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Installation Iron: Staying on track

November 10, 2020 -  By
Crew members working with tracked machine (Photo: Turf Management Services)

Track ahead Tracked machines can perform work in tough conditions since they displace pressure over more surface area. (Photo: Turf Management Services)

In construction equipment, choosing a machine with tires or tracks should come down to its desired use.

“It’s about where they’re using the machine and what they are going to do with it that’s going to dictate whether they are going to use tires or tracks,” says Matt Lombardi, turf, commercial and governmental sales for TriGreen Equipment in Huntsville, Ala.

To help understand which piece of equipment best fits a company’s needs, Landscape Management talked to Lombardi; Kory Lamphear, owner of Lamphear’s Lawn Service in Medina, Ohio; and Anthony Natale, general manager of Turf Management Services in Erie, Pa.

Lamphear says his company switched to tracked machines seven years ago and has been able to work on more sites in less than ideal weather with the tracked machines than with equipment with tires.

“Our tracked machines give us an additional three to four months of work that we wouldn’t be able to do with wheel machines,” he says. “We have seven tracked machines, and they run all year round.”

Lamphear’s Lawn Service offers lawn maintenance and fertilization, design/build installation and snow removal services for a 60 percent commercial and 40 percent residential clientele. Lamphear says his company schedules patio installations into winter thanks to the tracked machines, which can get into yards and move materials in snowy or slippery conditions.

“With all the different designed tracks manufacturers offer, you can get a track that works great in the dirt, the mud, the snow, on concrete — everything,” Lamphear says, noting his company has outfitted its Caterpillar equipment with tracks featuring a bar-style tread.

Versatile uses

Natale says he prefers the track-style equipment because it has a better weight displacement. Wheeled equipment, he says, is best for hard surfaces.

“As far as dirt or soils, tracks just seem to float across it because they are displacing the pressure over more surface area,” he says. “We noticed that even with heavy loads on the front of the machine, they still do a good job of staying above on the surface, even when it is wet and mucky outside.”

Turf Management Services offers lawn maintenance, design/build installation and irrigation services for a 50 percent residential and 50 percent commercial clientele and snow removal for a primarily commercial clientele.

“We use our tracked skid-steer at a condo association because it’s flat and does well with not sliding,” Natale says.

Natale says his crews are happy with the mini skid-steer and often use it for lifting heavier material.

“I always tell them, ‘work smarter not harder,’” he says. “That machine makes them able to work a lot smarter. It’s like our Swiss Army knife. If they could use it to feed them breakfast in the morning, they would. (They use it for) anything and everything you can think of.”

Understand cost

Lamphear says he leases his equipment and will transition his last three with tires to all tracked equipment after his next lease is up. Before purchasing a piece of equipment, he says it’s critical to try the piece of equipment first.

“I would highly suggest they demo them or (do a) long-term rent and actually use them,” he says. “Once they get them out on the jobs and start using them, there won’t be any question about spending the extra money to get them.”

Lombardi owned a landscape company for eight years, and that experience on the other side of the fence helps him understand his customers’ needs. He says it’s important to consider all aspects of the equipment: maintenance, lifting capacity, horsepower and financing options.

“Maintenance and repairs on the undercarriage are a little bit more costly with tracks than tires because now they’re using solid tires,” he says. “The cost of ownership, the fuel consumption, the repair schedule and the warranty are keys to how I sell our equipment.

“They all lift and move and distribute, so, a lot of times, it’s a matter of what is that service after that sale?” he adds. “What is the cost of ownership? What is the finance program? Can I qualify? What is my payment going to be? (Those factors come) down to being more important than which machine they get.”

Christina Herrick

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