Having established Tree Management Tree Surgeons in 1989, Pullen has built up a five-man team that tends and cares for trees on public and private land in Gloucestershire. Much of the work undertaken by the firm is for Gloucestershire County Highways and Pullen finds himself on call for emergency duties. The work can be anything from removing a simple hanging branch to a big tree fallen across a road.
"If it's a simple branch hanging down, it can stop the traffic for three or four hours," says Pullen. "By the time we get there, especially if it is at night, we don't want to be climbing a tree. With a MEWP we can do the job day or night and conclude the work faster, with less disruption to everybody. It is also safer."
Night-time work is aided by powerful lighting. "Working at night is actually a lot easier," comments Pullen. "There is less traffic and no pedestrians trying to walk past. Traffic control is easier and we can do the job safely."
Traffic can be halted for 20 minutes without an official road closure. Climbing near to a road would usually mean closing it. "If I want to climb I have to close the road but with this machine, I put the legs down and within 20 minutes we can be gone. And if people can see you are doing something, they are more patient," suggests Pullen.
Pullen bought two truck-mounted MEWPs a couple of years ago to find out what they would do and how they could benefit the business. He liked them so much, particularly the Niftylift V100 mounted on a Nissan Cabstar, he has since invested in the bigger, self-propelled Scanlift 190. One of the main benefits is the reduced effort needed to carry out a lot of the work.
"You don't get the fatigue that you suffer climbing," he explains. "Your arms can still ache from holding the weight of the chainsaw, but in a MEWP you can simply turn the saw off, put it down and have a breather."
Pullen believes that climbing within tree surgery is becoming a specialist operation for small and enclosed areas, such as back gardens, where there may be no access for a MEWP.
Owning a MEWP opens up other opportunities, like replacing the occasional wind-blown tile. Pullen adds: "I was even able to help when Wotton Town Council needed to change the bulb that lights the town clock."
In quieter weeks, Pullen lends his MEWPs to Westonbirt Arboretum.
Pullen and his team now operate a policy of not climbing unless they have to. As a result, they have grown fond of their MEWPs, so much so that the machines have names. The Scanlift is Overlord, the SkyLift is called Land Lord and the Nissan-mounted unit is Beelzebub.
The Scanlift 190 is a medium-sized MEWP with an 18.45m maximum height and 230kg platform capacity. Yet its weight is low - just a little over three tonnes. What's more, this self-propelled machine has go-anywhere manoeuvrability. It has four-wheel drive and four-wheel steering. An oscillating front axle increases manoeuvrability on rough terrain. This one will crab sideways to get into awkward work positions. It's a real rough-terrain access platform.
"You wouldn't dare take a 20m seven or eight tonner over soft ground," points out Pullen. "But this one is light enough that you can put boards down and take it across paving slabs. It will go anywhere as long as there is room to put the outriggers down."
The Scanlift 190 has proportional hydraulic controls and automatic self-levelling outriggers for quick and easy set up. The plates at the ends of the outriggers are a good size for stability. The machine is powered by a Kubota diesel engine and has high/low speed selectors for speeds up to 4km/h. Pullen tows the unit to work with a 7.5-tonne lorry.
With the outriggers down, the Scanlift's full credentials can be brought into play: a 90 degs platform rotation and a 360 degs continuous boom rotation. This unit has three steering modes of front-wheel, four-wheel or crab-steer.
The Nissan with Niftylift V100 access platform undertakes a lot of the road-side tree work. Pullen explains: "It's quite a narrow machine and doesn't take up much room - and that's good because a lot of Gloucestershire's roads are not that wide."
Being truck-mounted, the V100 already has a 1m height advantage. It has a maximum working height of 10.8m and a maximum outreach of 4.3m. The basket will take 200kg. A safety interlock means the vehicle cannot be driven while the boom is raised.
Other features of the V100 include vehicle gearbox-driven hydraulics, fully proportional hydraulic controls and pressure-sensitive stabiliser micro-switches. Gross vehicle weight is approximately 3.4 tonnes.
"It's a fantastic machine for use in restricted areas because of its narrow stabiliser width of 1.7m," says Pullen.
After using MEWPs for a couple of years, Pullen's philosophy is now one of "why break your back when you could make life easier". He offers the following advice for anyone looking to invest in a MEWP: "Look at your target customer - private, council, line clearance or a mixture. Match the machine to those needs and the terrain."
For those concerned about maintenance costs, Pullen stresses: "You also have maintenance costs with climbing. Every time you do a kit inspection, another £100 rope needs replacing. A MEWP may be a more expensive than a harness, but it earns a lot more."
Drive Kubota or Lombardini diesel engine
Working height 18.45m
Gross weight 3,130kg
Cage capacity 230kg
Features Four-wheel drive, hydraulic outriggers, fly jib and crab
Nissan Cabstar-mounted Niftylift V100
Drive Vehicle gearbox-driven hydraulics
Working height 10.8m
Working outreach 4.3m
Turntable rotation 360 degs
Gross weight 3,400kg
Cage capacity 200kg
Travelling length 4.84m
Travelling height 2.84m
Features Fully interlocked cylinders, fully proportional hydraulic
controls, stabiliser width of 1.7m, pressure-sensitive stabiliser
micro-switches, fibreglass platform
Ian Pullen, partner, Tree Management Tree Surgeons, Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire