With a growing number of available attachments, operators can turn one machine into many and get even more ROI from their trencher.
Ride-on trenchers are one of the most efficient pieces of equipment for underground construction projects. From digging a trench for utility installation to a variety of landscape, hardscape and construction-grade tasks, ride-on machines are the easiest and most affordable solution to help underground construction professionals get the job done. And, with a growing number of available attachments, operators can turn one machine into many and get even more ROI from their trencher. Here are some of the attachments that can increase uptime and help operators quickly move from one project to the next.
The standard trencher attachment is a staple for any ride-on trencher machine. It generally comes pre-installed on a ride-on trencher. The standard trencher attachment will dig approximately 4 to 5 ft. into the ground and create a trench 6 to 12 in. wide, although different manufacturers will offer varying size options. With standard trencher attachments, contractors can efficiently create trenches to install irrigation lines, fiber or cable. The most popular trencher attachments will come equipped with a combination chain that is fitted with both shark tooth and cup tooth chains to cut through a variety of soil conditions.
When using a standard trencher attachment, it's important to always let the trencher work at its own pace. Forcing a trencher to cut faster can lead to broken chains and downtime for repairs. It's also advised to inspect a chain at the start of every job to ensure that the chain has the proper tension. A good rule of thumb for determining this is to follow the two-finger rule — when inspecting chain tension, two fingers should fit between the chain and the lowest part of the boom when the boom is parallel to the ground.
Contractors also should check to ensure there are no broken teeth on the trencher attachment. Both poor chain tension and broken teeth can reduce the effectiveness of the attachment.
Unlike most other ride-on trencher attachments, a trencher-backhoe attachment is most often stationed at the front of a machine so that it can operate in conjunction with another attachment. The primary function of a backhoe attachment is to start and finish a trench — similar to an entry-pit and an exit pit in HDD. A backhoe attachment is beneficial especially on job sites in which the start and end of a trench are in close proximity to urban hazards like fencing or existing landscape structures. A backhoe attachment also is used in rehabilitation and repair projects because it allows for more precise digging than a standard trencher attachment.
The typical backhoe attachment starts with a 6-ft. digging depth and has a bucket width of 12 in. As machine size increases so too does backhoe size.
A saw attachment — also known as a rock saw — is a circular blade that is similar in appearance to a microtrencher. This attachment is used to cut through difficult and rocky terrain. The most common saw attachments will dig down to a depth of 16 to 48 in. and typically use a conical bit blade with carbide. As a result, it's important to consistently check the blade for wear. As saws are constantly used in rocky conditions, their bits will wear down faster than standard trencher teeth.
Microtrenching is paving the way as a cost-effective solution that can help operators cut time, minimize disruptions and increase their overall ROI. Most commonly used for fiber installation, microtrenching attachments allow for a narrower trench to be created than with a standard trenching attachment. For instance, a microtrencher will cut a trench ½ to 3 in. wide. This narrower trench saves contractors backfilling time and cost since less backfill will be needed. Microtrenching is typically done in the gutter pan that parallels the road where the asphalt meets concrete of the curb. By cutting a narrower trench when cross cutting and trenching on the side of the road, contractors don't need to stop traffic, saving on traffic redirection headaches and associated costs.
There are two typical blades that most microtrenching attachments will use. The first is a conical style bit that rotates in a holder and functions like a traditional rock saw. The second is a PDC blade, which is composed of diamond with carbide. The conical bits are generally the more affordable option between the two, but diamond PDC blades are growing in popularity due to its cleaner cut and longer lifespan.
While a conical bit will be effective through around 4,000 ft. — meaning that contractors will likely need to replace bits daily — a diamond PDC blade will last around 20,0000 ft. before it needs to be replaced.
A plow attachment is most commonly used to bury flexible pipe, conduit and cable. The plow is an attractive option in these applications as it offers the ability to install the application as the machine drives. Plows also create less ground disturbance than a standard trencher because they do not create an open trench. However, plows may be difficult to operate in hard or rocky ground conditions.
There are two different styles of plow blades: a pull blade and a feed blade. A pull blade does what its name implies and will pull a cable, conduit or fiber behind the blade to install it underground. A feed blade will have a feeding chute on the attachment to allow conduit to be fed down through the attachment and into the ground.
Safety Best Practices
As with any machine or attachment, it's always important to read the operator's manual before boots hit the ground. Remember that anytime crews are digging into the ground, they should always call 811 to get a job site located. Understanding where existing utilities are located is one of the most important steps in mitigating damage and reducing the chance of costly strikes.
Additionally, it's important to take precautions when installing attachments. While attachments are built to have the ability to be changed out, we always recommended that users contact a local equipment dealer when looking to remove or install attachments. Personnel at a dealership have been trained and have access to the proper equipment to ensure a safe attachment exchange.
Trenching for Efficiency
Ride-on trenchers are consistently one of the most popular machines in underground construction. Now, with the growing number of attachments available, operators can customize their machine to meet almost any job site need, maximizing uptime, improving job performance and increasing ROI.
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