Market report - Winter clearance equipment

A wide range of new kit is available to tackle tough weather conditions this winter, says Sally Drury.

Remember last winter? It was predicted to be mild. But like the barbecue summer before, what we got was something of a shock. Freezing temperatures and deep snow falls meant emergency services were stretched, deliveries failed, workers were unable to get into work and school children and students built snowmen instead of attending classes. The worst of it was that it went on and on and on.

Local authorities, contractors, grounds managers and businesses all need fail-safe plans in case we face a tough winter. Snow and ice clearance should not be left to chance. The good news for grounds managers is that machinery and equipment already in your shed can be used with any of a wide range of attachments for clearing most types of snow or de-icing. And, perhaps not surprisingly after last winter's experience, a great deal of new kit has come to market.

When we say "snow plough", we might think of huge gritters or military-style vehicles breaking a path through the snow. In fact, there is no reason that you cannot use a compact or agricultural tractor, skid-steer loader, utility vehicle, 4x4, pick-up truck, two-wheel tractor, quad bike or even a fork-lift truck.

Wiedenmann UK has introduced three styles of snow blade for tractor-mounting, each featuring a built-in shock absorption system. "Even at speeds of up to 18.6mph, these blades take bumps in their stride," says Wiedenmann UK's sales manager Chas Ayres.

The blades are part of Wiedenmann's growing Snow Master range and were trialled in Europe last winter. They won a gold medal for innovation at Germany's Demopark 2009 exhibition.

Each blade has two parts - a lower moveable part and an upper fixed or static part. When powered, the lower blade makes contact with the ground and creates a snow flow as the blade pushes forward. The spring flap mechanism on the lower blade responds immediately to uneven ground, while the fixed upper blade routes snow off to the side. Reinforcement on the lower blade is designed to snap up and down, taking shock loads away from the tractor linkage system and the upper part of the blade.

The three new blades are the 1.6m-wide Snow Master 3450, priced from £2,190 + VAT, the Snow Master 3850 in 1.4m and 1.6m widths priced from £2,390 + VAT and the 3900 in 1.8m and 2m widths for a starting price of £2,750 + VAT. Snow shoes, lighting kits, ballast weights and guards are optional.

This year Kersten, well known for its two-wheel tractors and attachments, has launched a range of snow ploughs for commercial and utility vehicles. The Meyer E-z Mount front-mounted plough kits feature a new E-z Hitch system, hydraulic lift and auto angling. They are also extremely lightweight. Models are available from 1.5m to 2m, the largest weighing just 130kg. It has integrated storage wheels to enable the unit to be prepared for work in around 30 seconds. Mounting kits are available for most 4x4s, including Nissan and Toyota, and also for the John Deere Gator, Kubuta RTV and other popular utility vehicles.

As well as snow removal, we also need to be ready to de-ice. Wiedenmann has introduced a combined box spreader and gritter that proved itself in the harsh conditions of Alpine Europe last year. The Ice Master is a clever dual-spreader, sufficiently compact to negotiate pathways and pedestrian routes, yet able to spin grit up to 6m to clear car parks. At 1.2m wide, the unit can be PTO driven or hydraulically mounted. Ice Master can spread salt, sand or grit either via drop spread or spinner system.

"In Austria and Germany, the Ice Master has sold remarkably well because in some mountain areas they can have snow on the ground easily for four months of the year," says Ayres. "With its dual system and raft of built-in features, it meets the requirements of all head groundsmen, contract managers and those in the responsible position of purchasing this type of machinery, particularly if health and safety is high on the remit."

Knowing that in wintery conditions the operator is often reluctant to leave the cab to fiddle with settings while under pressure to clear public areas before the start of the day, Wiedenmann has fitted the Ice Master controls in the cab. At the flick of a switch, the operator can change settings without leaving the seat - reducing down time and maximising efficiency.

"With our new Snow Master blades fitted up front and the Ice Master on the back, we can offer an exceptional one-pass snow clearance regime for schools, colleges, hospitals and estates," says Ayres.

Amazone also appreciates that control from the cab is an advantage and recognises that the exact regulation of spread rate is important. With years of experience in agricultural nutrition application, Amazone has added its knowledge of electronics to control spread rates on the E+S spreader range.

With Amados E+S, the desired application rate is entered into the control box in the cab and is maintained irrespective of forward speed by the electronic actuation of the shutter slide. The working width is also infinitely variable from the tractor seat.

