Equipment solutions for a trouble-free winter

A range of winter maintenance attachments is available for tractors and other vehicles. Sally Drury reports.

"Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow" might have been all right for Frank Sinatra back in 1950 - he was a planning a cosy night in. But for students dashing between classes, evening guests attending a function at a country hotel, or those visiting patients in hospital, the last thing that is needed is ice or knee-deep snow.

Climate change means the weather is arguably more unpredictable these days. All the more reason, then, to be armed and ready for whatever the elements throw at us this winter. The proverbial "winter wonderland" may look pretty, but it is disruptive and, at its worst, can be a hazard. It's not nice for those trying to drive or walk in it, or when it gets carried on feet into buildings.

Fortunately, there is a huge range of kit available to help alleviate the problems brought by a cold winter. Whether you need to clear the drifts or are working proactively to minimise the effects in the event of bad weather, there is equipment to help. And a lot of it is designed to work with gear you probably already have in your fleet.

There's a lot of choice for matching equipment to utility vehicles, quad bikes, conventional tractors, two-wheel tractors, skid-steer loaders, Land Rovers - even items you might not expect to have a winter application. The pedestrian dumper Muck-Truck, for instance, is used by landscapers and the building industry to shift loads of up to a quarter of a tonne but it can also be equipped with a snowplough attachment to help clear pavements, car parks and driveways. Fitted in seconds, the 48in (122cm) blade can discharge to the left or right and has a rubber base for working efficiency and to protect the surface.

Some items of grass-cutting equipment can also be used in a winter clearance capacity. Etesia ride-on mowers, Hydro 124 and 144, can be fitted with a spreader to dispense grit or sand. A snowblade is available for mounting to the front of the mower and snowchains to provide grip. A heated all-weather cab will keep the operator warm.

Wiedenmann UK is best known for its range of grass maintenance machinery but in Europe it has been marketing a range of winter maintenance equipment for several years. That range was launched in the UK last year.

Designed for use with compact tractors, the Snow Master 3400 folding blade comes in 1.25m and 1.4m working widths and requires 25hp, while the Combi Spread 5000 requires just 20hp. A third item, the Combi Clean 2350, has a snow sweeping brush and is intended for front linkage to tractor and mowers up to 35hp. Working width is 1.1m.

Also for front mounting to tractors is the range of Bemab snow ploughs from Simon Tullett Machinery. There is a range to suit tractors from sub-compacts to 70hp units, in both foldable and diagonal versions. STM also supplies Bemab BSL Flexi self-loading sand spreaders.

Owners of single axle or two-wheeled walking tractors should have no problem finding something suitable for the task of snow clearance. Kersten supplies snowblowers and brushes. Tracmaster offers three sizes of BCS Snow Thrower attachments as an effective means to removing snow. The units fit BCS two-wheeled tractors and have a throwing capacity of several metres. A lever fitted between the handlebars allows the operator to change the direction of the exit chute to throw left or right of the tractor.

The range of attachments for Italian-made SEP pedestrian tractor units imported by Bunce (Ashbury) includes: snowblowers with working widths of 61cm or 71cm; 91cm or 122cm snowploughs; a 99cm-wide rotary sweeper; and a towable salt spreader with 42-litre capacity. Available in petrol or diesel versions, the SEP with attachments is suited to winter maintenance tasks on footpaths, driveways and car parks. But Bunce offers a whole lot more besides. In fact, the company offers the widest range of winter maintenance/service equipment available in the UK.

Bunce's portfolio includes snow blowers, snowploughs, salt spreaders, de-icing sprayers and sweepers. There are large units for use by highway authorities and airports but also an extensive range of smaller kit for treating footpaths, cycle ways, estate roads and car parks. Equipment can be pedestrian operated, mounted onto compact or agricultural tractors, or towed behind other vehicles such as Land Rovers and pick-up trucks. Bunce has been manufacturing snowploughs since the 1920s and has represented Danish salt-spreader manufacturer Epoke in the UK for more than 40 years. A reputation for strength and reliability sees Bunce supplying spare parts for snowploughs that are more than 20 years old.

