It’s not uncommon to see skid-steer, compact-track and mini-track loaders as well as compact tractors in a grounds-maintenance crew’s equipment fleet. But as utility vehicles become more versatile with the addition of attachment capabilities, an increasing number of groundskeepers are taking a second look at these machines.
Utility vehicles have long been popular pieces of equipment for people in buildings and grounds, and landscaping and nursery markets, especially when transporting people, tools and materials. A big part of utility vehicles’ appeal is that they’re user-friendly. Car-like features of a steering wheel, foot accelerator and foot brake make an easy transition for just about anyone to operate a utility vehicle.
And when compared to ATVs, utility vehicles are able to carry and tow more weight. For example, the average two-passenger utility vehicle weighs less than 1,500 pounds, applies just 11 psi of ground pressure and can carry between 800 and 1,200 pounds of cargo while traveling up to 25 mph.
To help satisfy customers’ demands, manufacturers have come out with several varieties of utility products. Groundskeepers can choose from 4×2 and 4×4 two-passenger vehicles, 4×4 four-passenger vehicles and a 4×4 two-passenger vehicle with a front-mounted attachment system. In addition to utility vehicles, there’s also a utility work machine, which is ideal for groundskeepers who need all the functionality of a utility vehicle, but more muscle and power. A utility work machine is larger than a utility vehicle, weighing a little less than 5,500 pounds, and it can carry between 1,500 and 4,000 pounds of cargo. A utility work machine also can do more because of the 38 available attachments.
If you’re a groundskeeper who already owns a utility vehicle, it’s not hard to transform it into a jobsite’s new workhorse. There are several winch-accessory and front- or rear-receiver hitch kits available on the market for utility vehicles. These kits make it relatively easy for owners to connect push-, pull- and lift-type attachments.
Get The Most For Your Money
Of all the attachments available for utility vehicles (the exact number varies by manufacturer), snow blade and mower attachments are the most popular among owners, says Mike Amerman, attachment product representative for a utility vehicle company. For those in the buildings and grounds market, a snow blade and mower are considered necessities. Many groundskeepers might use their utility vehicles with the snow blade and mower attachments to supplement larger equipment. While performing snow removal in the winter, one employee might clear large parking lots with a skid-steer loader and snowblower attachment, while another worker uses the utility vehicle with a snow blade attachment to plow snow from sidewalks.
A utility vehicle attachment that’s often overlooked by groundskeepers is the sprayer attachment, notes Amerman. He says utility vehicle owners can choose a 50-gallon sprayer attachment, which fits in the machine’s cargo box and has a 10-foot spring-loaded boom with 30 psi of spraying pressure. The sprayer attachment provides the best of both worlds because it comes with a spray wand for tackling small jobs quickly that require spot-spraying. For large-area coverage, all the operator must do is attach the tank and boom, and turn on the attachment.
Though these attachments make utility vehicles extremely versatile, they have their limitations, Amerman says. When it comes to push-, pull- and lift-type attachments, their strength is restrictive. Amerman says utility vehicle operators shouldn’t expect to lift several thousand pounds of dirt, rocks or other material with a winch-mounted bucket attachment. Instead, he says, utility vehicle attachments should be used to perform light-duty tasks.
However, knowing that operators are always wanting to push machines to do more, some manufacturers have begun to step up to the challenge.
A utility vehicle company recently introduced an attachment system that can lift loads up to 500 pounds as high as 2 feet. The attachment system enables operators to perform a wider range of tasks, Amerman says. The attachment arm operates five attachments, including a bucket, mower, pallet fork, snow blade and push broom. With these attachments, utility vehicle owners can mow, sweep and move a greater amount of material faster.
So how do you know if utility vehicle attachments are right for you? And if they are, how do you decide which attachments to purchase? First, Amerman suggests that groundskeepers determine how they’ll use their utility vehicle and the types of jobs they want it to take on. As with any equipment purchase, the efficiency or productivity that the attachment provides should outweigh its cost.
For many groundskeepers who place an attachment on their utility vehicle for the first time, safety becomes an even greater concern. Amerman advises utility vehicle owners to always be aware of what’s around them when driving or operating the machine with an attachment. And they should wear their seat belts and familiarize themselves with vehicle and attachment owner’s manuals.
In the coming years, Amerman says people shouldn’t be surprised if they see more attachment options for utility vehicles. As customers demand more power and versatility from what was once known as a “recreational” vehicle, manufacturers will answer the call. They may never take the place of a compact utility loader or skid-steer loader, but gone are the days when they were only expected to transport people and things.