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Choosing the right trencher

Choosing the right trencher

For nearly a half century, contractors have relied on trenchers – considered the workhorse of the industry – for underground pipeline installations. When deciding on the right trencher for a job, the features and performance capabilities of different trenchers need to be matched to project needs.

The process of selecting the trencher that best fits your operation involves several important considerations. It’s important to choose a model that not only serves current needs, but also one with additional capabilities that will allow you to expand service offerings in the future.

The evaluation process should begin by identifying how the equipment will be used and the material you will be installing. Focus on immediate needs, but don’t neglect to consider the future. Your operation will evolve over time, presenting opportunities to expand your services. Identify all possible types of project for which the trencher may be used and match options, features and performance capabilities to fulfil those requirements.

Prepare a checklist

After you’ve identified how the machine will be used and what you will be installing, prepare a list of questions and a checklist of features necessary to meet your needs. Which model is best? What chain size will be required? Will the machine be used only to trench or should you consider other attachments? What are the prevailing ground conditions in your area? Do you expect that the machine will be in operation on a daily basis, or just occasionally? Will you be able to get parts readily? After completing that list, take it a step further and dissect specifics relative to each factor.

Product to be installed

The size of the product to be placed in the ground determines how deep and how wide the trench needs to be. Model selection should be based on the machine’s capability to complete a range of applications based on product size. Identify the range of product size the trencher will most likely be used to install and specify the machine with features accordingly.

Cost of operation

The goal of any contractor is to complete every job as quickly as possible at the lowest possible cost. The assumption is that the more power a machine has, the faster it will be able to complete the job.

Director of specialty excavation for Vermeer Corporation Mark Cooper isn’t in agreement with this logic. “The solution isn’t always linked solely to horsepower,” Mr Cooper says. “The more accurate approach is to compare the cost of operation and production in order to select the right machine for your operation. Machine size has the greatest influence on these variables.”

Soil conditions

No two trenching projects are alike “Ó and neither are soil conditions. A trencher will be expected to perform in a wide variety of conditions and differing terrains. The model you select should be easy to modify with the type of chain or attachment most appropriate for achieving peak production rates. Since soil conditions and landscape can vary dramatically within the span of any individual project, the ability to make modifications in the field is a significant advantage.

A variety of trenching component options is available for larger models, including centre-line and multi-position digging assemblies, rock wheel for cutting through paved surfaces and frozen ground, and teeth-and-chain combinations for cutting through rock and other difficult conditions.

Bells and whistles

There are many convenience and comfort options available with most models. Be prudent and objective when considering those features that are a requirement versus those that would just be nice to have. Manufacturers have responded to customer feedback by including a number of features that were once considered “÷add-on’ options as standard equipment.

Determining which non-standard options you should purchase should be based on a cost-benefit analysis rather than simple price. Consider how the option may contribute to increased productivity or worker performance and comfort factored over the life of the machine. Many of the add-ons can have a positive impact on operator performance and increased production and are well worth the additional cost when factored over the life of the machine.

Electronics have made it possible to automate functions that translate to increased productivity. Cruise control, for example, allows the operator to maintain a desired ground speed and keeps engine speed constant. This helps optimise performance and production rates.

Resale value

You get what you pay for. Price, while important given budget limitations, should not be the sole factor that dictates the final purchase decision. Machine quality will impact operational reliability over the long haul. You may pay more up-front but a machine that is well constructed of quality components will reduce downtime and repair/parts costs. Resale value should also be considered. Ask sales representatives to provide resale value information and trends for the models you are considering.

Sales and service support

Purchasing from a reputable manufacturer who can provide local service and timely access to parts should also be considered. Investigate the company’s commitment to training and maintenance.

View the selection process as you would any major investment that affects the profitability of your business. The final decision should be based on solid information, logic and good business sense. Making the right decision will have a direct impact on your bottom line.


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