ZMI's Utility Driver, introduced to the market three years ago, is larger than other drivers on the market because it was designed first to push blowers.
"I needed a larger, stronger piece of equipment to push blowers and the Utility Driver enables you to push a blower at a faster rate," says Hannah.
He says the unit features an 11-hp Honda gas engine, operates at up to 15 mph, and features an hydraulic system with an 8 ½-qt. reservoir, an adjustable seat, and a fold-down dual light bar system that provides light above the operator's head, not over the gun. An attachable rear cargo tray stores can store an extra 5-gal. bucket of paint or a stack of traffic cones.
A different approach is taken by the Accurate Striper, which is a compact self-contained unit that combines a Graco 3900 striper with a John Deere riding lawn mower. Richey says the one-piece machine turns quicker, has a variable foot operated speed due to the hydrostatic drive, the gun arm hinges up for easy loading and unloading, and takes up less space in a transport vehicle.
"We chose the JD mower because we wanted long-term use-ability and because if it did break down contractors could easily get parts throughout the U.S.," Richey says. "We wanted a more compact, one-unit machine because a smaller machine is easier to use, plus there's more room on the truck to put the supplies you need, more space to take paint, for example."
The Accurate Striper features hydrostatic drive and operator controls for the sprayer mounted near the steering wheel. A hose reel on the side offers easy access for spraying stencils, and two spray guns are parallel with the front axle so any bump or deviation in the pavement keeps the guns the same distance off the asphalt and keeps the lines consistent. The gas motor and pump platform are positioned behind the operator, and the paint bucket sits beneath the machine and the pump platform.
"Normally when pouring paint into the bucket on a machine the paint spills on the motor and the pump," Richey says. "We avoid that on this machine by separating where they are placed."
How much improvement?
The manufacturers say productivity improvement comes in two areas: time saved on the job and reduced operator fatigue. But the biggest impact these types of equipment can make is in how fast a contractor can complete a job - and get on to the next job.
"What was happening to us is we'd get to where it was almost break even point on a job and then the weather would hit and delay the job, and all of a sudden we're behind again and still trying to reach break even," Neuling says. "This machine turns a 5-day job into a 3-day job, and doing that allowed us to hit our break-even point 45 days earlier the first year and 83 days earlier the second year. And as every contractor knows, once you hit that break-even point you start making money."
He adds that because the company could complete its striping jobs more quickly it was able to bid more competitively.
"I would no longer go out on a job without one," Hannah says of his Utility Driver. "It reduces the wear and tear on workers, especially in the heat. When using this machine they are still fresh after clearing off a parking lot and they can do a better job more quickly."
While estimates of the amount of time saved vary, Richey says the concept enabled his company to double its production.
"There's no question it saves 50% of the time you spend striping," he says.
Neuling says it can actually save more time than that. Once example he cites is workers holding the string line, for example, who have to pull the line tight, holding it taught while another worker pushes a striping machine along the string line.
"By the time whoever is marking gets to the end of the line, pushing the machine, he really needs a minute to take a breather. And the person holding the line needs a few minutes because his hand is hurting," Neuling says. "By adding these tractors to your stripers you only need a one-minute breather instead of 6 to 10 minutes, so you save that much time just during layout with a string line. You increase your speed seven times in that part of the job."