Arguably the most important piece of equipment you will purchase is your work truck.
It’s how you get to your customers and it holds the tools and mechanisms that allow you to do your job each day. As one tree care pro put it, in a discussion thread on Tree Services magazine’s forum, TreeServicesSite, “I think your equipment says a lot about your business. If you show up to a customer’s house with a backfiring, rickety, hydraulic oil-leaking bucket truck with a crooked boom, they probably won’t recommend you to their neighbors.”
Several manufacturers in various parts of the country can supply work trucks and all the necessary components to get the job done. With that in mind, let’s look at some of what select manufactures can offer.
Nestled on a 28-acre campus in rural southwest Virginia, Forestry Equipment of Virginia’s (FEVA) primary focus is on building aerial lift trucks for the independent tree trimmer. In addition to two types of bucket trucks – rear mount and forestry – FEVA stocks several types of lifts and chassis (options like Freightliner, International and Ford) that can be assembled into the combination that fits each company best.
Many questions have to be answered before purchasing a work truck, such as “What are the majority of trees my company works on?”, “Do I have a place to keep the truck?”, “How much is the insurance a year?” and “What about fuel economy?”
But it all starts with the type of truck needed.
FEVA’s rear-mount units feature working heights of 45 feet to 75 feet. Users can choose from a variety of toolbox configurations and additions, like a plywood rack. The rear-mount bucket truck does not come with a chip box attached but is ideal for a smaller crew, according to Bob Dray, FEVA’s vice president of sales and marketing, as this option gives users more reach and the ability to back the truck into a customer’s driveway – thanks to a tight turning radius and enhanced maneuverability, while allowing for a smaller footprint in the customer’s yard.
“With the rear mount, you can come in with a small crew, trim the tree, drop the tree and move on to the next job while the chip truck and chipper come in and clean up that job,” Dray says.
One of FEVA’s more popular rear-mount trucks, according to Dray, is the XT60 model, an under-CDL (commercial driver’s license) automatic transmission vehicle that allows for 65 feet of working height. The XT60 is a popular choice because it satisfies several industry trends customers seek when purchasing a work truck, specifically the desire to stay under CDL requirements, drive an automatic transmission vehicle and have the highest possible reach.
“These are great trucks for the industry today,” Dray says. “We can build it on a very compact unit, if you put it on a Freightliner chassis with a set-back front axle, and a really short 96 CA (cab-to-axle ratio). … It’s a pretty handy truck.”
The forestry bodies are much heavier than the rear-mount style and include toolboxes and high-capacity, heavy-duty chip boxes. The lifts on these units are overcenter and also have working heights of 45 feet to 75 feet.
FEVA also customizes trucks with areas to store mats and cones, and offers skidder-mounted buckets for right-of-way work and smaller packages with no aerial capability with a chip box equipped on the back of an under-CDL Ford F-550 chassis.
Southco Industries, a forestry body specialist in Shelby, North Carolina, focuses on forestry bodies that can be fully customized to the needs of any tree care company as well as various chassis cabs like Ford, Dodge, Freightliner and International.
Choosing a proper work truck that suits a company’s needs comes down to the desired size of the truck, first and foremost. But there are other factors to consider, such as maintenance and service, according to Richard Goforth, Southco vice president.
“As far as choosing a chassis and trucks needing to be serviced … if you’ve got a Ford dealership next to you, you probably want to choose a Ford,” Goforth says. “It’s about where you can get the best service on what brand chassis you buy.”
Southco manufactures multipurpose units – the MP11 or MP1472 – that cater to tree care companies that specialize in smaller, residential and mainly private work.
“This unit is three trucks in one, you get so many uses out of one vehicle,” Goforth says.
Southco’s most popular forestry body is the customizable S1472, which is a 14-foot long, 12-foot tall, cross box assembly that has 10-to-30-cubic-yard capacity with optional features such as various toolbox sizes, cone holders, top ladder racks with access steps and more.
“The whole purpose here is to save [tree care workers] labor,” Goforth says. “That’s what we’re trying to do, that’s what the guy in the field is trying to do. That’s the reason for log loaders and lift gates and anything that helps get the product in the truck so the worker can get off the property. We want to make the work easier and faster.”
