Like most British cities and towns, Derby includes a lot of open spaces – everything from acres of parkland, playing fields and golf courses to grass verges and central reservations. All of this land requires maintenance, such as grass cutting and replanting, tree cutting and the removal of cut timber, and repairs to the infrastructure, including roadways, walls and ornamental bridges. To handle this workload the Street Pride Department of Derby City Council relies on four Valtra N113 tractors.
Derby City’s N Series tractors are equipped with HiTech 5 40kph transmissions, cab suspension and front axle suspension, and loaders.
“We ordered the tractors at the beginning of this year, and they arrived in the spring. The likelihood that we will need to use four loaders at one time is remote, so while each tractor is fitted with loader brackets, our organisation has only three loaders and a selection of 4-in-1 buckets, pallet forks and a log grab,” explains David Wharrier, one of council’s four grounds maintenance officers.
David and his team paid close attention to the brand, model and specifications when selecting the new equipment, as it is expected to perform for the next ten years.
“Trying to choose the specification for a machine that will be used in ten years’ time is a bit like crystal ball gazing!” David admits.
Focus on fuel economy and comfort
Like the majority of British councils, Derby operates under an O licence, which means the tractors come under the eagle eye of inspectors. Carrying capacity, axle weights, tyre capacities and more all come under close scrutiny. In addition, the large area of operation, with significant distances travelled on the road, requires that the tractors run on white un-rebated diesel. As a result, fuel costs per hour of operation are high compared to purely agricultural machines.
“Small differences in fuel consumption between makes and models will add up to quite a bit, so fuel use was looked at very carefully,” David says.
Close behind the tractors’ specifications in terms of priorities came operator acceptance and training.
“These guys are sat in their machines for long periods, particularly in the summer. They can start work at 4 or 5am so they can finish before the sportsmen and women arrive. Air conditioning is imperative, but it’s just as important for the driver to feel comfortable and for them to like the machine. After all, they’re going to be driving it for the next ten years!”
A carefully considered choice
The drivers were given plenty of time to test drive all the competitive tractors before the final decision was taken.
“Our guys tested the various makes for a week, and any questions were referred back to the dealer; in Valtra’s case this was David Eaton Tractors Ltd. The staff at David Eaton Tractors were most helpful. No question went unanswered, and that impressed us all,” David Wharrier admits.
“The tractors may seem a little oversized and overpowered for some jobs, considering they have up to 130 horsepower with boost, but it’s better to have power in hand than to struggle through some of the winter maintenance jobs,” David explains.
Tyres also came in for careful scrutiny. Derby measures seven miles across, so travelling between jobs is mostly along busy highways that require hard-wearing tyres. On the other hand, playing fields and golf courses can be damaged by industrial tyres. As a result, three of the Valtra tractors are fitted with Nokian 440/80R28 tyres on the front with 540/80R38 on the rear. The fourth tractor, which is used mainly on a golf course, is fitted with 560/60R22.5 and 650/65R30.5 Michelin CargoXBib tyres. These offer greater flotation while causing minimal damage on fairways, even during the most inclement weather.
Alongside the 17-foot cylinder mowers used on golf fairways and sports fields, the team also operate a couple of 16-foot rotary mowers for rougher grass, as well as power harrows and seeders. They also use their trailers a lot, and one machine can spend a lot of time supporting the tree section.
“We’ve even developed a loader attachment for handling goal posts!” David adds.