These days, everyone is doing more with less, and that’s especially true of homeowners. Where once they might have hired a contractor to connect a gas line from the shed to the house, or install a new sprinkler system, many today are tackling these projects themselves, and they need the right equipment to do it. That’s where you come in.
Rental businesses are their customers’ primary solutions provider when it comes to DIY projects. As such, having the right mix of equipment geared specifically to your customer base is key. And if you serve homeowners, you’ll want to consider adding a mini-trencher to your fleet.
Designed to replace hand labor tools such as shovels and hoes, mini-trenchers are small, walk-behind units that are typically under 8 horsepower and dig to a 12- through 18-inch depth using either a chain or a wheel with teeth. They’re predominantly used for shallow applications such as installing drain lines, irrigation and sprinkler systems, underground cable, electric dog fence and gas lines, not to mention surface tree root pruning. Some units have specialized rotors that shape the borders of flower beds, defining the edges.
While they replace hand labor, operators should not be fooled into thinking these machines make the work to be done effortless. “Mini-trenchers save on manual labor, but they’re still a bit labor intensive because they aren’t self-propelled,” explains Jon Kuyers, utility product segment manager at Vermeer Mfg. Co. To minimize the operator's effort, Vermeer's RT60 mini-trencher features a ground drive assist pedal to provide leverage, reducing the amount of muscle the operator needs to use when pulling the machine backward.
Keep it simple
Many homeowners are complete novices when it comes to operating equipment, so it’s important to offer them a model that’s easy to use. Often, the sheer appearance of heavy equipment can turn homeowners off of giving it a try. But the compact dimensions of mini-trenchers make them less intimidating.
According to Greg Barreto, president of Barreto Mfg., rental businesses should provide products that offer simplicity and safety in operation. “If the customer doesn’t understand the operation of the machine, they will not have a good experience,” he says. “Simple operating instructions are important – both for the customer and for the rental company employee who walks them through the operating process. If the customer can finish a job efficiently and effortlessly, they will return.”
Scotty Porter, director of marketing at E-Z Trench agrees, noting that E-Z Trench machines offer operation that’s as simple as squeezing a throttle, turning the depth adjustment crank and pulling to dig.
Mike Hale, sales manager at Little Beaver, says the Kwik Trench line of mini-trenchers is unique in that they are pushed forward, instead of pulled backward like most traditional models. “It’s easier if you can see where you’re going,” he states.
To make trenching easier for novice operators, manufacturers have incorporated features to help users know how deep they’re trenching. Little Beaver, for example, offers a built-in depth gauge to indicate exactly how far the blade is penetrating the ground. The Vermeer RT60, for its part, comes with an adjustable boom depth control so the operator can carefully manipulate the depth of the blade between 12 and 18 inches.
Barreto is the only manufacturer to offer a hydraulic chain and wheel drive featuring a unique automatic drive system. According to Barreto, the wheel drive utilizes a load-sensing valve to adjust the wheel speed according to the load on the digging chain. When the digging chain requires more power, the valve sends less oil to the wheel drive motor and the wheel speed automatically slows down. When the load on the digging chain decreases, the valve sends more oil to the motor, increasing the wheel speed. “It eliminates the need for the operator to constantly adjust their speed, simplifying the process for the novice operator,” Barreto says.