As we enter fall, now is the time when landscape contractors start thinking about replacing or upgrading equipment for the winter and next year. While the word coming from the industry and contractors is that business is improving, or maybe settling into a new normal, equipment represents a sizable investment. In uncertain economic times, such expenditures are scrutinized more closely.
Should you buy new or used? Should you buy or lease? Does the new equipment advancements justify buying new? These are just a few of the questions facing the landscape contractor. LC/DBM conducted a recent survey of both licensed landscape contractors and equipment manufacturer personnel to find out what landscape professionals are thinking and what they see for the present and the future.
The Komatsu America Corp. D61-23 crawler dozers use the popular D51-22 as a design starting point, which was redesigned to meet EPA Tier 4 Interim regulations, while providing a larger 130-to-160 HP package that push with a net 168 HP at 2,200 rpm. The D61-23 is designed for a wide variety of applications, including land clearing, grading, forestry and site work. A full guarding package, hydraulic winch and other attachments
In a year-end LC/DBM survey, 44-percent of landscape contractor respondents reported sales growth, 21 percent said it was the same as the previous year and 29 percent said their sales were lower. But in projections for 2012, the respondents were a bit more upbeat. 58 percent said they expect sales to be higher, 25 percent the same and 16 percent expect 2012 to be lower than 2011.
As for the professionals in the equipment industry, like the contractors’ response, it’s a mixed bag as well. According to David Steger, product manager for Takeuchi Manufacturing, “We have seen strong recovery in the compact equipment segments in the last couple of years for both sales and rentals. 2012 has been strong to date.”
The SourceOne PL855 hydrostatic drive aerator offers a high productivity per hour rate, aeration results and low maintenance costs. It is especially effective on soft or spongy turf and soils where self-propulsion keeps the aerator moving forward at an appropriate aeration speed.
Pat Cappucci of BOB-CAT, Classen, Little Wonder, Mantis, and Ryan and Steiner, stated: “Overall, our sales have recovered to be roughly equal to the levels seen in 2007 / 2008. The mix has changed some, as customers have sought higher productivity and more cost-effective solutions, but overall it is nice to see that much of the commercial activity is back.”
of Loadhandler Products Corp. reported, “We're at 49 percent of year 2006, which was our best recent year in sales volume. We're at 77 percent of 2009.”
Brad Murphy, COO and Executive Vice-President, Subaru Industrial Power Products reported excellent sales: “2011 was our best year ever, and 2012 is on track to be even stronger. We certainly weren’t immune to the economic challenges that hit the industry in recent years, but I feel our strategy in how we handled it is the reason why we’ve continued to do so well.”
The TurfEx TS200 is an electric-powered spreader attachment for zero-turn mowers. It features a polyethylene hopper and adjustable spinner, and is capable of spreading seed, fertilizer and icemelt.
James Truan, vice president of sales and marketing for TrynEx International reported, “Recently, we’ve experienced significant growth in our smaller to mid-sized products, which hints that there is an increase in the number of start-up contractors. We have also seen increased demand for our larger models, which shows us that established contractors are looking to upgrade their fleets.” Truan attributes the sales increases to: “There is a high demand for efficient products.
Contractors want accurate application, low maintenance and reduced fuel consumption. They also want the ability to measure their applications, so they can keep better track of material usage. We predict strong sales growth for our SnowEx and
TurfEx product lines because we are committed to innovation. There is always a need for new, innovative equipment, and we’ll be there to provide it.”
Paladin Attachments’ Harley D4 Power Box Rake teams with compact tool carriers to deliver leveling, aeration and preparation of soil for seeding. It weighs 22 percent less than previous models to provide better balance and maneuverability without compromising strength. It features a new hex-drive system and direct-drive motor that has been completely embedded into the rotating drum, protecting it from ground debris and allowing for improved performance and reliability with fewer components and less maintenance. It provides the operator the ability to adapt to soil moisture conditions and choose the size of material to leave in
Predictions For The Next Couple Years
Brad Murphy, COO and Executive Vice-President, Subaru Industrial Power Products predicted: “For Subaru, I feel very strongly that our sales will continue to increase this year and in 2013. The market’s evolution in terms of equipment lifecycles is probably the biggest factor. We’re seeing contractors and rental centers keep their equipment longer than in previous years, sometimes four or five years, before upgrading. From the manufacturer’s perspective, if the equipment is expected to last longer, it has to be built better. The engine is the heart of any piece of equipment, so that’s where we come in. Our investment into producing a better engine is paying off, and been a driving factor in our increase sales during a time when most were and still are struggling to get by.”
