that are rugged enough to stand up to tough jobs, combined with efficiency features to get these jobs done.
  • Fuel continues to be one of the biggest expenses for companies in the tree care industry. For those who employ gasoline-powered equipment, a big driver in purchasing decisions is a product’s ability to maximize fuel efficiency, therefore minimizing this expense.
  • Tree care professionals tend to be an eco-conscious group. They’re looking for products that not only meet — and exceed — performance expectations, but also feature environmental efficiencies and/or minimize their environmental footprint.
  • Tree care work can be physically demanding, so arborists are continuing to seek products that reduce fatigue and make their jobs easier. Optimal power-to-weight ratios are essential for in-tree work. Manufacturers are keeping this in mind, designing products that are both powerful, yet lightweight.

Kent Hall, Senior Product Manager/STIHL

  • For tree care professionals, it’s all about productivity, versatility and maneuverability.
  • Much of arborists’ work varies from week to week. They require a fleet of equipment that can meet a variety of needs while still remaining cost effective and practical. One week the job might require clearing trees in a wide-open area; the next week it may be a tree felling in a small yard with limited access points. The tree care professional needs a fleet of equipment that can serve

Sean O’Halloran, Marketing Manager/Toro

We see three major factors that influence purchasing decisions. Durability – they want a saw that they can rely on for a long period of time. Service – they want a knowledgeable dealer that can provide service and repairs nearby. Ease of use – when climbing a tree or felling a large tree from the ground, they want a saw that is easy to start and handle with low vibrations so they can use it for longer periods of time without fatigue.

Christian Johnsson, Product Manager, Husqvarna