Tue March 31, 2020
A new purpose-built Sennebogen 718 tree care handler proved to be so effective in its road maintenance and storm recovery work, Joe Rutkowski decided he better get another one.
Rutkowski is COO of Mohawk Valley Materials Inc., based in Rome, N.Y. His two Sennebogen 718s are at work in the Florida Panhandle, where Mohawk's local office in Freeport has won a number of contracts with the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Agriculture and other government agencies.
Mohawk originally purchased a 718 to take on a 5-year contract to clear all the trees damaged by Hurricane Michael from the secondary roads in the Apalachicola National Forest. This was just the second 718 tree handler to be sold in North America, but the Department of Agriculture accepted Mohawk's recommendation to adopt the machine as the best tool for the job.
"Our goal as a company is to own as much specialized equipment as we can, because these machines are not available to rent," Rutkowski said. "It puts us in a position where, if we own the machines and something happens, we can go quickly. Our typical response time is 24 hours with our equipment when there is a need."
With more than two years' experience, the 718 has proven its unique capabilities.
"This is the only carrier that we're aware of in the U.S. that has the extendable boom, which is necessary for our purposes of inserting a tree harvesting grapple into a treetop," said Rutkowski.
The 718 is built on a 47,180 lb. (21,400 kg) material handling platform with 43 ft. telescoping boom and a cab that elevates and tilts to give operators the best possible view of their work zone. The boom is fitted with a Hultdins SuperSaw, which is able to grip, cut, extract and stack tree limbs, or even whole trees, in a single smooth operation. The grapple saw also can be used to sort wood on the ground, cut it to size and feed it into a chipper or grinder on the job site.
Rutkowski found that his new machine is a perfect fit for the kind of work his team in Florida is doing, so he added a second, identical machine last year. These rubber-tired machines are highly mobile, and actually able to drive on the road to move between job sites. The outriggers provide an extra measure of stability when they are cutting on slopes and uneven off-road terrain.
Operators find that they can work quickly with the 718.
"The reach and the strength of the boom system with the hydraulics are very responsive," Rutkowski said. "The machine is very safe and well balanced."
The boom can easily reach up into a tree at about 35 ft. and cut the top right off. The controls are very operator friendly. The cab offers great visibility of the entire work area, along with a comfortable, all-season work environment for operators. Rutkowski also noted that the 718 is the right machine to take into eco-sensitive woodlands, as its hydraulic system runs on Panolin bio-degradable vegetable oil.
"If we have a broken hose and a resulting spill, "he said, "we're simply losing vegetable oil onto the ground; not a toxic contaminated spillage."
As one of Mohawk's machine operators, Jay Buxton is hands-on with the 718 every day – and he is equally impressed.
"The lift and reach capabilities and the counterbalance are amazing in this machine. The ergonomics are great, and I just enjoy working in this machine."
Versatility and Dependability
For this current project, Mohawk is clearing fire breaks first, and then roadways. The contract further requires them to bid on all natural disaster events including flood, forestry fires, snow fall events, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc. But the 718 gives Mohawk the capability to tackle a wide range of road and right-of-way maintenance tasks.
The grapple can handle construction debris and the stick can even be submersed in water when necessary. The hydraulic system is engineered to support additional attachments such as a mulching head, tree shearing head or even a stump grinder.
"It's the Swiss Army knife of tree handling equipment" said Rutkowski.
Great Southern Equipment (GSE) also was part of Rutkowski's planning when he bid on the initial contracts. For the same reason he wanted to have these purpose-built machines in his own fleet, he felt strongly about having the local dealer support them. GSE provides all the routine maintenance for the 718s and keeps a local inventory of required service parts.
Mohawk's new approach to tree care has been attracting attention for the company.
"There's a lot of excitement about this type of technology in the woods and tree care industry," Rutkowski said. "This is new. The safety and the production that these machines are capable of providing is incredible. We actually get a lot of press with this machine in urban areas. When we're on city streets moving block to block, safely handling and dismantling trees near power lines, traffic and structures, it's quite a spectacle to see.
"If you're in the business and you understand tree work and land management, all you need to do is see one of these at work and you can immediately see the benefits of the reach, the versatility, the speed and the safety of this machine."
For more information, visit www.sennebogen-na.com.