Grasshopper offers fuel-efficient zero-turn mowers and a range of year-round implements – collection systems, snow removal and grounds maintenance equipment – that provide easy operation, versatility and time-savings
Murphy added: “As for the rest of the equipment industry in general, I’m optimistic that sales will increase across the board in 2012 and 2013, even if only slightly. One of the major factors behind this is the rental market. It’s a trickle effect. Contractors still may not be investing in new equipment purchases, but we know they’re renting it. Rental centers need to be prepared, so they’re the ones purchasing newer equipment. Also, we’re coming upon the time when a lot of rental centers will need to upgrade their fleets, as they’ve been hesitant to do so in the past few years. So I think the combination of those factors will lead to an overall sales increase in the coming years.”
Turf Teq’s model 1305 edger features a 13HP Honda engine with hydrostatic forward and reverse transmission. Its model 1305SP can be converted to power broom, power rake, brush cutter or plow.
Weather and the Economy
Pat Cappucci said, “The big trump cards continue to be weather and economy. This is the second year in a row that a serious drought and excessive heat are hampering turf-grass growth, and the economy is still stuck in neutral. If housing recovers, and weather patterns normalize, we should see a decent return to growth in the equipment market.”
David Steger, Product Manager for Takeuchi Manufacturing predicted, “we believe there will be a slight increase for 2013. This will be driven by a number of factors including an improving housing sector that will add to expanded growth in the landscaping and residential construction market segments.”
Nathan Blom, Director of Marketing, EasyPro Pond Products commented, “With an uptick in the overall landscaping market and increased product offerings, we expect 2013 to be an increase on what has been a steady 2012.” Mike Simmon of Grasshopper sees the trend away from price as the top priority. Simmon stated: “The trend away from getting the lowest price for equipment will continue, as operators look for longevity, comfort and multi-use productivity for better return on investment and healthier bottom lines. Sustainable lawn-care practices will also continue to trend for the remainder of the year and in years to come. Reducing fuel consumption to control costs and limit impact on the environment from emissions are of primary concern. To help contractors calculate annual fuel expenses, emissions reductions and overall equipment profitability, Grasshopper launched its Fuel & Emissions Calculator available at grasshopperfuelsavings.com in May 2012.”
This PK 60-Gallon Pro Trailer Mounted Sprayer features a 5-GPM Delavan self-priming demand pump, all aluminum trailer mounted frames, a 15-foot coiled hose and a Dexter EZ Lube Torsion Axle.
According to Cappucci, as far as the near future: “It is difficult to make sales projections in an election year as there is so much uncertainty. That being said, grass will still grow and people will still want manicured landscapes. The growth in backyard makeovers will continue its climb and no doubt power equipment will play an important role in the change of the backyard landscape as well. As mentioned previously, I do see the potential for an increase in new housing startups with banks feeling the pressure from the government to start increasing new mortgage lending in exchange for paying back what they owe to the taxpayers. If these assumptions hold true, and, if the winter of 2012/2013 makes a snowy comeback in the east, I expect an increase in equipment sales next year in many of our product categories.”
of Loadhandler Products Corp predicts a rough couple more years: “My opinion is that sales will remain flat and unexciting for at least two more years, but eventually will pick up slowly as will the US economy. I believe there's a trend for more DIY, meaning increasingly folks will want equipment, but will not have extra money to spend until 2014
For spreading compost, Earth & Turf Products offers their Model 45HP walk-behind Compact Topdresser, which features a 4.5 cubic foot hopper capacity, to keep re-loadings to a minimum. It is 30 inches wide and spreads materials using a reciprocating screen design), which produces in one pass an even, full-width spread pattern, 1/8 to 1/4 inches thick.
Rising Gas Prices Benefit Propane
Jim Coker of Envirogard sees propane as an up and coming fuel option for landscape equipment. The company’s propane conversion kits have had increased sales even during the economic downturn. Coker commented, “With the rise in gasoline and the effect ethanol is having on small engines, propane is a
According to Milan D. Blaho, of Heritage Oak Farm, Inc.
ProLine Equipment Division, “Our current year sales are still lagging those of the peak some five years
ago, but we're seeing a strong recovery and hope to be back by the end of next year.”
When hooked to 30-to-59 HP tractors, Land Pride's SB15 Series Snow Blowers offer excellent snow removal. They are available in 74-inch widths, and can be upgraded with optional hydraulic or electric chute and deflector shield, optional front cutting edge, and optional skid shoes. The 16-inch auger and 24-inch impeller make short work of the biggest snow removal
Milan D. Blaho, of Heritage Oak Farm, Inc. stated: “We see the long-term trend to be strongly upward once the market has absorbed all the excess equipment inventory that was shed by failing landscape firms and nurseries at fire-sale prices. That was probably the largest single
factor responsible for our slow recovery, even more so than the slow recovery
in the housing market. The demand for labor will continue to rise, and the demand for labor-saving equipment will rise along with it as a result of labor shortages. Stronger sales this year
were delayed, we believe, by the very mild winter throughout the US and Canada that limited the revenue enjoyed by the snow pushers. The impact on their bottom line, we suspect, was very dramatic, and limited their choice this
Spring in what commitments they could make for new equipment. 2013, we believe, will improve even further than will 2012, at least for our segment of the market.”
