Woodchippers

Assess type of material, site conditions and manoeuvrability needs, to select a suitable unit.

Many businesses were shocked by the sudden soaring of fuel prices to an all-time high last year. It should have been the jolt needed to review the number of journeys that are made and set the brain working on how to cut down on the amount of travel. And one outcome, hopefully, should have been to address the number of trips made in connection with the disposal of green waste.
The rising costs of transport — that’s driver costs as well as fuel — mean
contractors are increasingly looking to chip or shred on site as a way of reducing the volume of material and the number of journeys required to cart the material away.
In some instances, depending on the site and the terms of the contract, it may be possible to leave the processed material on site, especially in woodland or on verges. It could also be possible to bag the material for use by the owners — it’s worth asking the client.
Choosing the right machine for tackling green or botanical waste may not be straightforward. There is a huge range of equipment available and many factors to consider when selecting the item for your needs.
For starters, you need to consider the type of material you are most likely to want to process. If the majority consists of brambles, soft prunings and materials contaminated with soil, you need a shredder rather a woodchipper — we will review shredders later in the year. Woodchippers are designed for the chipping of timber and woody materials.
The volume of material needing to be processed will indicate the most appropriate size of woodchipper. You will find that woodchippers are actually classified by the size of material they are capable of handling, so start by making a shortlist of those with the appropriate throat size (maximum intake).
Next, look at the power rating to ensure that there is sufficient power for the type of timber you have to process. The speed of operation or throughput will be important where crews of arborists are generating a lot of waste quickly and on one site.
You also need to consider mobility and how the chipper will be moved to the work site. On country estates, in woodland and large gardens or parks, it may be possible to use equipment powered by a tractor power-take-off (PTO). Because there is no need for an engine, this option will be cheaper.
However, any mobile crews that are planning to work in urban areas are more likely to need a self-powered unit that can be towed on the road and around the site by a Land Rover, pick-up or a small lorry.

The right match
Equipment that has to be moved on the road must be carefully matched to the towing vehicle in terms of safe weight. Check that the chassis and tyres on the chipper are suitable for the speeds that you are likely to do and the conditions of the site.
A growing number of manufacturers offer tracked chippers and, while these will need transporting on a trailer, they could be the right option for those contractors working on embankments, verges or where it is necessary to move the unit over extremely rough ground.
Investigate all the extras because some could prove useful, depending on the material being processed, the frequency and duration of use, and the sites being worked. For instance, when working in confined spaces or on a roadside, it is handy to be able to swivel the discharge chute to a direction that is convenient and safe for the catchment vehicle, trailer or skip.
The best way to assess the manoeuvrability, performance and productivity of any piece of equipment is to see a demonstration under working conditions similar to your own. Remember to inspect the machine to ensure it has appropriate standards markings and consider aspects such as loading height to avoid back strain. Health and safety is paramount with all machines, but the nature of the woodchipper means that operator training is a must.
It is worth noting that while brambles, soft prunings and material contaminated with soil require processing by a shredder, and timber or woody materials should be tackled by woodchippers, combination machines are capable of doing both. With a chipper on one side and a shredder on the other, the dual-purpose units are useful where more than one type of material is expected.
As with all machinery purchases you should ask about warranties, back-up services including blade sharpening, availability and cost of spare parts and also operator training.

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