Mowing Down Ground Maintenance Projects

March 2005, Government Fleet - Feature

by John Vasquez

Trimming freeway embankments is not like pulling weeds from the driveway on a Sunday morning. One can imagine the type of machinery it takes to clean up large areas of wild, dense grass, or to mow entire parks. Within each city, state, and government agency, the needs will vary from one to the other with different jobs calling for different products. One municipality may have to tend to larger areas, requiring a product that can handle a heavy workload. Another municipality may only need a few machines to perform small tasks around town. The key is to assess what your needs are and to purchase equipment accordingly. Budget constraints are always on the long list of problems facing fleet managers, and overspending on equipment you don't need can put a squeeze on your financial situation. It's always a good idea to test out the equipment whenever possible. Fleet managers should take into account how long the product will last, maintenance costs, and the type of area that has to be tended to.

Mowers: Big vs. Small

With the increasing workload that ground maintenance equipment has to endure, companies are producing higher-quality mowers and cutters. And not only are the products lasting longer, the ingenuity that goes into creating the mowers keeps improving over time. Enterprising Europa Inc. has come up with a line of products that utilize an all-in-one feature, says Roland Jarl, COO of Enterprising Europa. The Enterprising Europa Gallmac WMW 115 has 20 different attachments that fasten to the end of the machine's hydraulic arm. "You can use it for so many tasks," says Jarl. "You can use it for mowing, or brush cutting. Also you can use it as a front-end loader, a forklift, or for excavation." With an arm that can reach up to 35 feet, workers sit in the cab and drive the machine up and down embankments using the hydraulic mower attached on the end of the arm. The WMW 115 can help municipalities that need a lot of cleanup along highway embankments and hard-to-mow hillsides. The WMW 115 also incorporates a swing lock to keep it stable on the side of a hill while it mows. Jarl explains, "It has a very low center of gravity. That makes it a very good product for applications of this type of work." Another helpful feature of the WMW 115 is its zero tail swing. The machine can occupy land with a radius of eight feet and not go outside of that. Along with its 360-degree rotation, the WMW 115 can fit into some tight working conditions. Some municipalities aren't going to need heavy machinery for their ground maintenance needs, though. Parks and fields may require smaller, riding mowers to get the job done.

Kubota Tractor Corp.'s F60 series is a line of diesel-powered 2- and 4WD front-mount mowers designed specifically for turf maintenance. Ken Robertson, parks and recreation superintendent for DeKalb County (Ga.), has found that the F2560 seems to be a favorite with the employees. "I have nine in my shop," says Robertson. "There are two other shops just like mine. We have a total of 23 in use." For the DeKalb County Parks and Recreation Department, the Kubota mowers seem to handle the heavy workload with little or no problem. On average, the county spends about 1,390 hours on ground maintenance a week. "They'll outlast anything out there," says Bill Eckel, fleet maintenance superintendent for DeKalb County. "And we know because our people are pretty severe with the mowers. They hold up quite well." With most of the workload being parks, Robertson says that his Kubotas have no problems with inclines. "The Kubotas seem to have a center of gravity that'll hold you to a hill." Along with stability, the F2560 also boasts a 25-hp diesel engine that burns cleaner with more efficiency. In addition, all models in the F60 series feature Hydrostatic Transmission (HST), giving more maneuverability when changing directions.

Easy Maintenance Adds Years

Manufacturers understand what their machines go through on a day-to-day basis. The mowers being produced today are built to last for a long time. But that doesn't mean they don't need daily, weekly, or monthly maintenance. Jarl says that the WMW 115 needs a daily greasing of the joints after a hard day's work. Changing the air filters and oil is a must as well. "The mower is like any other mower," explains Jarl. "Most of the time, the cutting blades have to be sharpened. It's all individual for each municipality and the kind of work that they're doing." And the life span? Jarl says that the company doesn't know since the mower has only been around for 10 years. But, he says, the first ones are still going strong. As for the Kubotas, even with the pounding they take in DeKalb County, both Eckel and Robertson agree that with constant upkeep the mowers will last a long time. Eckel says they keep the mowers for about seven years. "They'll last longer, but we typically keep them around for about seven years." Eckel says that the Kubotas receive monthly maintenance. "If it's got over 40 hours on it, we change the engine oil, the filter, inspect the blades, remove and replace blades, tighten the belts, and set the tension." Robertson mainly sees a constant wear-and-tear of the 72-inch protective, front-end deck, which houses the side discharge mower. "And the only reason the deck wears out is because we mow and maintain such rough terrain areas," he says. The decks wear out before the actual unit does, explains Robertson.

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