Canadian Rental Service

Understanding market needs

By Karen Swanson and Greg Ehm   

Features Tech tips

When it comes to renting a ride-on trencher, contractors and weekend do-it-yourselfers have very different needs. However, rental operators can easily rent to both markets if they take the time to understand the needs of each customer.

  Photo courtesy of Vermeer Manufacturing Company.


When it comes to renting a ride-on trencher, contractors and weekend do-it-yourselfers have very different needs. However, rental operators can easily rent to both markets if they take the time to understand the needs of each customer.

Contractors will rent a ride-on trencher when they need the equipment but do not have the right sized unit in their fleet. “They may not be able to use the unit often enough to justify the cost, so they will factor the rent of the required unit into their job bid,” says Deb Whitten, rubber tire segment manager at Vermeer. “However, they may eventually purchase the unit if the job requires a rental term of over three or four months.”

Contractors are also looking for good performance and reliability.


Renting a ride-on trencher can boost their return on their investment, especially when it means customers can complete a job more quickly.
It is important to rent contractors a ride-on trencher that is equipped with the proper chain and cutting tools for the conditions in which they are trenching. Good spoil-handling capabilities and proper ground engagement tools are vital. The trencher must be optimized for weight to horsepower, hydraulic performance and set up properly for the highest performance results.

 Photo courtesy of Vermeer Manufacturing Company.


Contractors will need to rent a ride-on trencher based on the type of work they are doing and the digging conditions in which they operate.
They often use a small (37- to 46-horsepower) to medium (76-horsepower) sized trencher with a partial cup cutter set up. In some areas where the conditions are much tougher and rockier, they often use a medium (76-horsepower) or large (99- to 120-horsepower) trencher with a rock-wheel cutting attachment utilizing rotary carbide teeth. The Correct Cutter Patterns are essential to meet the productivity needs of contractors.

The weekend do-it-yourself customer will often rent a ride-on trencher for a specific need, such as putting in a water line, gas line, sewer line or fiber. “This renter is usually less concerned with high performance, since he has a specific job to do and will return the unit after the job is completed,” says Whitten. “Unlike contractors, they tend to require smaller and easier-to-operate units. Renting a ride-on trencher will allow them deeper digging depths and reduce fatigue for larger jobs.”
Do-it-yourself customers may choose walk-behind or pedestrian trenchers if a ride-on trencher is too large, too difficult to operate or cost-prohibitive for their budget.

A small ride-on (37- to 46-horsepower) tractor with a trencher attachment is the best option for most units for do-it-yourself customers. They are easier to operate and do not require special permits to transport. Most models include a backfill blade for easy backfilling of the trench, while select models also include a backhoe attachment. Most pedestrian units do not have backhoe options, nor do they provide backfill blade capabilities.

Trenchers can be marketed to each segment by following a few guidelines, such as keeping rental fleets in good shape, and trading a unit when it gets old and is no longer performing well. “Advertising uptime to the segments, such as, ‘If your unit requires maintenance or repairs, we will have a replacement unit on your job site within one hour’ would be particularly popular with the contractor rental segment,” says Whitten.

Build confidence with the do-it-yourself customer segment by advertising easy-to-operate equipment, and providing training for operators. It may also help to suggest product installation tips to do-it-yourself customers who need help with the job they are trying to do. “Any extra services that make contractors feel they are renting well-maintained, high performing equipment will help. Services that make do-it-yourself customers feel they will get training and assistance with their home projects would be good marketing strategies.”

Which trencher is right for the job?
According to Jon Kuyers, utility products segment manager for Vermeer, knowing the depth and width of the needed trench, along with the trencher’s maximum digging depth, is crucial. For example, water lines need to be installed below the frost line. If a trencher only has a maximum digging depth of 30 inches, and a 42-inch frost line exceeds the digging depth, the water line will probably freeze and cause additional issues.

“Another factor to consider when choosing between a walk-behind or ride-on rubber-tire trencher is the jobsite, and possible constraints that it would pose,” Kuyers says. “If a customer is working in a new housing development with zero lot lines, a ride-on trencher may be more beneficial, whereas, if the customer is confined to the backyard due to fences or gates, a smaller walk-behind trencher may work best.”

Kuyers also says that digging conditions must be considered in order to choose a unit with enough horsepower and machine weight to effectively dig. In difficult digging conditions, a ride-on trencher may prove more beneficial. Using a lower horsepower, lighter walk-behind machine may result in lower productivity, increased operator fatigue and abnormal machine wear.

“Generally, walk-behind trenchers provide increased mobility in tighter confined areas,” Kuyers says. “Ride-on trenchers may provide a higher production rate due to their ability to dig more effectively in hard digging conditions.”

On the other hand, walk-behind units are ideal for digging service line trenches that are required in narrow or confined spaces where larger units are not able to effectively manoeuvre. Service line trenches are usually shallower and narrower, depending on the region, and do not require a large amount of horsepower. Walk-behind units also have a smaller and lighter footprint. They are easier to manoeuvre and do not require as much ground restoration as a larger machine.

Karen Swanson and Greg Ehm are technical writers for Two Rivers Marketing. Information provided by Vermeer Manufacturing Company in Pella, Iowa.

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