Four machines that look like they were shipped in from the set of “Transformers” are responsible for maintaining the off-road drainage systems of Polk County, Fla.
Loy Locke, drainage foreman of the county’s Natural Resources Division, currently relies on Kaiser S2 all-terrain excavators (ATEs) to perform ditch work, like mowing and excavating, throughout Polk County.
“We end up deep in the woods,” Locke said.
ATEs, unlike track-mounted excavators, are designed for some pretty rough conditions.
“The four independent legs are able to move in so much different terrain [such as] climbing hills, getting into ditches and walking out into lakes,” Locke said. “They can get stuck, but rarely,” as long as the water level remains below the cab.
Most of the time, the Kaisers are found working on off-road drainage and do more mowing than excavating.
The mower attachment is generally used to take out brush and grass, but it can handle trees up to 4-in. (10 cm) in diameter. A rake bucket and a regular excavator bucket are attached for sediment removal.
“We actually use the material to repair washouts and spread it along the bank. We don’t actually pile it like the draglines used to have to do. We’ll spread it and reshape the ditches,” he said.
Locke said his department purchased its first Kaiser in 1989. It currently owns one and leases three more from GS Equipment.
The Kaisers are enabled with a system that sends maintenance information directly to GS Equipment, so the dealership is able to schedule an appointment or send a mobile technician to the job site for service.
With three foot pedals, two joysticks and several finger controls on each joystick, the machines require an experienced operator.
“If you’ve got a skilled operator, [the ATEs] are worth their weight in gold,” Locke said. “I can’t imagine doing our job without that type of machine.” CEG