"To be able to accurately spread in built-up areas, it is important that the speed of the tractor can be adjusted to suit the operational conditions. Safety is paramount at all times," says Amazone Groundcare manager Joe Weston. "However, the driver also needs to be in control of the spreading width to get the maximum impact of the spread material by concentrating it on the paved areas and not in the flower beds."

This is where the electronic regulation system comes into its own. If road conditions open out to the level, where it is possible to travel faster, then the driver just changes gear. When the working width of the spreader is reduced to suit the street width, then the electronics recognise that fact and reduce the aperture size accordingly so that the application rate stays the same.

This is a clever system. And with this degree of functionality, the new electronically regulated Amados E+S takes the exact application of salt and grit to a new level. At the same time, it also minimises waste and cuts the cost of application - so important in these days of restricted budgets.

The latest equipment from Broadwood International, UK distributor of the SnowEx range, is the Tow-Pro SP-7000, a spreader mounted on a chassis, with its own 12v supply that can be towed by any vehicle with a ball hitch.

"With the new Tow-Pro we've opened up a whole new world of spreading options to contractors or end-users who want to be able to switch between vehicles and who don't want to fit all their vehicles with spreader control systems," says Broadwood general manager Roy Wolfenden.

Another new towable spreader is the Cruiser Turbocast 1000 from Glasdon. This one has dual spinner plates to cover a width of approximately 10m, but will also drop spread. Capacity is 500kg - that is 20 x 25kg bags of dry white rock salt.

Supplying equipment, from the largest ploughs and de-icing kit to small pedestrian units, Bunce of Ashbury has taken technology on board with the EpoSat system for GPS-controlled spreading. This system means the route is always spread to the programmed settings, ensuring the spread widths and rates are automatically made according to the co-ordinates of the route and allowing the operator to concentrate entirely on driving.

With the launch of new compact loader models, Bobcat has widened its range of products for winter work clearing urban and country roads, pavements, car parks, driveways, parks, school grounds, sports fields and similar areas. Among the range are four snow blower models, offering widths varying from 1.22m to 2.13m and now available with different hydraulic motor packages to allow a perfect match between the blower and the hydraulics on the loader. A rotating chute and deflector means the snow can be thrown in the desired direction and up to distances of 13m.

Bobcat's snow blade is available in six widths from 1.22m to 2.44m, with end wing kit extending the largest model to 2.74m for use in open spaces. For the removal of snowfalls up to 10cm, the company offers an angled broom. A salt and sand spreader with 250-litre capacity is suited for use on pedestrian areas, the spread pattern being controlled by a hydraulic motor to give bouts from 5.6m to 8.7m, depending on hydraulic flow rate of the carrier.

NEW KIT FOR TWO-WHEELERS

Harnessing the power of the Crusader BCS two-wheel tractors, Tracmaster's new range of snow clearance kit enables the grounds care and landscaping power units to be employed when other work is not possible.

New attachments for keeping areas clear of snow include a dozer blade with three working angles, a snow brush for use on block paving, Astroturf, car parks and yards and a snow thrower capable of tossing frozen or wet snow up to 16m away.

The latest item to join the range from Tracmaster is a salt spreader designed to handle salt, sand and granular fertilisers. Width of application can be controlled to cover areas as small as 0.76m or as wide as 3.65m. Hopper capacity is 100kg.

New from Groundscare Products is the Turf Teq snow plough attachment. This blade is 1.17m wide, 0.43m high and can be pivoted to the left, right or for work straight ahead. A 6 degs oscillation up and down enables the plough to cope with uneven ground and the blade is spring-loaded so it will trip if it hits something solid.

In addition to blades and rotary sweeping machines, Kersten UK offers rotary spreaders for use with two-wheel tractors, compact tractors and also for popular brands of ride-on mower over 18hp. This year the Reading-based company has added snow blowers to its portfolio. These can be mounted to the front of two-wheel tractors, ride-on mowers and compact tractors. Available with PTO or hydraulic drive, the machines have working widths range from 40cm to 2.2m and a fully adjustable discharge chute.

There is also an extensive range of Meyer tailgate spreaders for use with pick-up trucks and utilities.

PUSH-ALONG SPREADERS

A wide range of push-along salt and grit spreaders are available for use on footpaths, driveways and courtyards. Check out the latest from:

- Broadwood International

- BSS International

- Bunce (Ashbury)

- DMMP

- Eric Hunter

- Glasdon

- Scotts Professional

- Sherriff Amenity

- Vitax


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