Trencher Traffic

Feb. 1, 2007
Contractors and weekend do-it-yourselfers have different needs when it comes to renting ride-on trenchers. To successfully rent to both markets, rental

Contractors and weekend do-it-yourselfers have different needs when it comes to renting ride-on trenchers. To successfully rent to both markets, rental companies should take the time to understand the specific needs of each customer who walks through the door.

Contractors typically rent ride-on trenchers when they have a particular application to complete but do not have the right-sized unit in their fleet. “They may not be able to use the unit often enough to justify the cost, so they will factor the rental of the required unit into their job bid,” says Deb Whitten, rubber tire segment manager at Vermeer. “However, they may eventually purchase the unit if the job requires a rental term of more than three or four months.”

Contractors look for performance and reliability in their trenching equipment to make the most of the time they have. Renting a ride-on trencher can mean more return on their investment, especially when it means they can complete a job more quickly.

A ride-on trencher must be equipped with the proper chain and cutting tools for the conditions in which users are trenching. Good spoil-handling capabilities and proper ground-engagement tools are important. The trencher must be optimized for weight to horsepower, hydraulic performance and set up properly for the highest performance results.

The choice of trencher for contractor customers depends on the application and the digging conditions in which they operate. In Midwest dirt, contractors often need a small trencher in the 37- to 46-hp range or a medium-sized trencher, about 76 hp, with a partial cup-cutter set-up. In Texas or Arizona, where the conditions can be rocky, they often use a medium trencher or a large 99- to 120-hp trencher with a rockwheel cutting attachment utilizing rotary carbide teeth. In addition, the correct cutter patterns are essential to meet the productivity needs of contractors.

Homeowner rental needs

A small ride-on tractor in the 37- to 46-hp range with a trencher attachment is the best option for most do-it-yourself customers. They are easier to operate and do not require special permits to transport. Most models include a backfill blade for easy backfilling of the trench, while select models also include a backhoe attachment. Most pedestrian units do not have backhoe options, nor do they provide backfill blade capabilities.

The weekend do-it-yourself customer often rents a ride-on trencher for a specific need, such as putting in a water line, gas line or sewer line. “This renter is usually less concerned with high performance, since he has a specific job to do and will return the unit after the job is completed,” says Whitten. “Unlike contractors, they tend to require smaller and easier-to-operate units. Renting a ride-on trencher will allow them deeper digging depths and reduce fatigue for larger jobs.”

DIY customers may choose walk-behind or pedestrian trenchers if a ride-on trencher is too large, too difficult to operate or cost-prohibitive for their budget.

Market to boost rental income

Trenchers can be marketed to both customer segments by following a few guidelines, such as keeping rental fleets well maintained and trading in a unit when it is no longer performing well. Because contractors are especially concerned with downtime, let them know that if a unit requires maintenance or repairs, those needs will be taken care of within a certain period of time.

Build confidence with the DIY customer segment by advertising easy-to-operate equipment and providing training for operators. It may also help to suggest product installation tips to do-it-yourself customers who need help with the job they are trying to do.

“Any extra services that make contractors feel they are renting well-maintained, high-performing equipment will help,” Whitten says. “Services that make do-it-yourself customers feel they will get training and assistance with their home projects would be good marketing strategies.”

Karen Swanson is a technical writer for Two Rivers Marketing, Des Moines, Iowa.

Questions for trencher customers

  • What type of job are you going to do?
  • What size is the product you are installing? This will determine the width and the depth required for the trenching attachment.
  • What are the soil conditions like? Clay, cobble, dirt, sand?
  • When do you need to have this job completed?
  • Have you operated a trencher before?