Work type, workforce and location among key variables to consider
A brush chipper is an invaluable piece of equipment on every tree care jobsite. But not just any brush chipper will do; matching the right size and type of machine to specific applications is critical to getting the job done as efficiently as possible every time. Making the right call depends on being attentive to a number of key variables relating to both environmental working conditions and machine capabilities.
The type of work you’re doing, the specific materials you’re handling, transportation capacity and logistics, and geographic location are all factors to consider in determining which brush chipper — like the one of ten Vermeer offers ranging from the nimble, 25-horsepower BC700XL brush chipper to the high-powered 275-horsepower BC2100XL brush chipper — is right for your tree care business.
“There are a lot of variables when it comes to why people choose the machines for their jobs. Some factor in whether they have multiple machines, or the type of specialty work they’re doing,” according to Vermeer Tree Care and Landscaping Product Manager Matt Hutchinson. “In the last few years, the arborist market has been segmenting into two groups: tree surgeons who specialize in tree health management and operators who take down larger trees.”
What kind of work do you do?
That segmentation has helped clarify the optimal brush chipper for different operators. For example, for those working primarily with smaller materials, like in the residential landscaping and tree care sector, smaller models — from the gas-powered BC700XL to the diesel-powered BC1000XL brush chipper — are good choices. That’s primarily because of the material sizes they can handle, as well as their lighter weight and smaller footprints compared to the larger, higher-horsepower brush chippers. On the other end of the spectrum, operators who specialize in handling larger trees are likely to get more utility from a machine ranging from BC1200XL to BC2100XL brush chippers, each of which offers more than 100 horsepower and infeed throat capacity between 17 inches and 24 inches (43.18 cm and 60.96 cm).
“Specialized arborists getting up into trees, pruning, applying different treatments like insecticides and fungicides — they can take care of most jobs with a smaller machine with a 10-inch to 15-inch (25.4-cm to 38.1-cm) infeed throat capacity,” Hutchinson added. “The guys who specialize in larger takedowns or convert larger logs into chips will be better off with machines with around a 20-inch (50.8-cm) capacity.”
How do you transport your brush chipper?
As working capacity increases, so does the brush chipper’s weight and size. For tree care contractors who conduct most of their work in residential areas, a smaller-capacity chipper model is typically a better choice, given the relative ease of transportation compared to larger models. The issue is compounded by workforce demographics, namely the trend away from workers with commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs).
“What is your ability to maintain and haul that brush chipper to the jobsite? Eighteen-inch machines are around 10,000 pounds and may require a driver with a CDL license to transport. You have more weight to haul around, requiring a larger truck and more fuel, so staying on top of your cost of operation, workforce and infrastructure requires more management than it would be if you were hauling a smaller model that only requires a pickup and not a CDL,” Hutchinson said. “There are tradeoffs with every size of machine — like size and horsepower — you should consider in identifying the right brush chipper for you.”
What’s your general labor situation?
Brush chipper transportation logistics and the challenges they present — like the availability of workers with CDLs — shed light on the broader labor issue facing the tree care industry. With labor availability being such a major influence on productivity, mechanization and automation have generally increased on a lot of jobsites. It’s important to strike the right balance between available labor, the requirements to transport a larger machine — namely a CDL — its capacity and the number of jobs to which it will be deployed.
“It comes down to understanding how many workers you have, their capabilities and what is going to help them become more productive on the job,” Hutchinson said, adding that workforce numbers should be a high priority in determining which brush chipper will be the best purchase option.
Where do you operate?
Why does geography matter when it comes to selecting a brush chipper? If you operate in the southeastern U.S., you likely work with faster-growing, softer woods than those more common in the Northeast and Midwest. While overall output should be considered, specific infeed capacity and the orientation of infeed rollers — vertical or horizontal — typically contribute to which machine is right as it relates to the variety and hardness of the material being processed. As a rule of thumb, the harder the material processed, the more suited the operation is to a larger, higher-powered brush chipper.
“You are more likely to handle harder hickories and maples in the Northeast and in the Midwest,” Hutchinson said. “In Florida, Georgia and California, there are a lot more pines and spruce trees. Wood like oak and maple can be harder on the machine because of the hammering action that happens within it during a long workday. This type of operation, regardless of the hardness of the material being chipped, drives home the importance of proper setup and maintenance.”
Start the conversation
If you’re in the market for a new brush chipper or have questions about which size of machine will be best for your operation, start by learning more about the latest Vermeer models. If you’re ready to make a decision, contact your nearest dealer.
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