UTVs: Versatility + Durability

August 26, 2016 -  By
Moving materials around a worksite—whether it’s a new installation or a large maintenance site—is one common way landscape professionals use UTVs.

Moving materials around a worksite—whether it’s a new installation or a large maintenance site—is one common way landscape professionals use UTVs.

Three different views on using utility vehicles in the landscape industry.

Utility task vehicles, or UTVs, can serve many functions for landscape professionals. In fact, their versatility—particularly with the use of attachments—is often listed by landscapers as their favorite attribute of these heavy-duty vehicles. We spoke with three companies that are using UTVs in three different ways to find out their best advice on adding these vehicles to your fleet.

Simple savings

Company: Rotolo Consultants (RCI)
Slidell, La.

Versatility is one of the things Brandt Martin, vice president of operations/managing partner for RCI, says he loves most about the company’s fleet of UTVs, which the team has been using since 2000. The landscape construction and maintenance firm, which does about $40 million in annual revenue, has 17 John Deere UTVs. They’re split among the company’s three divisions: landscape construction, hardscape construction and maintenance. Because they’re used for different purposes, Martin says the vehicles are “rigged up differently” to provide a variety of functions. For example, a few are equipped with pressure washers, as RCI does a lot of pressure washing for its commercial clients. Some are hooked up with spray kits for horticultural spray activity, while others are used primarily for transporting material around on a construction site.

One area where Martin says the UTVs are especially handy is driving around on the levees—which happens a lot near New Orleans, where RCI is located. Martin calls the UTV “highly effective” on the levees.

“That’s critical because we need a vehicle that won’t cause any damage to the levee but can still move quickly,” Martin expands. “We do a lot of pond maintenance down here, and our UTV is a unique and effective solution for that kind of work.”

Whether it’s on a pond maintenance job, hauling goods on a construction site or doing a spray job, Martin says the common denominator is that UTVs make the company more efficient.

“Moving a Gator around on a work site is going to cost me less in terms of fuel than a truck would,” Martin says. “But it also has a lot more maneuverability. We can create less damage because it’s less intrusive to the landscape.”

Martin also says UTVs are easy to maintain. RCI uses a maintenance database through John Deere that tracks all the vehicles, letting the company know when it’s time for service. He says the average investment in a UTV is between $6,500 and $11,000.

In addition to transporting materials in its Arctic Cat UTV, Longs Peak Landscape uses the machine during irrigation audits on large sites.

In addition to transporting materials in its Arctic Cat UTV, Longs Peak Landscape uses the machine during irrigation audits on large sites.

“When you’re talking about moving four crew members around all day in a $11,000 vehicle as opposed to a $65,000 truck, it’s a lot of savings in fuel,” Martin says. “I can drop a UTV on a site and get the job done just as—if not more—effectively.”

For other contractors considering UTVs, Martin’s advice is to keep it simple.

“Stick with the traditional UTV—no bells and whistles,” Martin says. “That will help it marry up to a lot of different attachments, giving you a lot of scope of work with just that one vehicle.”

Game changer

Company: Longs Peak Landscape
Longmont, Colo.

Just one year into using an Arctic Cat HDX 700, Mike DePriest, owner of Longs Peak Landscape, a design/build and maintenance firm in Longmont, Colo., calls it a “game changer” and says he’ll certainly add more UTVs in the future. While the primary use so far has been transportation on large job sites, DePriest says he sees many additional functions as part of his future use of UTVs.

“Having a UTV has worked extremely well for irrigation audits on large properties because you can keep some of your tools and parts in the utility bed and drive it around without having to walk back to the truck,” DePriest says. “We’re getting around the job site a lot more easily.”

Having tools handy and being able to get from point A to point B on a job site quickly are two ways that DePriest says the UTV helps the company be a lot more efficient.

“This is our first season with a UTV and we’ve already seen the value and plan to get a couple more,” DePriest says. “In addition to our maintenance and construction division, we also do snow removal and can already see how using a UTV on our large municipal and HOA snow sites would help us be a lot more efficient.”

The company plans to invest in a UTV plow and a salt spreader attachment.

DePriest says that the UTV has been most effective when managing multiple properties in one area because of the ease in getting around quickly. The “larger the property is, the more applicable a UTV is,” he says. Because of its durability, DePriest says he has found the vehicle easy to maintain. So far into the season he hasn’t had any problems. His best advice for other contractors considering a UTV is not to hesitate.

“We waited longer than we should have,” he says. “We had ATVs we were using, but the functionality and increased capacity is so much better. We’ve limped by with ATVs, and they’ve been adequate, but going to a UTV is like going from an S-10 (pickup truck) to a one-ton (truck). You’re going to get a lot more done with it.”

Covering ground

Company: Ramco Mulch Solutions
Parrish, Fla.

In his experience installing groundcover across the Southeast U.S., Steve Ramsey says UTVs can quadruple the amount of work a company can get done in a day.

After using UTVs for the last six years at his previous company, Southeast Spreading, he’d never go back to his “old ways.” Ramsey, owner of Ramco Mulch Solutions, says he uses UTVs to move mulch around a site in a clean and efficient manner.

The “old way,” as he puts it, was loading up bulk material in wheelbarrows or even hauling bags over a shoulder. With a UTV his crews are more efficient and experience less wear-and-tear on their bodies—which is better for everyone in the long run, he says. Hauling mulch in a UTV is also tidier, he says.

“In the past six years I have worked with several different kinds but the version most-fitting my needs is the Kubota RTV900,” Ramsey says. “It’s been reliable and easy to maintain. It’s truly a great, all-purpose vehicle.”

Since implementing UTVs, Ramsey says he has seen very few maintenance issues arise. The UTVs’ ability to maneuver around lakes is one of his favorite features, since bodies of water are so prominent in Florida. It all comes down to getting a feel for the vehicle and what it’s capable of, which often comes with a little trial and error, he says.

“As much as these vehicles are truly workhorses, they can get stuck in the mud,” he says. “You have to get a good sense of the vehicle’s capability to get the most out of it.”

His advice for others who might be considering the addition of a UTV to their fleet is to “go for it.”

“If you even think that it might make you more efficient, then it will,” Ramsey says. “If you have an area of business where you believe it will improve your efficiency, then get one, because the need is there. My best advice is if you’re considering it, just do it.”

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