A Kent-based contractor who specialises in hedge and verge cutting on the county’s major routes says his Valtra tractors supported by the Crawfords team are ideal for the task.
”Det Trading as Direct Enviro Services Ltd and based at Tenterden, Will Clarke and his father Paul started the family business nine years ago after Will had gained experience working for another highways contractor. Their first Valtra was one of the earliest supplied by Crawfords soon after the dealer expanded its trading area to include Kent. Now Will runs the business, assisted by his sister Grace and his wife Leanda, and employs a team of 10 people.
Many of Kent’s major road verges are looked after by Direct Enviro Services Ltd, using two Valtra N-series tractors with Spearhead Twiga S67 Orbital hedgecutters which were supplied and maintained by Crawfords.
“Our first Valtra was a T153 Direct,” Will explained. “The business consisted of just me with a single tractor and although I specialised in hedge and verge cutting, I also offered an agricultural contracting service. Relying on just one tractor meant that I needed something reliable and efficient, and the Valtra seemed bombproof. Because Crawfords had only recently started trading in the area the deal on offer was particularly attractive, and I also gained a lot of publicity for my new business through Crawfords’ own marketing activities at that time.”
Two years later, Will traded in the T153 for another Valtra.
“I looked at other brands, but I preferred the Valtra and the aftersales service from Crawfords had been amazing,” he said.
“A lot of my highway maintenance work was at night, but any time that I needed help then members of the service department was always available, and he did everything possible to keep me working. So, in 2016 I replaced the T153 with an N174 Direct.”
Rapid business growth including winning a contract to maintain the verges beside the county’s high-speed roads meant that a second tractor was needed only a year later. A nearly new T174 Direct and a second Spearhead hedgecutter from Crawfords were purchased, and a full-time operator was employed.
Powerful and manoeuvrable
Now the company’s fleet consists of an N174 Direct and an N135 Direct, both with Spearhead Twiga Orbital S67 6.7m side-arm hedge and verge cutters, and Votex front mowers.
“When we stopped offering the agricultural contracting service to focus on local authorities and highways contracts, this meant we no longer needed a tractor as big as the T-series.”
“For verge cutting, the extra manoeuvrability of the N-series is an advantage, and it uses less fuel. We opted for a slightly smaller side-arm with 0.5m less reach, but when our McConnel barrier mower is fitted it’s still a very heavy combination. The N-series handles it easily though. The tractors are very powerful and capable for their size.”
Will Clarke says he is confident that if a problem occurs, the Crawfords service team will always be available to assist.
Will said that operator comfort is a priority.
“As far as possible, we have one operator to each machine, and I think that it’s easy to take a pride in the Valtras, so they are looked after well. We have always specified Valtra’s Direct CVT transmission for its ease of use. It’s extremely smooth and the ideal speed can be selected for any situation. It’s great for shuttling too. Roadside hedge and verge cutting requires frequent changes of direction, and with Direct transmission there is no clutch or gear lever to worry about. The operator just touches a joystick-mounted button.”
Can’t fault Spearhead
The Spearhead hedgecutters are also supplied by Crawfords and updated every three to five years. The conventional flailheads have a 1.2m cutting width and larger 1.5m rotary heads are fitted for working on overgrown hedges where they cut through thick branches with ease.
“We have always used Spearhead and can’t fault the reliability or build quality, and it’s very convenient that they are backed up by the Crawfords team too,” Will continued.
Fixed cost servicing
Looking after most of Kent’s major roads and motorways keeps Will’s team busy throughout the year. The two Valtras each work approximately 1,400 hours annually and are maintained by the Crawfords team. Will said that arranging servicing through Service Advisor Steph Nuth is always straightforward, and most servicing is carried out on site. A service package negotiated when the tractors were purchased means the costs are fixed allowing accurate budgeting, and payments are made quarterly.
The operators carry out daily checks before starting work.
“Working for local authorities means we have to be thorough and keep accurate records,” confirmed Will.
“The Valtras are well designed and everything is easy to get at, so the checks don’t take long.”
Loyal to brand
Two new N175 Direct tractors are currently on order to replace the current machines.
“We didn’t look elsewhere as the Valtra package is hard to beat,” said Will.
“The latest models feature significant cab improvements including new controls and I think that they will be even more popular with the operators.
“Since we started dealing with Crawfords both our businesses have grown which creates challenges, but we still receive great back-up from the service team and know that if a breakdown occurs at the weekend or at night there will be someone available to get us out of trouble.” •