Mon March 27, 2023
Brian Fraley – FRALEY CONSTRUCTION MARKETING
The Harding Department of Public Works, in Harding Township, N.J., has streamlined its tree recycling operation with the help of a new Exac-One GRP200-7 hydraulic grapple and Black Splitter S2 800 cone splitter from Ransome Attachments.
Harding Township, New Jersey, is a well-kept, leafy suburban enclave located roughly 47 mi. west of Manhattan. The department does a little bit of everything, including paving, forestry, pothole repair, lawn mowing and even masonry. With a staff of eight employees, maintaining its extensive tree population is no small job. This has been exacerbated in recent years because of damage inflicted by unusually strong storms and a pest called the Emerald Ash Borer.
In January 2023, Operator Justin Buller and Superintendent Tracy Toribio were discussing how the department could save money and efficiently run the roadside tree program with existing staff. The department wanted to recycle 100 percent of the material on its roadside job sites and knew the types of equipment it would require. This would eliminate the need to haul logs, stumps and brush to its yard or the private recycler.
Buller is an equipment operator for the department. He knew of Ransome Attachments through a friend at a local land clearing contractor that purchased a Black Splitter and some other attachments. After hearing rave reviews from colleagues, he approached Eric Ransome at a trade show in New Jersey and expressed interest.
The department ended up acquiring not only the Black Splitter, but also the Exac-One grapple in January 2023.
It also ended up purchasing a Kubota mini excavator and an 18-in. Bandit wood chipper. The Black Splitter and Exac-One grapple would function as the conduit between the two machines.
The acquisition of these new attachments was part of the department's updating of its equipment and truck fleet, which has been unfolding over the last five years. Most of its equipment dated back to the 1990s.
The department also recognized that a worsening labor shortage was threatening its productivity. Multi-functional attachments like the Exac-One grapple and Black Splitter were an obvious choice.
The department's excavator operator can now switch between the grapple and cone splitter seamlessly with a quick coupler at the worksite. The splitter breaks down the logs and the grapple loads the sections into the chipper, which reduces its material recycling costs.
The 360-degree rotation of the grapple has also proven effective with sorting material because it has the ability to scoop up logs and set them with the cut ends facing in the same direction. This task was time consuming with a bucket and thumb combination.
The Black Splitter has been helpful with stump processing as well. Not only does it break down the stump, but also cleans out most of the dirt and rocks. This saves the department money because the recycling company charges the lower cost mixed brush rate.
Buller recalle the department's old way of handling tree cleanup after a big storm.
"We would spend months picking up the debris every time a storm rolled through," he said. "It was a lot of backbreaking physical work."
He knew from previous experience what was needed to mechanize and improve the process.
Productivity has soared with the new equipment setup. Buller estimated that the department is processing twice as much material in half the time.
"The amount of work we did in the last two days was performed in half the time using minimal labor," he said. "This is awesome."
The department has been using the grapple to handle full size trees up to 50 ft. long and 12 in. in diameter. It also easily handles downsized sections ranging from 8 to 12 ft. and heaping bundles of brush. Feeding these materials into the chipper on site has been a game changer.
Using the grapple has been simple, according to Buller. "Once you get used to it, it's like having your hand on the end of that machine and you can pick up material, put it in a chipper, and place it where you want it," he said.
Loading material with the grapple instead of by hand also has improved safety.
Roadside crews have traditionally faced risks including cuts and bruises, falls, and back injuries. Buller can now load material into the chipper using the grapple from the comfort and safety of the excavator cab. A single worker is required near the chipper to monitor chipping and toss in small brush.
The department has not required support for either unit, but based on his experience to date, Buller is confident that the team at Ransome will stand by its attachments.
"Eric takes the time to explain the attachments, deliver a quality product, and make the overall experience pleasurable," he said. "He's a really nice, down to earth, genuine guy."
For more information, visit ransomeattach.com.