The Takeuchi TL10 loader delivers 92 horsepower, 11,067 pounds of pushing power and boasts a tip-load of 6,867 pounds (7,793 pounds with optional counterweight).
Repairing The Old Or Replace
Tonya Bair of
Bair Products, Inc. reported that their replacement parts business is booming, “We are blessed to have a new sales high each year since our start. That is because we offer the end user a heavy-duty part that is made to last longer than factory parts saving money in the long run. New equipment undercarriages are finally being manufactured to last longer and endure daily wear and tear in the field. We have yet to see a sales decrease, mainly because many customers cannot afford new equipment and must continue to repair what they have. We can offer those customers a solution to their immediate problem and give them parts that will last many times over factory parts saving them money and down time in the future.”
BOMAG’s BVP Series single-direction plate compactors are designed for a variety of jobs, from soil or asphalt compaction to paver and patio installation. The BVP Series includes two models. The 183-pound BVP10/36 covers a working width of 14.2 inches and produces 2,250 pounds of centrifugal force. The 201-pound BVP18/45 has a working width of 17.7 inches and delivers 4,050 pounds of centrifugal force. These compactors include a base plate, offering extra width for compaction below fences or boundaries, and an optional Vulcolan mat to
prevent damage to paving stone or
Renting Equipment Over Buying
One area that has seen significant growth is the leasing and renting of landscape equipment. According to Andy Lewis, Director of Marketing, Compact Power Equipment Centers, a company that partners with The Home Depot to provide landscape equipment, “We leverage their real estate, creating a convenience value for the landscape contractor. Our best rental items are the Terex compact track loaders, Kubota mini excavators and tractor loader backhoes and Altec 6-inch chipper shredders. Mini Skids and trenchers are also very popular
According to David Steger, Product Manager for Takeuchi Manufacturing, “As far as trends are concerned, we have seen the rental segment have substantial growth; Dealers, National Rental companies, and independent rental companies alike continue to add fleet to meet the existing market demand. Moreover, we are seeing more end-use customers rent equipment prior to purchase to lower acquisition costs and improve their position
The Loadhandler is constructed of a heavy-gauge poly fabric rolled onto a steel bar that runs the length of the tailgate. To load, unroll the dragsheet to cover the truck bed. To unload, lower the tailgate, insert the crank handle into the end of the roller bar and rewind the dragsheet. Reported unloading capacity has increased to
Lewis went on to comment, “The rental revenues are substantially higher this year. “With the housing market turmoil of recent years, many homeowners have chosen property improvement over relocation. This is certainly beneficial for the landscape sector.” Lewis attributes the rise in rentals to: “With weaker work pipelines, and economic uncertainty, many landscapers have opted for rental over purchasing equipment.” Lewis sees this continuing, commenting, “We have an expansion of goal of 328 additional locations through 2013. Our lines of equipment are geared towards property improvement and landscape install. Likewise we believe we will see a boost when housing starts trend upwards, but we are dependent on new housing starts. Property improvement continues to be a strong contributor to revenue.”
Crysteel’s Aluminum E-Tipper dump body weighs up to 50 percent less than traditional carbon-steel dump bodies, which results in fuel cost savings, as well as less wear on tires and
Beside the rising prices at the pump, the biggest issue concerning fuels over the past year has been the controversy dogging E-15 ethanol. Surprisingly, 67 percent of participants in the LC/DBM survey did not indicate that E-15 is a serious issue for them, which might likely be because they have not encountered it yet.
Of the 33 percent who said that E-15 has impacted their business, the comments have been universally negative. This outlook can be been summed up by several reader comments: “Ethanol fuel is ruining the performance and longevity of all my small engines. I constantly have to treat the fuel and drain the equipment. Everything about ethanol is negative.” Another surveyed landscape contractor added: “The introduction of ethanol has had a terrible effect on my equipment, from decreased torque to damaged engines.”
Rugby’s S-2000 series platforms offer high-tensile steel rub rails, a full rear apron and double-walled stake pockets. Three models of the S-2000 series are available with a standard duty model, heavy-duty model and a super heavy-duty
Gas, Diesel And Alternative Fuels
Survey respondents confirmed the fact that gasoline and diesel fuels are the ones favored by landscape contractors. When asked what were their preferred fuels, landscape contractors listed gasoline and diesel at 77 and 72 percent respectively, with bio-diesel and electric at at seven percent, and propane coming in at
According to David Steger, of Takeuchi Manufacturing: “Diesel is still the go-to method of powering compact excavators and loaders and will remain so for the foreseeable future. What you are more likely to see (as opposed to different fuels) is improvements with engine efficiencies to help offset some of the increased engine cost that result from the more stringent emission standards. The industry may even see some very small equipment (less than 25 HP) migrate from diesel to gas powered engines.”
