Brush cutters can help customers reclaim their land
Ever since brush cutters burst onto the scene, they have become an integral part of the inventory carried by equipment rental stores that have lawn, garden and landscaping equipment. These machines can help customers with spring, summer or fall yard cleanup chores as well as clear land overgrown with brush.
In some ways, you might describe a brush cutter as a weed trimmer or lawn mower on steroids, since these professional-grade machines are designed to hack away at tall grass, weeds and saplings, sometimes as large as 2 in. in diameter.
The types of brush cutters a rental store could consider adding include hand-held models that use harnesses, walk-behind units, purpose-built machines to help clear brush in forests and attachments that can be used with skid-steers or other equipment.
The type of brush cutter a customer needs will depend on the type of job. The hand-held models, for example, are good for reaching areas where larger machines can’t fit and are designed to be more powerful to handle such applications as maintaining highway embankments.
Husqvarna, for example, manufactures a commercial hand-held brush cutter that has bicycle handlebars and a harness. Göran Gusthalin, a lawn and garden product manager for Husqvarna based in Huskvarna, Sweden, says the company has taken some of what it has learned in developing forest-clearing machines to create the type of transmission for a combination handheld brush cutter that can be reliable.
“The experience we have from extreme customers has contributed to developing lightweight, durable and high-performing commercial brush cutters that are versatile,” Gusthalin says. “You can do just about anything with this.”
Gary Hardee, product specialist, handheld, for North America and Latin America at Husqvarna, Charlotte, N.C., says businesses that have contracts to clear right of ways would likely own this type of equipment, but he also thinks there are rental opportunities.
“If rental yards make these types of machines available, they can be rented with chippers and shredders, which could help expand their customer base,” Hardee says. “Smaller communities also would want to rent this type of machine because it wouldn’t be used all the time.”
The machine also is designed to fold together for transportation between jobs and includes a harness to make it easier for the user to carry the unit and to reduce vibration. “A customer is doing cleanup and usually has tried a regular trimmer, so now they find they need to rent something to get the job done. Here is a machine that is 5 ft. long that you break down and put in someone’s trunk. The rental store could then rent one attachment for brush and another to cut down small saplings up to 1.5 in. in diameter. The attachments are designed to be connected in just a few seconds like bits in a screwdriver, including safety barriers,” Gusthalin says.
Walk-behind brush cutters are another option to help customers who are looking to clear grass, weeds, saplings and other overgrown vegetation to reclaim land.
Peco, Arden, N.C., for example, manufactures the Brush Blazer®, which is designed to mow down trees up to 4 in. in diameter. The 1,200-lb. tracked machine also has a 48-in. cutting width and the company says the walk-behind brush cutter can help clear 5 acres or more of land in one day.
Billy Goat Industries, Lee’s Summit, Mo., and Kuhns Power Equipment, Nappanee, Ind., also make walk-behind brush cutters that are more powerful than a typical lawnmower and can clean up vacant lots, fence rows, ditch banks and areas that may be less frequently mowed.
Drew Coates, product manager for Billy Goat Industries, Lee’s Summit, Mo., says most brush cutters today are designed as specialty high-torque mowers able to cut down branches up to
2 in. thick and 6 ft. tall.
Specifically, he says Billy Goat makes the Outback® brush cutter that can cut nearly an acre of overgrown property per hour. “Because of the nature of the application, items are often in the brush that your customers may hit that they did not know were there. To make sure our units stand up against these rental challenges and continue to run, we test ours against cinder blocks, steel-belt radials and buried railroad ties,” Coates says.
“A brush cutter is a seasonal item so many users prefer to rent the equipment when maintaining their properties. There also is an outside chance that if you don’t have at least one brush cutter in inventory, any lawn mowers you have for rent could get destroyed by being used to maintain an overgrown property,” he says.
Coates also says brush cutters continue to evolve in safety features, durability and ergonomics. “Items such as enclosed, non-discharge decks for safety and fully enclosed belts are all standard to help reduce injury and improve safety. In addition, foam-filled tires and electric start options are now more common and next-generation transmissions are starting to come into the market,” he says.
Leroy Kuhns, president, Kuhns Power Equipment, Nappanee, Ind., says his company initially built a hydraulic tiller before being asked to build a brush mower. His latest Power Dog 926 HRW model cuts tall weeds, brush and saplings up to 2 in. in diameter at speeds of up to 4 mph. He says the machine’s enclosed revolving deck has more clearance above the blade and is designed to cut the material and lay it off to the side versus chopping and mulching the material, which means the machine can cut an area faster using less horsepower.
“For the most part, when it comes to vacant lots and overgrown areas, all people care about is to knock it all down and cut it to keep it under control,” Kuhns says.
He says walk-behind brush cutters are well-suited to rental because utility customers, contractors and homeowners are more likely to only use these sorts of machines maybe two or three times a year.
“Cities will rent them to clear off vacant lots or repossessed homes, but it’s not something you would buy and use twice a week. This is the type of machine people prefer to rent versus owning,” Kuhns says.
When selecting a brush cutter, Kuhns suggests looking for simplicity in operation. “You don’t want something with a dozen different controls. You want something anyone can grab and go for it. Another point to look for is to make sure all safety is built into the machine,” he says.
For the Power Dog, he says an advantage is its hydraulic drive because it provides instant forward and reverse without shifting gears and variable speed on the go, which cuts down mowing time.
“If you come to a corner, you go in and go out. If you get to a heavy clump of weeds and brush, you can slow down. If you hit a bare spot, then you can speed up across it and it’s all done without taking your hand off the handlebar,” Kuhns says.
Another category of brush cutters includes forestry mulchers, which are self-propelled machines that cut and mulch unwanted vegetation and small trees. These types of larger machines are often used for right-of-way clearing, logging, geophysical and general land clearing.
“Our machines are often used to clear brush and undergrowth from forested areas in order to reduce the potential fuel for wildfires,” says J.R. Bowling, vice president, Rayco Manufacturing, Wooster, Ohio.
While most rental companies choose to carry more general equipment such as skid-steers, backhoes and excavators and
offer brush-cutting attachments, Bowling says specialized machines for this niche market could be a potential rental opportunity for those who want to diversify and differentiate themselves from
the national companies.
“Such a niche machine may not be used with the same frequency, but the specialized nature of the product and the scarcity could equate into a higher return for a rental store. A forestry mulcher could sit for a month or two, but then rent for two weeks and potentially make more profit than a backhoe would in two months,” Bowling says.
“Contractors would use mulchers more often if they had a local option, but in many cases, they would have to truck the machine across a state or several states, adding huge transportation costs to the cost of the rental. That means the job has to be large enough to justify the cost. Local options would allow contractors to rent forestry mulchers for a shorter time and for smaller jobs. The opportunity is there,” he says.
If a rental store were to consider this type of machine, Bowling suggests paying attention to the cooling systems used by the engines and hydraulic systems.
“Dust, airborne chaff and more more will plug coolers and debris screens, creating an overheating situation if left unattended. Mulching machines have to be tolerant of that or have an easy means by which the operator can maintain them,” he says.
The Rayco forestry mulchers, he says, include features such a steel-track undercarriage for durability, and better traction on hillsides and in mud as well as a cooling system designed to operate in hot environments.
Photo courtesy of Rayco Manufacturing
Photo courtesy of Husqvarna
Photo courtesy of Kuhns Power Equipment