The John Deere Gator that Dan Emerson purchased about five years ago was initially used to haul firewood around his home. But now it has turned into a hard--working partner for his family’s construction company, KW Emerson, based in San Andreas, CA. Today, instead of hauling wood, it hauls people and pipes, and carries GPS equipment used to create topography maps for building residential subdivisions.
“We’ve found that it’s easier to maneuver around a jobsite in the Gator than in a truck,” he says, “especially where curbs and gutters are already poured.
There’s also less wear and tear on our other vehicles. Everyone in the company always wants to use it.”
Emerson isn’t the only contractor realizing the value of a utility vehicle. Construction and utility companies, municipalities and even parks and recreation departments across the country have begun to see the benefits, says Mike Packer, vice president of sales at Ingersoll--Rand’s Club Car division. “Utility vehicles have become very handy tools for contractors,” he adds. “They can take them most anywhere. They’re easy to get on and off of, and they can carry a sizeable load. When it comes to moving people and things, a utility vehicle is hard to beat.”
Safer Than An ATV
Compared to an ATV, utility vehicles are safer, Packer notes. They typically have a slower operating speed with a wider stance and wheelbase.
Paul Miller appreciates these safety aspects. When New Jersey Natural Gas purchased a John Deere Gator about eight months ago, the well--being of its employees played an important role in vehicle selection. “We considered an ATV,” he says, “but we felt that it was too powerful and too fast for employees to use in the woods. A typical ATV will travel about 50 mph; the Gator does about 20 mph. That’s a considerable difference. We are concerned about employee safety, and we don’t want to put anything into their hands that can potentially be misused.”
Miller also likes the carrying capacity of the utility vehicle. The cargo box gives him the ability to carry line markers, shovels and other light cargo that is used to inspect and maintain transmission lines in several shoreline counties in eastern New Jersey.
Less Costly Than A Pickup Or SUV
Compared to a pickup truck or SUV, a utility vehicle is less costly to purchase and less expensive to run and maintain.
“A four-- or six--wheel--drive utility vehicle costs about one--half to one--third the cost of a pickup truck,” says Jan Rintamaki, marketing manager for the utility vehicle division at Polaris Industries. “When you consider that you can add a cab enclosure and heater; carry up to 1,000 lbs. including three people; and tow up to 1,500 lbs., it’s no wonder more people are using them.”
Plus, he relates, insurance costs are lower because a utility vehicle can be carried on a general insurance policy rather than requiring a special automotive--style policy.
“With a utility vehicle, you also remove the temptation for employees to take the machine off--site when the weekend comes,” Rintamaki adds. “For a business owner, the idea of greater predictability, lower insurance costs and lower capital acquisition costs mean a utility vehicle makes a lot of sense. When contractors realize how much cheaper it is to operate a utility vehicle than a pickup truck, we see them substitute utility vehicles for trucks.”
Durable and Maneuverable
A utility vehicle also combines durability with the ability to traverse rough terrain.
Larry White at Texas--based Chapman Construction uses three Polaris six--wheelers to access remote areas to build transmission power lines. “We go off--road on the right of ways into rough, rocky and hilly areas, as well as low, wet areas and everything in between,” he says. “Our utility vehicles are easier to get around in than a four--wheel--drive pickup truck because they’re smaller. They have definitely proven to pay their way.”