There are a number of methods used to clear and maintain utility rights of way, or ROWs, but they all fall into two categories – mechanical, including things like brush mowers, saw trimmers and aerial lifts, or chemical, including materials such as herbicides, growth regulators and the tools used to disperse or apply them. In this article, we’ll look at the mechanical category, focusing on new equipment and innovations that hit the market in the last 12 months.
Altec’s MT66-E76 Insulated Boom Saw
Boom-mounted grapple saws are all the rage in tree care for removing large limbs or whole trees, and there are a number of them on the market. Until now, their use in ROW work has been limited due to proximity to power lines.
Altec’s MT66-E76 is a remote-controlled, insulated (46kV), over-center aerial device mounted to a standard chassis with a cutting head designed and built by Altec for tree trimming around power lines. It is designed to give operators the ability to cut and control an 10-inch limb with the grapple or cut and drop a 14-inch limb, all while maintaining a safe distance from the tree and power lines.
“Using customer feedback, Altec developed a product with an industry-leading approach to safety while performing utility-line clearance,” says Andy Price, tree care market manager for Altec, a 41-year TCIA corporate member company based in Birmingham, Alabama. “This unit was engineered with the worker in mind. With a combination of features new to the industry, operators can remain outside the danger zone while safely cutting most problem limbs, even those with incidental line contact.”
Chriso Lee, CTSP, is vice president of ArborWorks, Inc., a 15-year TCIA member company based in Coarsegold, California. The company specializes in hazard-tree removal, utility-line clearance and vegetation management. Lee says his company’s experience with the MT66-E76 has been revolutionary for tree trimming around power lines.
“The MT66-E76 has the ability to reduce and even eliminate human exposure to the hazards that are unique to our industry, while expeditiously executing some of what used to be the most dangerous tasks,” says Lee. “With this technology, we’re able to remove tree branches that are over, near and around energized conductors without endangering human life.”
Lee continues, “The MT66-E76 will become the standard for accessible trim work in the utility setting.”
“The MT66-E76 is designed to eliminate the need for ‘line kills’ to complete trimming, lessen the time it takes to trim limbs with incidental line contact and reduce the time to trim problem limbs overhanging power lines,” says Price. “The cutting head offers three methods of articulation for ease of positioning. The unit’s insulating boom, permanently installed cutting head, radio-remote-control system and elevator providing 76 feet of maximum reach all combine for an inventive piece of equipment that can be used in both the electric-utility and tree care industries.”
According to Price, because all work can be completed remotely with the MT66-E76, it allows workers to have the lowest exposure to risk of any other known trimming equipment with minimal physical output.
Sean Graziano, CTSP, is a tree care product specialist at Altec with 16 years of experience in the tree care and utility-
safety industry. Graziano says the unit’s remote-control feature allows industry veterans to continue work, even after years of strenuous labor. “Their experience is still really valuable, and with the MT66-E76, they can do something like this, and it puts no physical strain on them,” says Graziano, who also is an ISA Certified Arborist and a USOLN Certified Utility Safety Professional.
“Even while maintaining a safe distance from the drop zone and work area, workers can cut and move a 150-pound limb away from an energized line. In the past, this would have been almost impossible with a worker in a bucket using a traditional saw,” says Price.
The unit’s permanently installed cutting head allows for quick setup, reducing time spent on the job site, says Price.
“When considering the future of tree trimming, this unit leads the way for crews to shorten working times, reduce costs and, above all, increase safety, something we all can agree is top of the mind for all working in the tree care industry,” concludes Price.
In addition to the MT66-E76, Altec also has a new series of aerial devices, the LR8, which Price says is an improvement on its predecessor LR7 Series. He explains that these units have three significant upgrades.
First is greaseless cylinders on the booms, eliminating the time required to grease cylinders. This is especially beneficial for those grease points in difficult-to-reach areas of the aerial device. The second is a boom-out-of-stow indicator, designed to remind an operator not to drive until the boom is securely stowed. Third is a lanyard-detection system that gives a customer two options.
One option allows the bucket to operate, but with a warning indicator that Price likens to a seatbelt warning in your car. The system will enable it to work but lets you know you are still unclipped. The second option is an interlock that prevents lift operation without the lanyard clipped in.
“We also continue to expand our offerings of the Effer crane with boom-mounted grapple saws, which also keeps operators on the ground and out of the danger zone,” says Price. “This innovative technology signals a shift in protecting workers, something the rest of the tree care industry hopes to see more of in the coming years.”
Custom Truck One Source adds tracks to forestry units
Custom Truck One Source has put its 60-foot and 75-foot aerial forestry units on tracks.
“Previously, these were only available on wheels. We have built the 65-foot-working-height unit prior to this, but the 75-foot working height is brand new,” says Bob Dray, vice president of Custom Truck, a 23-year TCIA corporate member based in Lynchburg, Virginia.
The Morooka 1000 with an XTpro 60 (65-foot working height) lift has been in production. The Morooka 1500 with an XT60/70 (75-foot working height) is new to the industry.
“These are great options for right-of-way work,” says Dray. “They offer flexibility to operate in off-road terrain and maintain low ground pressure for ROW areas that are built close to pipeline areas. Also, our tracked units are built with safety first in mind to ensure crews can work safely in less-than-level areas. The tracks offer lower ground pressure as they dissipate weight. The crawlers are less overall weight than the older skidder buckets.
“Right now, our tracked forestry units also are providing a timely option for companies having difficulty securing equipment due to the chassis shortage. Basically, they do not use an on-the-road chassis, which are in high demand,” says Dray. There is a microchip issue affecting the chassis and transmission builds of specific manufacturers that is not affecting tracked units, “so we are still able to produce these units as normal.”
Progress Rail’s upgraded Klearway 500HD brush cutter
The new and improved Klearway 500HD brush cutter from Progress Rail, a Caterpillar Company and a nine-year TCIA corporate member based in Albertville, Alabama, is a rough-terrain, rubber-tired vehicle with a front-mounted rotary or shredder-type cutterhead designed to clear vegetation from utility and railroad rights of way, as well as for site preparation.
“A step above its predecessor, the original Klearway 500 brush cutter, the new Klearway 500HD offers 20% more engine power, with the 302-horsepower Cat C7.1 engine, and 45% higher cutter-head torque,” says Mark Wuenstel, director, and vice president of maintenance of way for Progress Rail. “The new Klearway 500HD is designed to cut trees up to 11 inches in diameter.”
Sennebogen 728 Tree Care Handler
The new 728 Tree Care Handler from Sennebogen, a five-year TCIA corporate member company based in Stanley, North Carolina, mixes the best features of its 718 and 738 handlers, according to Ryan Kolb, marketing manager, Americas, for Sennebogen.
“It was purpose built for the tree care industry by combining the best aspects of the 718 and the 738,” says Kolb. “Like all of our material-handling equipment, it was designed with one job in mind – to lift, swing and carry loads from point to point.”
“The highlights of the 728 include extended reach, lifting capacity, optimal mobility and a powerful engine. You can reach up to 65 feet. That’s 22 more feet than the 718’s reach and just 10 feet shy of the 738’s capabilities. While the 738 can reach up to 75 feet, it’s quite an upgrade from the 718. The 728 allows you to have more reach with less machine.”
The lifting capacity of the 728 is comparable to the 718. The 728 can lift 12,000 pounds at maximum vertical reach and 3,700 pounds at maximum horizontal reach. While the larger 738 can lift 15,000 pounds at maximum vertical reach and 4,100 pounds at maximum horizontal reach, a big machine is typically not necessary for medium-scale jobs, says Kolb.
The 728 weighs 65,000 pounds and can be transported with the same type of permit as the 718. It doesn’t require anything special like the 738’s superload permit, which can take longer to obtain and has different restrictions.
The 728 has the same power as the 738, with a 225 HP (168 kW) Cummins 6.7 Tier 4F engine.
“All of our tree care handlers have a telescoping boom and stick fitted with a hydraulic grapple saw to grasp, cut and move limbs or whole trees in a single operation,” says Kolb. “Also, the 728 is ideal for areas where you’re working on uneven ground. Our machine will automatically level itself to provide stable footing in seconds.”
Tigercat 760B Mulcher
The new 760B Mulcher from Tigercat Industries, Inc., a new TCIA corporate member company based in Brantford, Ontario, Canada, is a 550-hp-class mulcher carrier that shares major components with the similarly classed Tigercat 480B track-driven mulcher, as well as the company’s M726G wheel-driven mulcher, according to Rob Pentesco, product manager at Tigercat.
“The 760B was designed primarily for silviculture applications,” says Pentesco. “Forestry companies require the capability to efficiently clean up residual post-harvest forest debris and grind stumps to ground level. The 760B meets this requirement, and the machine also will find application in large-scale land clearing and ROW projects.
“In stable, well-drained soil types, a high-horsepower, wheel-driven machine has many advantages, including quicker travel speeds, lower operating costs and the ability to run a wide mulching head for improved coverage and wider swaths, increasing quality and productivity,” says Pentesco. “As such, Tigercat also designed a 3-meter (118-inch) wide mulching head to complement the new carrier. The new 4061-30 mulching head is based on the original Tigercat 2.5-meter (98-inch) 4061, with several updates and enhancements. The 2.5-meter 4061 will be rebranded as the 4061-25 when similar updates are introduced later in 2021.”
The 760B comes standard equipped with boom float (which means the attachment follows the contours of the ground), LogOn (Tigercat’s wifi-based machine-monitoring system), ground-level fueling and Tigercat’s WideRange transmission. The operator’s station was designed with operator comfort in mind, according to Pentesco, with a
climate-controlled seat, Bluetooth-audio connectivity and ergonomic controls.
In a year marked by hunkering down and staying safe, manufacturers of equipment for clearing and maintaining rights of way have been busy developing tools to increase production for those at work, while also keeping operators out of harm’s way.