Off road utility vehicles get to work

With names like Mule, Huskie or WorkHorse, you know right away you're not dealing with glamorous driving machines.

And if you have the need for speed, you'd better look elsewhere. These vehicles go from zero to 60 in.well, never. The fastest max out at 25 mph, and some never get out of single digits.

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But if you need to get a job done-hauling equipment, materials or crew members and maneuvering through rough terrain where trucks and cars fear to tread-you're going to want an off-road utility vehicle.

"In this market, what people are looking for is not something sleek and fast, but a vehicle that is versatile and dependable and durable," says Ron Skenes, communications manager with the E-Z-GO Division of Textron Inc.

Off-road utility models range from light vehicles similar to golf carts to heavier-duty machines that can carry larger payloads and handle rougher terrain.

"It looks like a golf cart if you don't know anything about them," says Ron Nordyke, a Kawasaki public relations account executive, about the Mule, a utility-vehicle line introduced in 1988.

Mule stands for Multi-Use Lightweight Equipment, but the name also gives an idea of the vehicle's purpose: work.

Small and flexible Utility vehicles can be small enough to navigate through tight spots inaccessible to trucks, yet rugged enough to manage difficult ground.

"These are smaller vehicles that can't be licensed (for use on highways or public streets)," says Sandi Gridley, vice president of marketing for Metro Motors Corporation. "It has to be off-road. Twenty-five miles an hour is the top speed allowed for. They are designed more for stop-and-go driving than a truck would be."

If you need some way to haul loads regularly, utility vehicles can be less expensive than a truck, especially if you figure that you'll save on the typical license and insurance costs you would spend on a truck.

"A golf course superintendent could use it to haul his equipment or people around, or sand or fertilizer," says Gridley. "A parks foreman could use one to collect trash and transport equipment. A lot of security forces are using them in parking lots and garages."

And for those strolling on a golf course or heading to class across a university campus, seeing you zip across the landscape in a utility vehicle is not nearly as intimidating as watching you lumber toward them in a truck.

Beyond golf courses Their versatility has made utility vehicles appealing to more than the traditional users.

"We are seeing the market grow to non-golf-course applications," says Skenes. "Universities, large businesses, the government-anyone with a lot of area to cover-are viable customers. A pickup truck might not always be appropriate in these settings."

Nordyke said that the Mule line of vehicles was initially intended for agricultural and industrial use. But now typical users include security personnel, hunters and other recreational users.

In one instance, a medical-rescue team in California uses a Mule with a customized bed that can hold a stretcher to transport injury victims.

"It allows them to go through some mountainous areas in the cold and snow," says Nordyke. "They can rescue accident victims from horseback rides. Big trucks can't access all these areas."

At the Special Olympics this summer in North Carolina, John Deere provided 70 of its Gator utility vehicles to transport athletes, coaches and volunteers and haul supplies and first aid. Five of the vehicles were equipped with attachments for first aid and medical emergencies.

Some utility vehicles are small enough to fit in the back of a full-size pickup truck. Others have different types of tires to accommodate work on turf, rougher terrain, or inside a warehouse. Some run on gasoline, some use diesel fuel and others are powered by electricity. Some have four-wheel- or even six-wheel-drive capability.

Many models have towing capabilities. You can also purchase attachments or other accessories-aerators, spreaders, sprayers, trailers, cab enclosures-for many of the vehicles to expand their capabilities even further.

"It's just a matter of what your preference is," says Larry Jones, vehicles product manager with Textron Turf Care Specialty Products.

An array of choices Textron produces utility vehicles under its Cushman and Jacobsen brands. Cushman's Turf-Truckster comes in three- and four-wheel versions, with either gasoline or diesel engines.

The 3-wheeler has a load capacity of 2,500 pounds (including passengers), and the four-wheeler's load capacity is 2,850 pounds. A three-wheel Jr. Turf-Truckster has a load capacity of 2,000 pounds.

The Hawk, with a load capacity of 1,200 pounds, is sold under both the Cushman and Jacobsen names.

The E-Z-Go division of Textron, known for golf carts, also produces utility vehicles-the WorkHorse line. The WorkHorse comes in several versions, with both gas and electric power. Load capacities range from 800 to 1,600 pounds.

John Deere's line offers several versions of its Gator utility vehicle. Its Standard Gator comes in four- and six-wheel versions. Turf Gators are designed to operate quietly and not leave marks on turf. The six-wheel models come with four-wheel drive. Load capacities range from 900 to 1,400 pounds.

The E-Gator, introduced this year, is powered by electricity and has a load capacity of 900 pounds. Trail Gators are geared more for hunting, fishing or camping. Load capacities range from 900 to 1,200 pounds.

Toro's Workman is its entry in the utility-vehicle market. Its heavier-duty models, the Workman 3000-4000, come in two- or four-wheel drive and have load capacities of 2,600 pounds.

The Workman 1100, unveiled earlier this year for the mid-duty market, is designed to provide more traction than the conventional utility vehicle, says Neil Borenstein, Toro's marketing manager for vehicles. It has a load capacity of 1,000 pounds plus two passengers.

Kawasaki has numerous models of its Mule, with load capacities beginning at 882 pounds.

It has added a diesel version of its Mule 2510 for the 2000 model year. It allows for a greater load capacity-1,630 pounds-and is more convenient for workers whose other equipment uses diesel fuel.

Club Car's utility vehicles carry the name Carryall. They are powered either by gasoline or electricity, and load capacity ranges from 800 to 1,200 pounds. The latest version, the Carryall 272, is designed especially for extremely rough terrain.

Polaris Industries Inc. says its Ranger utility vehicle, has become a popular machine for hauling jobs on farms, golf courses or construction sites.

"It lends itself to heavy work," says Bob Anderson, a spokesman for Polaris. "People find it is a serious workhorse during the week, and then they can take it out and play with it on the weekends."

The Ranger boasts six-wheel drive that can be activated on rough terrain with an on-demand switch on the vehicle's dashboard.

Metro Motors' line includes the MicroTrax, which is about the size of a golf cart, and a MicroTruk, which as the name suggests, looks more like a pickup truck.

The MicroTrax comes with 2- or 4-wheel drive and has a load capacity of 1,200 to 1,500 pounds. The MicroTruk, with a truck-like enclosed cab, has a load capacity of 1,900 pounds.

Smithco produces the Red Rider, which is distinguished by its low-to-the-ground cargo bed and tailgate for easy loading. It has a load capacity of 1,000 pounds.

Yazoo Kees Power Equipment has recently acquired Chetech and Haul Master, both of which produce utility vehicles. Combining Chetech's line with Haul Master's Huskie offerings, Yazoo Kees' vehicles tend to be for heavier-duty use and range in load capacity from 800 to 2,200 pounds, says Bill Chestnut, director of product development for the company's newly formed utility vehicle division.

"Our machines are built as serious work vehicles," says Chestnut.

But even their vehicles have begun to appeal to those with other uses in mind.

"What you're seeing is that baby boomers, as they get older and more responsible and not as daring, are switching from all-terrain vehicles to utility vehicles," says Chestnut. "UTVs are more practical."

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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