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Market Report: Garden & Grounds Care

Tree technology

The Arborists’ Fair is a major showcase for products and services for all aspects of tree care. Alan Guthrie reports on this year’s event held in Cirencester.

Not surprisingly, a large proportion of the exhibitors at the show, which is organised annually by the Arboricultural Association, were concerned with safe working at height. One example was Fenton Plant Hire, which had a stand at the event last year and recently launched its Access Solutions division, targeting tree surgeons and other professional users. “The introduction of the Work at Height Regulations last year has really opened up this market,” contends Sales Manager Niall Ingleby. “We offer Teupen tracked and vehicle mounted platforms, distributed in the UK by Ranger Equipment of Chesterfield, and demand is so strong that we are hiring machines throughout the whole country from our depots in Reading, Swindon and Southampton.

New working methods

“Tree professionals are realising they can use new working methods, instead of climbing trees or calling in rope access specialists. Tracked machines like the Leo 15GT can gain access to off-road locations in cramped conditions. It weighs only 1850kg and is 78cm wide.” Fenton (www.fentonplant.co.uk) also reports business from facility management contractors, shopping centres and film crews, as well as building contractors. In addition to protecting surfaces like soft ground, the non-marking tracks make the machines suitable for use on delicate or fragile floors.

Another company reporting a similar experience was IJ Access of West Haddon in Northamptonshire. It is the sole UK and Ireland importer of Lionlift tracked and vehicle-mount access platforms, and also hires out this equipment along with items such as stump grinders, woodchippers and all-terrain vehicles. At the Fair, the company promoted the Galaxy Lift range of models, which are designed to give a considerable amount of outreach relative to their height. The tracked GS18-11, which is only 890mm wide, provides a maximum working height of 18m and an outreach of 11m. This design is said to enable users to still gain access to the object of work with the machine placed some distance away, which can be useful if working across obstacles or very wet ground.

“Eventually, compact access platforms like these could be as essential to arboriculturists as woodchippers have become,” contends IJ Director Keith Irvine. “Hire of these machines is definitely growing. Local authorities are increasingly using contractors, many of which lack the resources to buy specialist equipment. We find that contractors often bid for work and, when successful, they hire in items appropriately.

“Machines like chippers in our fleet are gaining in popularity, owing to the restrictions on burning and dumping green waste.” Keith Irvine adds that IJ (www.ijaccess.co.uk) has hired equipment as far afield as Cornwall, although most hire business is within a 60-mile radius of Northampton.

Shaun Day of Promax Access agrees that access equipment can provide a good niche opportunity for hirers, but adds that they must approach it in the right way. “There is great demand for specialist machines like compact tracked units. But hirers have to be geared up to provide the dedicated service backup this equipment needs, in the same way that woodchippers do, Technicians need to be thoroughly trained in their operation and servicing.” Promax (www.promaxaccess.com) currently offers a range of more than 150 machines. One displayed at Cirencester was the RQG12 Basket, which offers a working height of 12.2m and side outreach of up to 6.8m. The tracked machine weighs 1500kg.

For particularly challenging terrain, Affordable Access Hire (www.affordableaccesshire.co.uk) displayed a new fleet addition in the shape of the purpose-built combination of a CTE Z20E sigma telescopic platform mounted on a Bremach 4x4 truck designed for off-road applications. The unit has a jacking width of only 2.3m and a maximum working height of 20m, with an outreach of up to 9.5m.

Much equipment was displayed for the processing of timber. Liston Equipment (www.listonequipment.co.uk) demonstrated the Woodsman 12MX chipper, a towable 80hp machine that can accept material up to 30cm in diameter. Managing Director David Kendall contends that “it is ideal for hire to local authorities and contractors. Its chipping drum makes two full cuts per revolution rather than the four half-cuts of some other chippers. This gives smoother cutting and more uniform chippings.”

Supporting its local dealer Lister Wilder, Husqvarna (www.husqvarna.com) promoted several new products including the 455 Rancher general purpose chainsaw. It incorporates new two-stroke technology designed to give higher torque, lower noise levels and reduced emissions. The saw can accept bar lengths from 33-50cm. Also shown was the 575XP professional model accepting 38-71cm bar lengths, and the 338XPT for precision work, which takes 30-40cm bar lengths.

Compact stump cutter

Included in B-Trac Equipment’s (www.b-trac.co.uk) line-up was the Vermeer SC252 stump cutter. At 89cm wide, it fits through restricted openings and it has 48cm-diameter cutter wheels. Controls are designed for simplicity, and the machine can cut 64cm above ground and 33cm below. A 27hp Kohler petrol engine is fitted.

Fletcher Stewart’s (www.fletcherstewart.co.uk) latest product is the Modular Guarding System, comprising three panels that click together to provide a screen. It can be used for enclosing tree stumps during grinding operations so that chippings cannot hit passers by. The company says that hirers have expressed interest in the product as an extra that can be hired out with disc cutters and other equipment. The guard is approved for highway use in terms of height and reflectivity, and panels can be set at slightly different heights to accommodate pavements and slopes. It weighs 9kg and can be supplied with a choice of integral warning signs.

Expert advice on product selection

Power products manufacturer Stihl was again the main sponsor of the Arborists’ Fair. It organised a Technical Centre at the Show offering expert advice on product selection and usage. Equipment displayed on the company’s stand included the MS 200T top-handled chainsaw, which is said to be a popular choice with tree professionals.

Stihl recently introduced a specialist carving guide bar featuring 0.25in RM (Rapid Micro) chain, designed for sculptors who work with wood. New also is the HT Backpack Carrier System for use with the company’s telescopic pruners. It has a padded backplate, an ergonomically designed harness and a tubular arm from which the tool is suspended, allowing greater control and manoeuvrability.

Stihl (www.stihl.co.uk) also held a workshop on the new Control of Noise at Work Regulations, which were explained in the April issue of EHN. Technical Services Manager, Hans Fairley, explained the new action levels, the first of which is 80dBA. Employers must then assess exposure and make hearing protection available. The second action level, at 85dBA, obliges employers to introduce health surveillance, to ensure hearing protection is worn and to adopt control measures. In addition, the limit value of 87dBA at the operator’s ear cannot be exceeded. An employer must know the sound pressure level of a machine (quoted in owners’ manuals) and the length of time it is being used, the two together enabling a calculation of exposure to be made. Advice on doing this is available on the Health & Safety Executive web site (www.hse.gov.uk).

Executive Hire NewsArchivesAugust 2006Market Report › Tree technology

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