Anyone watching climbing competitions will realise how fit and athletic you need to be to carry out the knuckle-clenching, heart-pounding end of practical arboriculture. By its very nature, the industry relies on recruiting a steady stream of physically-fit young people.
Yet these youngsters, perhaps looking for their first job with a contractor or hoping to set up their own business, may well have a limitation on their driving license - one that means they cannot tow trailers above 750kg without taking a further test, and that test is no walk in the park.
Young landscapers and grounds maintenance workers who may also need to chip timber often find they are in the same position when it comes to towing. So what is the answer? Drop down a size to a 5in machine? No need.
Foreseeing the problems that towing restrictions would put on an industry involved in small tree, pruning and crown-reduction work, both Greenmech and Timberwolf were quick to bring out 6in chippers below 750kg gross. Two years ago, (HW, 15 October 2010) we scrutinised the 35hp three-cylinder diesel Quad Chip 150 mounted on a turntable and the in-line 35hp four-cylinder diesel TW150HB. Today there are even more choices and the range of 6in machines weighing less than 750kg continues to grow.
Vermeer recently introduced the BC160XL 6in chipper. Engineered in America but designed for the European market, this disc-style chipper is compact, with a transport length of 273cm, and boasts Vermeer's AutoFeed II system to help maximise productivity. Horizontal twin in-feed rollers pull material into the two flat-mounted cutter knives.
The BC160XL should appeal to small-sized tree-care companies and rental fleets. It has bottom/side feed stop bars for operator safety and is powered by a 26hp water-cooled Kohler diesel engine. Controls, along with the engine-monitoring system, are sited around the infeed table so, whatever the turntable position, the operator does not have to walk around the machine to make adjustments or check running efficiency.
At IoG Saltex in Windsor last September, Greenmech expanded its sub-750kg road-tow offering with the introduction of the Arborist 130 and Arborist 150. Do not be misled by the model numbers - both machines are 6in chippers and have letter-box throats of 150x230mm.
Weighing in at just 670kg, the standard Arborist 130 is powered by a 23hp Briggs & Stratton engine - a 20hp diesel option will be available next year - and has vertical twin in-feed rollers. When activated, the electronically controlled no-stress feed system reverses the rollers about 20mm to relieve the chipper blades and allow the rotor speed to recover quickly. Knowing that some users will want disc blades and others straight ones, Greenmech has developed a flywheel that accepts either.
The Arborist 150 range includes the 150/26 and 150/34 - weighing 744kg and 748kg respectively and giving users the option of a 26hp or 34hp Kubota diesel engine. Again, this machine incorporates the new flywheel that takes either disc or straight blades and the discharge chute, as in the 130 model, rotates through 280 degs. All other features are the same as on the 130, including the large outer opening of 970x790mm to allow bushy material to be processed and a working height of 590mm with a top rather than bottom control bar.
The choice of sub-750kg 6in chippers continues with the Chippers International 150 MTS. With a two-cylinder 25hp diesel engine, this one weighs a mere 650kg and features three blades, 600mm-diameter flywheel (25mm thick), no-stress device and 360 degs discharge chute as standard. Hourly output is 3,000kg.
As the name suggests, the Jensen 750 Contractor, available from Redwood UK, is designed for contractors needing a convenient, towable machine. Powered by a 31.5hp Kubota turbo diesel engine, this German-engineered 6in chipper weighs 745kg and is mounted on a braked chassis. The machine features a feed aperture of 150x200mm, two knives and 70kg disc. Its output is 13cu m per hour.
Weighing 750kg, the 150M from TS Industrie is powered by a two-cylinder 27hp Kohler petrol engine and has a 56cm-diameter disc with two blades. Timber is fed via two in-feed rollers and control is via an on-board computer or pilot system that adjusts no-stress levels according to the material being chipped.
Slightly smaller, TS Industrie's new Tiger 25ER and 25DR provide a 5.5in chipping/shredding capacity solution. Introduced at this September's APF forestry show, held at Ragley Hall in Warwickshire, these machines offer a petrol or diesel choice - the 25ER being powered by a two-cylinder 25hp Kohler petrol engine and the 25DR by a three-cylinder 25hp Kubota diesel engine. Maximum intake is 140mm and the flared hopper has a 40cm-wide feed conveyor with teeth to better deal with smaller material.