Customization options are a vital part of Southco’s service to users, according to Goforth. Companies of all sizes have specific needs that can’t always be met with standard packages and combinations of truck bodies, chassis and other accessories.
“We will custom-build any body,” Goforth adds. “For example, for some customers we’ll make the forestry body out of aluminum, as opposed to steel. On aerial units, weight is a big concern. You put a steel body in an aerial unit, and the cab and everything that goes with it, and then fill it full of chips … you’re going to overload it.”
One of Southco’s newest additions to its fleet of forestry bodies is a popular anti-theft toolbox mechanism that now comes standard on most packages.
Manufacturing various forestry bodies, aerial units and chippers, Altec has a serious imprint in the tree care industry.
As far as the forestry bodies, go, one of the company’s more popular models – according to Andy Price, market manager of tree care equipment & bodies – is the AF1360 (13-feet long, 60-inch-high sides) chip dump. It has notable safety features, such as a manual safety prop with a side lever so that maintenance staff can ensure the body is properly secured in the full-tilt position before performing any maintenance underneath the dump body. Additionally, ladders and pruners – which traditionally have been stored on the street side of the vehicle – are mounted on the curbside of the AF1360 body. This helps to keep crews out of harm’s way from vehicle traffic when grabbing tools they need.
“One of the very first things we consider for all of our products, including bodies, is safety,” Price said. “When presented with the opportunity, we are able to offer any service body that a tree care company might need.”
In Creedmor, North Carolina, where Altec’s tree care operations is primarily based, aerial lifts of varying sizes, including Altec’s LR7 series, are manufactured. The LR7 series has aerials ranging in size from 56 to 75 feet, with an elevator. These aerials are available in front or rear mount configurations and feature insulating lower and upper booms to reach difficult areas.
Altec – which supplies bodies that are steel, aluminum or fiberglass – offers 6-to-12-inch capacity chippers, with the 12-inch model the most common for tree care companies. These chippers are offered in drum or disc design and are gasoline or Tier-4 compliant diesel powered
“Current EPA regulations requiring Tier 4-compliant diesel presents an opportunity for customers to reevaluate their chipper power choices in the future,” said Price. “Altec is prepared to offer both gas and Tier 4-diesel options.”
One of the primary reasons for using aerial lifts in trees is to increase efficiency and productivity. Recent innovations show manufacturers are focused on making this equipment even more efficient and productive.
South Dakota-based Terex, for example, has been focused on making its equipment easier to operate and to work on, key themes the company hears from its customers in the tree care business.
“One of the things we’ve been looking at is balancing proven with innovation,” says Joe Caywood, director of marketing with Terex. “What we found out is that, from a market standpoint, most folks are operating in an environment where they have to have that reliability.”
With that in mind, Terex unveiled its XT Pro Tree Trimmer series in August. The XT Pro series is an upgrade of Terex’s previous trimmer trucks, which had been around since the late 1990s, according to Caywood.
“From a performance aspect we saw some opportunities to improve,” Caywood says of the XT Pro series. “We wanted to challenge ourselves by taking weight out of the product. Essentially, we have a boom that actually we increased capacity in. … We went from a 360-pound platform capacity to a 400-pound platform capacity. We re-engineered the hydraulic lift, as the ideal weight was to go on a 13,000-pound chassis. The focus here was on recognizing that we are seeing a need for larger, taller units.”
The XT Pro trimmers – including the XT Pro 56, 60 and 60/70 models – also include a longitudinal hydraulic lift option that provides up to 75 feet of working height. The compact longitudinal lift is lighter and shorter than its predecessors as the new design accommodates an 11-foot chip box so there is not reduction in chip storage space, which was the goal, according to Caywood.
“[Losing weight on the trimmer] can be offset by maintaining chipper box capacity,” Caywood says.
Units in the XT series have the capability to mount a 75-foot unit on a 13,200-pound front-axle chassis, important figures for tree care pros to know.
Another important factor in developing this new line of trimmer was operating cost. Caywood says more equipment owners are paying attention to maintenance costs, and want to bring equipment in for service only once a year – at most.
Terex Environmental also offers several arborist chippers, grinders, whole-tree chippers and various overcenter and non-overcenter Ranger booms.