The Sennebogen 718E working to clear Hurricane Michael debris in the Florida Panhandle.
Mohawk Valley Materials Inc., based in Rome, N.Y., and its satellite office in Freeport, Fla., found the machine that was a perfect fit for its operations in the Florida Panhandle. The machine was such a good match that it just bought a second from Great Southern Equipment (GSE).
The machines are virtually identical Sennebogen 718Es. The first one was purchased and put into service in 2017, and the second at the end of 2019. Mohawk's first 718E purchase was actually the second machine of its kind ever sold in the United States in the tree clearing and forestry markets. Both came as standard machines, with the only upgrade being the addition of outriggers.
The utilization advantage for Mohawk with these machines is that they are rubber-tired and highly mobile. If need be, they can actually drive on the road.
"This is the only carrier that we're aware of in the U.S. that has the extendable boom, which is necessary for our purposes of inserting a tree harvesting grapple into a treetop," Mohawk Valley Materials COO Joe Rutkowski said.
"Machines are equipped with a Hultdins SuperSaw on the grapple to make a cut, retract and put the treetop on the ground safely and efficiently."
The necessity for these machines in Mohawk Valley Materials' fleet comes from its highly specialized forestry contract work. Mohawk is primarily a government contractor that performs contract work for the U.S. Army, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other government agencies requiring its expertise.
"This particular project that we are working on was put out on a 5-year contract for the U.S. Department of Agriculture," Rutkowski explained. "The scope of this work is to clear all the secondary roads within the Apalachicola National Forest area in the Panhandle of Florida of all the damaged trees from Hurricane Michael. We proposed the means of methods on this contract to use Sennebogens because they are highly efficient, and the machine's hydraulic system runs on Panolin oil, which is a vegetable oil. If we have a broken hose and a resulting spill, we're simply losing vegetable oil onto the ground and not toxic contaminate spillage."
Rutkowski went on to add that "the reach and the strength of the boom system with the hydraulics are very responsive. The machine is very operator friendly and the cab very comfortable with the seats being air conditioned and heated with great visibility, too. Overall the machine is very safe and well balanced."
With the boom configuration and the elevating/tilting cab, Mohawk operators can easily reach up into a tree at about 35 ft. and cut the top right off. The machine easily fells trees and is effective in accumulating branches and limbs on the ground for sorting and stacking for either a log truck pick-up or placing into a chipper or grinder. The grapple can also handle construction debris and the stick can even be submersed in water when necessary, which makes these even more versatile for Mohawk Valley Materials. Rutkowski called these machines "the Swiss Army knife of tree handling equipment."
The hydraulics of the Sennebogen machines will support a mulching head, tree shearing head or even a stump grinder. This is not something Mohawk is using on the machine for this current contract, but something that may be of use at a later time on different work.
The current contract work in the Florida Panhandle has an expansive 30-mi. radius for tree removal. The first stage requires fire break clearing, and the next, clearing of secondary roads. With this contract Mohawk is required to bid on all natural disaster events including flood, forestry fires, snow fall events, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc.
Because of this, Rutkowski stated that "our goal as a company is to own as much specialized equipment that we can because these machines are not available to rent. It puts us in a position where if we own the machines and something happens, we need to go quickly. Our typical response time is 24 hours with our equipment when there is a need."
Both Sennebogens will be serviced by Great Southern Equipment (GSE) as Rutkowski felt strongly about having the local dealer support the machines that they specialize in. It is also helpful that GSE stocks all of the necessary parts. Rutkowski is confident that GSE will not only take care of both machines, but they will "over-service us."
"There's a lot of excitement about this type of technology in the woods and tree care industry," he said. "This is new. The safety and the production that these machines are capable of providing is incredible. We actually get a lot of press with this machine in urban areas. When we're on city streets moving block to block, safely handling and dismantling trees near power lines, traffic and structures, it's quite a spectacle to see.
"The dealer has been excellent working with us. They put the machine on the job with a phone call, which is impressive. If they can do that, they can have the parts we need straight off the shelf. They've done a stellar job."
Machine Operator Jay Buxton said the lift and reach capabilities and the counterbalance are amazing in this machine.
"The ergonomics are great, and I just enjoy working in this machine," he added.
The bottom line for Mohawk is that the hydraulic system is very fluid, very advanced, very responsive and very strong. The company hires operators locally and the machine is easy to train on. They can handle more work, and both machines were turn-key purchases.
"GSE had this machine in stock so it was an easy purchase and was exactly as the last one — right out of the box," Rutkowski said. "If you're in the business and you understand tree work and land management, all you need to do is see one of these at work and you can immediately see the benefits of the reach, the versatility, the speed and the safety of this machine."