Like the dedicated 150M woodchipper, the chipper/shredders or vegetation processors are both sub-750kg machines - 670kg and 748kg respectively - and feature the pilot control system to help feed material through the cutting mechanism of eight greased hammers with inserts and two blades.
As well as catering for arborists, Timberwolf has developed a product for mobile grounds maintenance teams needing a machine with reduced noise levels. The SX200 is a brand new lightweight shredder designed for single users and, unlike its competitors, comes on a dedicated integral chassis as opposed to a bought-in trailer chassis.
Power comes from a 20hp Honda engine and the processing mechanism comprises forged, sharp profile hammers with Teflon brushes and there is a no-stress system with auto-back-off. There is an option of a feed-and-grab conveyor to draw material into the feed roller. The discharge chute rotates through 270 degs.
Also likely to be of interest to landscapers, it has a letter-box in-feed to take green material, hedge trimmings, conifer, shrubs and brash. It will also process packaging, plastic plant pots and seed trays. It is designed to tackle less wood, more dirt. In-feed opening is 150x200mm. Like all Timberwolf road-tow models, the SX200 is fully homologated. But it weighs just 700kg - or 745kg if you opt for the conveyor.
With so many models from which to choose, there should be no reason why arborists, grounds teams and landscapers cannot find a machine to match their needs, whatever the limitations of their driving licences.
On the road with a woodchipper: best practice for towing
- Always tow within the limits of your driving licence.
- Never tow a woodchipper that is heavier than the tow vehicle manufacturer's recommended towing weight or tow hitch nose weight.
- Clean loose material off the chipper.
- Check in-feed and discharge chutes are folded and secured, and that any turntable is locked.
- Check tyres for wear and pressure and ensure wheel nuts are tight.
- Check bearings.
- Check drawbar bolts.
- Correctly couple to the tow vehicle and lock. Adjust jockey wheel where present.
- Check all lights and the parking brake.
- Make sure the towing vehicle's number plate is displayed on the woodchipper.
- Make sure you have fluorescent jacket, spare wheel, wheel chocks, spare bulbs, first aid kit and warning triangle.
- Monitor the woodchipper and wheels through your wing mirrors, making sure that the tyres remain pressurised.
- Avoid the need to brake hard, and so risk jackknifing, by keeping a safe distance from the vehicle in front.
- If towing vehicle and woodchipper start to snake, slow down gradually and carefully. Never brake hard.
- Remember the UK speed limits for towing - 30mph in a built-up area, 50mph on single carriageways, 60mph on dual carriageways and motorways.
- Never use lane three of a three-lane carriageway, unless overtaking a wide load straddling lanes one and two.
Heavier machines: new features included on manufacturers' latest models
In its Wood Concept series, TS Industrie has added the 35hp diesel 190M with 180mm (7in) capacity and the 250M - the same engine and capacity but with 270 degs rotating turntable for convenient feeding. Both are mounted on heavy-duty, zinc-coated, braked trailers, with the 190M featuring an adjustable drawbar.
For chipping and shredding - TS's Multi-Vegetation Concept - the company now offers the 6in Super Premium 35DR and 35DRI diesel machines with 35hp Kubota engine and Viper 50DRI with 50hp Kubota. They have a large, flared hopper with a toothed conveyor to handle smaller material. The cutting mechanism has a dual mixed rotor with hammers and blades. A Variostress unit allows the pre-set no-stress program to be adjusted to suit the type of material being processed.
Greenmech's Arborist 150 range, launched in September, includes a 6in tracked machine with ground clearance of 274mm to access rough terrain. It will track at 3kmph and has a fold-down platform to allow the operator to ride across the site. Chipper specifications are the same as the Arborist 150/34, except the weight increases to 1,046kg.
New from Vermeer is the BC230XL brush chipper with 9in capacity - 230x360mm throat - and four-cylinder 66hp Kubota diesel engine. Coming on a seven-position, 180 degs turning table, the unit has horizontal twin-feed rollers with a SmartFeed system to monitor engine revs, sense jams and automatically stop or reverse the rollers as necessary.