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A guide to trailer success

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Flat-bed open trailers offer professionals added versatility for all seasons according to experts. (Photo: TrailerFlex)
Flat-bed open trailers offer professionals added versatility for all seasons according to experts. (Photo: TrailerFlex)

There’s an adage that tools are only as good as their users. Landscape contractors could go one step further by adding that tools are only effective if you can get them to the job site.

This is why an emerging landscape operation must determine whether a flatbed or an enclosed trailer is the best choice for their operation. Here are some essential guidelines to help you make that decision.

Goals

Cost, especially for a fledgling contractor, is a prime consideration. On average, an open flatbed landscape trailer is more affordable (between $1,500 to $3,500) compared to an enclosed model, which can be double the price.

The next question should concern growth strategy and how a trailer will assist in achieving a contractor’s goals.

“If you’re primarily specializing in mowing and maintenance work, then a modest open trailer may make the most sense,” says Nathan Uphus, sales manager at Felling Trailers in Sauk Center, Minn. “But if you’re expanding into tree care or irrigation, then an enclosed trailer and the benefits that affords may make the most sense.”

Protection and security

While locking racks and other provisions can secure landscape equipment stored on an open trailer, an enclosed setup can better protect your equipment from theft and exposure to the elements.

“Security is critical for contractors who invest heavily in high-quality landscaping tools,” Daniel Doutt, account and business development manager at Lawn Butler in Centerville, Utah, says. “Enclosed trailers offer a secure, lockable space that reduces the risk of equipment theft and vandalism.

Lawn Butler maintains a service portfolio comprised of 50 percent snow and ice management, 30 percent maintenance, 15 percent new installations and 5 percent lawn and tree care.

Doutt adds that an enclosed structure shields equipment from adverse weather conditions, ensuring tools and machinery remain in optimal condition.

Maneuverability

Adding an open or enclosed trailer to a truck requires some getting used to, and in-yard practice is advised for the novice driver before hitting the open road. However, Doutt says an open trailer provides some maneuverability advantages.

Uphus agrees, adding that driving with an enclosed trailer can be intimidating for some drivers.

“You can almost put anybody in a pickup with an open trailer attached,” he says. “An enclosed trailer is a different story because you have that big, solid trailer behind you.”

Accessibility

While both styles of trailers offer several variables depending on the scope of your operations, Uphus says open, flat-bed trailers provide design/build contractors an edge with accessibility.

“Transporting compact construction equipment isn’t as convenient with an enclosed trailer as with an open trailer,” he says. “And it’s easier to load and unload equipment and pallets of building materials from an open trailer.”

There are enclosed trailers large enough for construction equipment, but they are pricey and may be impractical.

“If you’re buying an enclosed trailer to haul a couple of mowers and a variety of handheld equipment, then for the same price, you probably can get a heavy-duty, open flatbed trailer that will give you considerably more carrying capacity and much more versatility for the applications you’re going to use it for,” Uphus says.

Building on

If you opt for an open flatbed, consider increasing your trailer’s versatility by adding low or high sidewalls, says Mike J. McCrea, business development manager at TrailerFlex.

“A contractor can take virtually any length of an (open, flat-bed) trailer and, for a fairly low cost, convert it into a low or high sidewall trailer to extend its use and versatility,” he says. “In the fall, that trailer can haul leaves and debris. A contractor can transport seasonal decorations (and holiday lighting) in the winter. Then, you can easily convert it back in the spring for maintenance purposes.”

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