According to sales director Andrew Bunce, Epoke salt spreaders are particularly popular due to their accuracy of spread, thus saving salt and money, and also their robust construction. There are pedestrian models as well as towable and mountable units for compact and agricultural-sized tractors. The ITM range is suited to use with compact tractors, forklifts, cars and vans. Spreaders may be drop or spinner.

"The advantage of the drop-type spreader is that the salt is spread exactly where you want and is not spread over landscaped areas or thrown against the sides of cars," explains Bunce. "The benefit of the spinner system, as in the case of the Igloo range of mini-bulk spreaders, would be that you can spread greater widths in one pass."

On the Continent, particularly in Scandinavia, authorities have been spraying brine solution on footpaths and cycle ways for a number of years. Excellent results are reported and there are several advantages of spraying brine, one being that less salt is required. Brine also acts more quickly and gives a more even coverage than dry material. It is considered more environmentally friendly and has the added bonus that it is cleaner than dry materials and is not walked into buildings. It is worth noting that brine is much better used for precautionary treatment rather than as a de-icer on snow or hard-packed ice.

Bunce explains: "As the brine melts the ice, the solution will become more and more dilute up to a point where it may no longer sufficiently suppress the freezing point to prevent freezing. For this reason, in Scandinavia, where some customers use brine in all conditions, they would equip the tractor with a front-mounted hydraulic sweeper to remove the snow from the surface to give a 'black top' prior to spraying. In these conditions, the actual treatment speed would normally be greatly reduced and would be much slower than treating with normal rock salt."

In the UK, treatment tends to be reactionary rather than precautionary, especially on footpaths. Bunce supplies Epoke de-icing sprayers, powered by the PTO or hydraulics of a tractor or auxiliary engine. The City Sprayer range is suited to mounting onto compact tractors.

Snow blowers and snow cutters can be effective where you are working to clear snow. Bunce, the only British manufacturer of this equipment, offers MU units - PTO-driven units for use with agricultural tractors and Unimog-type vehicles. According to Bunce, MU units are popular because they can be mounted onto the rear of a suitably sized tractor (100hp to 110hp with 4WD) while a snowplough is fitted to the front. "They make a very compact and effective snow-clearing unit," says Bunce. "For shallow snow the tractor can be driven forwards at reasonable speeds for snow ploughing; but when a deep drift is encountered, they can easily turn around and blow the snow off the road."

Bunce also manufactures mini ploughs to suit compact tractors, as well as producing larger units for agricultural tractors and highway use. The mini snowplough is available with 1.2m or 1.5m blade and is suited to clearing footpaths and small roads. All Bunce snowploughs are fitted with parallel linkage.

With so much equipment available, we can safely sing: "Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow".

SNOWEX SP-1575 SPREADER

Making use of a range of vehicles, including 4x4s and tractors, the SnowEx SP-1575 is a new tailgate-mounted spreader unit from Broadwood International of Stockbridge, Hampshire. It is designed to be lightweight, making it easy to install and remove, but can accommodate up to 160 litres of road sand, grit or salt.

Zero-maintenance is a major attraction of the SnowEx SP-1575. The spreader comprises a heavy-duty modular steel frame with a high-density polymer UV-protected hopper to help keep the weight down and eliminate corrosion. It uses no belts, pulleys or chains and is equipped with a weather-tight automatic-style wiring loom. Power is from a heavy-duty 12-volt DC motor to provide maximum torque transmission.

The working mechanism of the SnowEx SP-1575 consists of an auger with spinner/auger speed controller and low-maintenance direct drive sys-tem. The auger is fitted with a patented vibrator, intended to maximise material flow and provide positive, steady feed of materials without clogging. The cab-mounted controller supplies a variable speed to provide infinite spread-pattern control.

The SnowEx SP-1575 comes with a standard two-year warranty on parts and labour. An extended five-year warranty is available if required.

For use on motorways and high-ways, Broadwood has just introduced the Vee-Maxx SP-9500 for spreading bulk grit and/or road sand. It has a 3,200-litre capacity and is available for mounting to lorries or mounted on the SnowEx twin-wheel chassis to create a stand-alone trailed unit.


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