How to buy - Utility vehicles and ATVs/quad bikes

Combine transportation with other jobs such as sweeping, spraying or top-dressing greens.

Walking is good for you, but how big is your estate? Whether you are in charge of 15ha of sports grounds, 25ha of landscaped gardens, 150ha of golf courses, 500ha of college campus or 1,000ha of parkland — you need transport. And there are lots of options.

Perhaps there is a tractor standing idle in the yard or even a ride-on mower? They are not going to be the quickest way of getting from A to B, and useless in an emergency, but they do save the walk and will get you there a little faster. But, wait a minute, shouldn’t they be doing something more efficient — perhaps working?

For many managers quad bikes and utility vehicles will be the preferred form of transport. There is a huge selection available so whether you need to dash across site to attend an incident, carry an extra sack of fertiliser to the ninth hole or just roam around the estate to keep an eye on things, there is a machine to suit. What’s more, many are capable of carrying out additional tasks such as sweeping driveways, spraying footpaths or top-dressing greens.

So what type of vehicle is best for you? Clearly, if you need transport on- and off-road, you should look for something that is road-going. It may be that a Land Rover or similar vehicle is most appropriate. But if it is purely for use on and around the site then all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) come into their own.

Assessment and access

There are two main considerations. Firstly, there is the location and condition of the site. An assessment should be made of the topography to determine whether you need a "mountain goat" machine to climb steep hills or more of an amphibian to cross boggy ground. A machine that is high powered and has four-wheel drive will be the one to get you around rough terrain but if your job mostly demands journeys around flat parkland you could save money by looking at lower-spec vehicles.

The site should also be assessed for restrictions and obstacles. There is no point buying a big vehicle if you can’t get across the bridges, under the arches and through the gaps and gateways.

It is also worth considering the site in relation to environmental issues. The estate’s policy on environmental matters could determine the relevance to your site of low-emission, low-noise vehicles. Golfers in particular will complain when their putting is disrupted by noisy engines, and visitors in gardens would rather smell the flowers than engine exhausts. Most people want to hear birds sing, not motorbike engines racing across the estate.

More and more managers are considering the use of LPG and battery-powered equipment, but it all depends on the circumstances. The choice of power could be restricted. Battery-powered vehicles will need a suitable re-charging facility.

Their silent running can also be a problem where the visiting public tend to be elderly and hard of hearing. LPG vehicles also need a suitable fuel source, and obtaining planning permission to store LPG on site is not always straightforward.

The second consideration is related to duties rather than the site. Quad bikes and utilities are often able to perform a wide range of tasks other than just transport.

If you need a vehicle just to race from one side of the site to another to attend emergencies, carry out security checks or fetch spare parts and extra materials, then a quad bike with racks on the front and back will be suitable. But that’s not the end of the story. There is a variety of land wheel- and engine-powered equipment — mowers, sprayers, spreaders, brushes — to perform other jobs. Don’t forget that quad bikes are single-rider machines. They are not intended to carry passengers, and the driver should always have appropriate training and wear a crash helmet.

If you need a workhorse of a vehicle to carry quantities of materials, tools and equipment, you need to look for a unit with a flat bed. Consider hydraulic tipping versions and swinging tailgates where loose materials are transported. Double-check that the carrying capacity is appropriate to your needs, and make sure that the loading height is safe and convenient.

Cargo beds should be anti-corrosive or lined for transporting wet materials. It is also worth looking at extras such as leaf cages to extend the range of work and carrying capacity of the vehicle. Utility vehicles also have the advantage of being two-seaters.

Some utility vehicles are fitted with power-take-offs and you may find that there options for headlights, screens or all-weather cabs. Many of the companies offering utility vehicles also supply skid-mounted equipment such as sprayers, top-dressers or water bowsers. But whatever you choose, remember to specify suitable tyres for the ground conditions of your site.


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