Local authorities and groundscare contractors target higher-quality kit

Municipal contractors aim to boost productivity by buying machinery on invest-to-save principle.

Cushman 1600XD-R: utility vehicle for rugged terrain and road use - image: Ransomes Jacobsen
Cushman 1600XD-R: utility vehicle for rugged terrain and road use - image: Ransomes Jacobsen

Local authority teams and grounds care contractors are spending more on larger and higher-quality machinery despite ongoing pressure on their budgets.

Ransomes Jacobsen said its UK sales were up 15 per cent on last year, with increases especially marked in the municipal sector, an overall market that had been shrinking for the past three years to a third of its former size.

Sales director Rupert Price said: "We are finding that many of our customers are buying more expensive kit and looking after it better to make it last. Contractors are buying quality instead of kit built to a price."

Big sellers included the Ransomes HR300 out-front rotary mower with three cutting decks, which is more pricy than rival kit, he added. Ransomes Meteor ride-on triple flail mower is another high-end machine but saves cutting time.

Price said: "Maintenance teams appreciate they can get a high-quality cylinder-type finish but in 30 per cent less time. When you're making savings across all areas, this is a boon. This kit isn't for everyone but it is more flexible."

The company is investing in new products, distribution and more sales staff because "you can't shrink when you want to grow". A recent new launch, the Cushman utility vehicle, is for rugged terrain but also road use.

"We will focus more this year on environmental aspects. Contractors do not want to fire up diesel engines all of the time, especially when working in urban areas, so we are investigating electric-powered vehicles."

Parks consultant Sid Sullivan said: "I'm not surprised to hear sales of big equipment and equipment generally are rising. Many authorities and contractors have been nursing old kit beyond its effective use date.

"Also, many councils and contractors are responding to cuts and bigger-scale contracts by buying larger, more productive equipment on an invest-to-save principle."

But he added: "Bigger is not always best. Most parks are small to medium-sized and larger kit does not necessarily fit the land or make a good job on small-scale parks. It can also interfere with public use and generate considerable noise as well as create greater pollution."

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