In the Trenches

Consider all options when deciding between trenchers.

When helping contractors choose between a pedestrian or ride-on rubber-tire trencher rental for a specific job, rental personnel need to first evaluate the customer’s job to determine which piece of equipment will be the most beneficial. After proper assessment of the job, the following questions should be considered:

What is the depth and width of the trench that is to be dug?
Are there any space constraints on the jobsite?
What are the soil conditions?
What are the physical limitations of the operator?
What equipment is needed to get the machine to and from the jobsite?

Requirements for a particular job help determine whether it’s better to use a pedestrian or ride-on trencher.

Which trencher is right for the job?
Knowing the depth and width of the needed trench, along with the trencher’s maximum digging depth is crucial, according to Todd Roorda, underground solution specialist for Vermeer Manufacturing. For example, water lines need to be installed below the frost line. If a trencher only has a maximum digging depth of 30 inches, and a 42-inch frost line exceeds the digging depth, the water line might freeze, causing problems for the contractor.
“Another factor to consider when choosing between a pedestrian or ride-on rubber-tire trencher is the jobsite, and possible constraints that it would pose,” Roorda says. “If a customer is working in a new housing development with zero lot lines, a ride-on trencher may be more beneficial, whereas if the customer is confined to the backyard due to fences or gates, a smaller pedestrian trencher may work best.”

Digging conditions must be considered in order to choose a unit with enough horsepower and machine weight to dig effectively. In difficult digging conditions, a ride-on trencher may prove more beneficial than a lower horsepower, lighter pedestrian machine that may stall and bounce possibly causing lower productivity, increased operator fatigue and abnormal machine wear.

“Generally, pedestrian trenchers provide a lower rental rate and increased mobility in tighter confined areas,” Roorda says. “Ride-on trenchers may provide a higher production rate due to their ability to dig more effectively in hard digging conditions.”

Rental options for rubber-tire units
Some contractors choose to rent rubber-tire trenchers if they don’t have the necessary capital to purchase a unit, but they’ve lined up work that requires a unit with certain specifications. Contractors have to look at the frequency of the type of work. Renting a machine may be more economical if he’s only trenching a couple of times a year. Roorda suggests that contractors consider rental fees. If the annual rental charge is equal to or greater than what a lease or purchase payment and maintenance costs would be, then the contractor should consider purchasing the unit.

Requirements for a particular job may also determine whether it’s better to rent. A contractor may own a machine that is too large or small for the job. In this case, it may be in the contractor’s best interest to rent a machine that best fits the job specifications.

During a job, contractors should follow the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance schedule on rented units. Ignoring the maintenance schedule can cost contractors delays and overruns. It’s important to note that most rental companies include a fee for routine maintenance within the rental fee.

Rental options benefit landscape contractor
Terry Pritchett, president of Premier Landscape Services, a full-service landscape and irrigation company in Roswell, Ga., rents trenchers from time to time.

Pritchett rents pedestrian trenchers from a rental company in Marietta, Ga., to dig trenches to install irrigation in residential areas. “They have a good selection and a variety of machine sizes to meet our needs,” he says. “We let them know the size of job that we are working on, along with the terrain that we will be working in and the accessibility that we’ll have, and they assist us in finding the right machine for the job.”

Pritchett has rented several pedestrian rubber-tire trenchers, including their most recent rental, a Vermeer RT200. His crew used the RT200 with an auger attachment to dig under sidewalks and a driveway to install a complete irrigation system for a home on an acre lot rather than digging by hand.
According to Pritchett, using the RT200 proved effective and efficient. “One of our crew members used the trencher for only four to five hours to dig trenches, where it would have taken three or four crew members two days to dig the trenches by hand.”

The compact size of pedestrian rubber-tire trenchers allows them to fit in most pickup truck beds, making them easy to transport to a jobsite.
Pritchett says that trenchers have provided his company a huge labor savings. He can group jobs together and accommodate several projects at a time while renting a trencher. “We tend to rent trenchers a couple of times a month during our busy season,” he says. “While it’s on our list for us one day to purchase a trencher, we have satisfaction in knowing that our rental store has the right machine to meet our needs.” RER

Liz Duff is a technical writer for Two Rivers Marketing, Des Moines, Iowa.

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