As for what Murphy sees in the future: “I feel emissions regulations have been and will continue to be a major player in the equipment market. In terms of larger, diesel-powered equipment, you’re hard-pressed to go more than a day without hearing a mention of Tier 4; it’s clearly the biggest factor affecting those manufacturers, as well as the fleet managers overseeing the equipment. While it hasn’t been as much a focus as Tier 4 EPA regulations regarding small, gas-powered equipment have been changing and will continue to change as well. So we can’t forget the impact those will bring to the manufacturers, rental centers, dealers
DuraClass’ Yardbird Dump bed features a continuous formed body sidewall and fully enclosed top rail for moisture and corrosion resistance. The double-wall body is constructed from high-tensile steel and fully welded construction; it includes full-depth rear corner posts and enclosed front corner posts, as well as an interlaced understructure, quick-release upper tailgate pins, 1/4 cabshield with window and heavy-duty tailgate hardware.
As for the future of alternative fuel powered equipment, Cappucci, noted: “In our larger equipment, riding mowers and tractors, we do offer alternative fuel options like diesel and propane-powered engines. Our tiller line offers an electric model as well. However the issue with alternative fuel equipment is in refueling and the cost of those fuels as well. While diesel burns cleaner, it is a more upfront costly fuel. Electric powered products are exceptionally quiet and efficient, but are limited by a power source and battery powered equipment hasn’t been able to provide the power needed commercially just yet. I do expect battery-powered equipment to make strides in the near future."
Nathan Antons, National Sales Manager of SourceOne Outdoor Power Equipment sees alternatives to gas-powered equipment as only being significant with smaller equipment. He stated: “Only in the smaller handheld equipment currently. Overhead cost is currently too much of a deterrent for any larger equipment.”
Highway Products Inc. offers a 4,000-pound-capacity slide-out cargo tray for trucks. The marine grade all-aluminum tray extends 80 percent, glides on sealed roller bearings on galvanized steel Tee-Bone™ track system and safely locks into position every 10 inches with the dual Stab Lock™ locking mechanism.
Landscape Contractor Future
Going back to the survey, landscape contractors indicated that pickup trucks, trailers and dump trucks ranked as the top three, coming in a 48, 45 and 42 percent respectively. Rounding out the top ten from highest percentage to lowest are: Attachments, backpack blowers, riding mowers, compact loaders, hand-held blowers, trenchers and tractors. As for what contractors currently own, from most to least are: Chainsaws, work trucks, edgers, trailers, back pack sprayers, trimmers, rototillers, ride-on mowers and masonry saws.
Ventrac’s 3200 tractor allows the contractor to change 18-plus attachments quickly and efficiently from job to job. It features All-Wheel-Drive, Power Steering, and Hydrostatic Drive. Its S.D.L.A. control allows for easy control of speed, direction, lift and auxiliary function all with one hand.
When considering the purchase of new motorized equipment, survey respondents listed reliability as the number one priority—even above price. 93 percent of the contractors listed reliability first, followed by price (81 percent), longevity (69 percent), ease of use (61 percent), versatility (53 percent), brand (50 percent), and taking up the very bottom was fuel costs at 24 percent.
The Aluma 7712 trailer measures 101.5x194.5 inches with 13-inch tires and features an extruded aluminum floor, aluminum fenders with vinyl gravel guard, an A-framed aluminum tongue, and a 48-inch long with 2-inch coupler.
The ProLineGRABBER fits all late-model skid steers, and enables the skid steer operator to move, load and unload B&B material quickly and safely. The uniquely shaped paddles cradle rootballs 20 to 54 inches in size, prevents distortion and damage, and insures stability of the load as it’s being transported. It can also move and place boulders up to 2,750 pounds with Model
The Case Construction Equipment model 570N XT loader/tool carrier achieves Tier 4 Interim certification through the use of cooled exhaust gas recirculation (CEGR) technology and a diesel particulate filter. The machine features a 78 net hp turbocharged engine that delivers a minimum 5-percent increase in fuel efficiency and faster response times than previous models, while meeting current emission standards. It has an operating weight of 12,898 lbs, bucket breakout force of 9,271 lbs and hinge pin height of 11-feet, 3-inches. The machine’s front loader features an optional hydraulic quick coupler to easily connect and disengage buckets and other attachments.
The Turf Teq 46-inch wide 1305PL snow removal plow features an angle (left/right) that can be easily adjusted from the operator position and its design has the capability to allow the blade to oscillate or be locked into position.