There are many ways to dig a trench. Two methods for short distance trenching-dedicated walk-behind trenchers and compact utility loaders (CULs) with trenching attachments -- will give you the same end result. But which is best for your customers?
Let’s take a look at each system, so you can connect your customers with the best way to dig their trench.
When choosing a trenching system for your customers, dedicated walk-behind trenchers offer several advantages. First, because trenching is all they’re built to do, they do it very well.
“You can trench a 200-foot-long, two-foot-deep trench in about 20 to 30 minutes with a walk--behind trencher,” says Greg Barreto, president of Barreto Mfg. “If trenching is all you have to do, then it’s the ideal machine.”
Walk-behind trenchers are built to be compact and highly maneuverable. Smaller size, however, doesn’t mean they’re any less capable of handling challenging ground conditions or standing up to the rigors of trenching.
“Manufacturers continue to pack as much horsepower in as small a package as possible,” says Brent Bolay, senior product manager with The Charles Machine Works Co., makers of Ditch Witch products. “It allows them to have a compact machine but enough power to do more work.”
Cost is another consideration. A trencher in the 7-to 20-hp range can cost anywhere from $6,000 to $13,000. That’s significantly less than a CUL with a trenching attachment. Typically, a CUL base machine costs around $15,000; the trenching attachment around $4,000.
“Obviously a CUL can do more than trench when it has other attachments,” says Barreto. “But if you need a piece of equipment to just dig a trench, you can buy two or three trenchers for the price of one utility loader with a trenching attachment.”
Barreto also points out that hauling a trencher is simpler. “A trencher can be placed in the back of a pick-up truck, while the CUL and all its attachments usually requires a separate trailer.”
Jack of all trades
CULs have come a long way since their introduction in the mid-1990s. They’re now available in walk-behind and stand-on versions, and their compact size allows them to tackle projects on the tightest jobsites, often replacing the need for hand labor.
The CUL’s greatest asset is its versatility--these machines are definite multi-taskers. They’re capable of trenching irrigation and digging holes for trees and plants.
They can haul materials around the jobsite, and perform light grading and excavation. These machines are ideal for customers who have several tasks to complete on one jobsite.
“CULs allow users to do more things before and after digging the trench,” says Eric Hennarichs, national rental sales manager with Finn Corp. “A dedicated trencher might do a faster job with the trench, but it can't do anything else.”
As noted, some CULs offer a stand-on platform for users. This can allow operators to have a better view of the trenching area.
“CULs offer a better view, and you don’t have to walk backwards,” says Hennarichs.
Making the match
There are several considerations to keep in mind when a customer needs to dig a trench. Todd Roorda, rubber tire product specialist with Vermeer Mfg., offers this list of items to consider when helping a customer decide which trenching system to rent.
Ground conditions: What type of conditions will the unit be working in? “The harder the conditions, the more a customer might lean toward the dedicated trencher,” says Roorda. “A walk--behind trencher is designed to do one thing and do it well, and that's trench.”
Productivity: If an operator is on a tight schedule and needs to maximize their rental period, they might want to look at a walk--behind trencher, says Roorda. “Walk--behind trenchers traditionally out--produce CULs with trenching attachments,” he says.