Heavy equipment

There's something about operating heavy equipment that always gives me a thrill. Whether it's a back hoe, dump truck or front-end loader, I'm like a kid with a new toy when I operate these machines. Maybe it's the feeling of power knowing that you can use the equipment to achieve feats that you couldn't imagine performing by hand and it's all under your control. Or maybe it's the challenge to get a job done efficiently and safely with these machines. Probably it's a combination of these feelings. This issue focuses on heavy equipment.

In this business, tractors are one type of heavy equipment you can't do without. The myriad tasks these units perform makes them indispensable to grounds managers. Whether it's mowing, loading, digging or hauling, you can fit tractors with an array of attachments to meet the job. Learn about "The versatility of tractors" on page 14.

Thinking of tractor attachments, the first two items that come to mind are front-end loaders and backhoes. A tractor equipped with both of these attachments will be able to tackle the bulk of your loading and digging chores as long as you properly care for it and don't abuse it. Not only will the equipment last longer, but you can avoid serious injury to yourself and bystanders if you use it with safety in mind. I should know, as a 20-year-old working overtime mixing topdressing on a golf course, I used to abuse the heck out of the Ford front-end loader we had. We did the mixing near the shop that was in view of golfers on the sixth green. In the rush to get the job done, although it never really ended, I used to make the hydraulics on the loader scream for mercy, bang the frame and plow with a head of steam into the pile. Golfers used to look at me and shake their heads because I probably made quite a racket. I didn't care, though, because I was in a hurry, and I knew how to use the machine. Now that I look back, I realize how foolish I was. I could have killed myself if the frame had snapped or at least damaged the loader, which I probably did. Live and learn. In memory of these youthful tractor exploits, this issue includes two relevant articles -- one on backhoe safety (page 72) and another on caring for loaders (page 76).

Safety applies to on-road as well as off-road activities. In the grounds-care trade, you or your employees spend a significant amount of time hauling materials on the road. Because of the loads you carry, safety should be paramount in your drivers' minds. In fact, the greatest number of fatalities in the landscape and horticultural trades occurs as a result of transportation incidents. Read "Safe hauling and dumping" (page 28), by Steve Koschak, superintendent of installation with D.R. Church Landscape Co., for tips on how to truck materials safely.

Because people spend so much time on the roads, municipal, state and federal governments devote a significant amount of our tax dollars to roadside beautification and care. You should initiate careful planning, consider various uses, and bear in mind maintenance needs and environmental impacts at the start of any beautification project. HNTB Corp. has been involved in many such projects nationwide. Find out how this firm approaches such endeavors beginning on page 80.

Once you've beautified your roadsides, you must maintain them to keep them in top shape -- no small task. For example, North Carolina spends about $16 million dollars a year maintaining its 300,000 acres of roadside turf. But with good management and thoughtful selection of turfgrass species, plant growth regulators and herbicides, the N.C. Department of Transportation has been able to keep a handle on mowing costs. Bill Johnson, NCDOT's state roadside environmental engineer, shares some of his experiences in maintaining roadsides on page 56.

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