Versatile vehicles

UTV (Photo: John Deere)
UTV (Photo: John Deere)
UTV (Photo: John Deere)
All-purpose When fitted with an attachment, UTVs can perform even more functions. (Photo: John Deere)

With trailers full of mowing and maintenance equipment, some landscape contractors may ask themselves, “Why add another piece to the puzzle? What’s the point of adding a UTV to my fleet?”

Utility vehicles, or UTVs, are versatile machines that can be used in many applications. They can haul materials such as soil, stone, brick or mulch. They also can be equipped with several attachments, mounted with racks that carry equipment and can quickly transport crews around larger job sites.

According to Mark Davey, marketing manager for Gator Utility Vehicles at John Deere, UTVs provide users with a nimble vehicle that can fit into small spaces, create less turf damage and provide smooth rides over rough terrain.

“They’re definitely becoming more popular for landscapers, and people are looking from a perspective of a truck doing some of these tasks,” Davey says. “These are better to do small hauling jobs around a property, especially for a landscaper. It is a good alternative to a truck.”

UTVs are fast, easy to move and get around, can carry heavy loads and are affordable, says Mike Smith, president and CEO of Odes Industries. The average cost of a UTV is about $9,500, depending on the manufacturer and the model.

The numbers show that people have been taking note of the value of UTVs. UTV sales have increased over the past couple of years, and there is some growth predicted in 2019.

“Wells Fargo has stated that UTV sales have been up 30 percent for 2018 and will continue to do so through next year,” Smith says.

Putting UTVs to use

North Point Outdoors, based in Derry, N.H., has been using UTVs for about 10 years and has seen their advantages firsthand. According to Andrew Pelkey, COO at the $8.5 million company, North Point uses UTVs primarily for its snow and ice removal sector, but it also uses them in the summer for large commercial property maintenance.

UTV (Photo: Kubota)
Workhorse UTVs can help crews transport larger loads of material. (Photo: Kubota)

North Point performs maintenance, snow removal and installation for its commercial customers, who make up 90 percent of its customer mix. The remaining 10 percent of its customers are residential, for whom the company performs design/build, lawn care and irrigation work.

All of the UTVs North Point owns are manufactured by Kubota. According to Pelkey, the dealer told him his company runs the largest Kubota fleet in New Hampshire.

“It’s easy when it comes time to fix something if it’s all the same color,” he says.

North Point decided the time was right to purchase UTVs when it reevaluated its snow and ice management work, but now the company uses them for summer services as well.

“There were two main reasons we decided to purchase UTVs,” Pelkey says. “One, to move resources around the site and two, doing the snow removal of walkways with an attachment on the front. From a cost standpoint, it’s cheaper than buying a small pickup truck. All of a sudden, you can move people around at a reduced rate.”

In the winter, the UTVs are equipped with a snow blower attachment or a plow attachment. In the summer, they are used on larger sites for irrigation technicians or lawn care crews. The UTVs are equipped with turf tires, so they’re easy on the grass, and they save the employees from having to walk all over large properties.

Owning UTVs has reduced both labor and overhead costs for North Point. There is a lower carrying cost for ownership of a UTV than there is for a small pickup truck, Pelkey notes. And because crews can get around sites faster in a UTV than they do on foot, they can work more quickly.

All 10 of the firm’s UTVs operate in the winter with most of them going to dedicated snow sites. In the summer months, the company uses about half of the fleet. The UTVs are stationed in areas where they’ll be needed.

To run a UTV, an employee must complete a driving demonstration to show he or she can operate the machine.

“They have to get signed off and approved to drive it ahead of time,” Pelkey says.

Employees are generally happy with the UTVs, Pelkey adds. In the winter, snow removal crews are happy to have a small, heated vehicle to retreat to between jobs. They also appreciate the protection of being in a cab with strobe lights on, rather than walking down the road in a reflective vest.

“From site to site, you’re going to sit, so you can turn the heat on, warm up a bit,” Pelkey says. “(They can) keep water and snacks in there. There’s a lot to be said for that.”

Pelkey notes that before buying a UTV, contractors should consider the type of fuel they’re planning to use. North Point currently runs six gasoline and four diesel UTVs. The diesel machines are used with the snow blower attachment, while the gas machines are used as people movers and equipment haulers.

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