Making the cut

Mowers for highway vegetation keeping pace with technology

Highway Maintenance Article December 28, 2000
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Hair past the shoulder can be appealing, but when you’re dealing with grass, if it’s long it isn’t pretty.

Nobody enjoys looking at vegetation growing out of control along the side of a road, and with the summer season ready to hit full stride the process of keeping grass short and sweet is near the top of the priority list.

All-wheel drive, zero-turning radius and improved comfort and safety features for the rider are just a few points mower manufacturers are trying to push heading into the new millennium. This month, ROADS & BRIDGES reviews the latest in product design the highway vegetation cutting industry has to offer.

Alamo Industrial

The Machete, A 201V and the Interstater are in charge of brush and grass control for Alamo Industrial.

Leading the company into the new century is the Machete, which uses a closed-loop hydraulic system instead of open-loop hydraulics to produce less heat. As a result, the piston pump and motor will achieve 96%efficiency because more energy is transmitted to the mechanical elements within the system and less oil is lost to slippage than with a standard gear system.

The operator can control all of the boom mower movements with a single joystick, which powers electro-hydraulic proportional lifts, swing and dipper arm for more precision in positioning.

The Interstater will mow a 20-ft swath, cutting 12-acres per hour at 5 mph. Adjustable, hydraulically operated 88-in. wings can mow slopes, ditches or flatlands, and may be raised to avoid obstacles. The rear 88-in. flail is powered by the tractor’s PTO and leveled by a three-point hitch control, and housing and vertical flail action deflect debris downward rather than upward.

The A 20IV, a large flex-wing rotary mower, can chew up 7-acres per hour at 3 mph. Aided by skid shoes, rear wheels and overlaping blades, the A 20IV follows the contour of the ground for a smooth, finished cut. A boxed channel frame provides support for the 7-in. steel top deck, and the side skirts are made of 1/4-in. thick steel and are 11 1/4-in. high. Using mechanical or hydraulic power, the wings fold up for transportation.

Encore

Encore’s Prowler Front Cut comes with a dual path hydrostatic drive to increase overall drive power, control and stability. It features a 20-hp liquid-cooled Kawasaki engine for long-running cooling capacity and efficiency.

The mower has a zero turning radius, and there’s an option of single or dual tail wheels. Zero-turning radius happens when, with one wheel moving in reverse and one wheel moving forward, the machine pivots on its center point leaving zero uncut grass in a smaller diameter turn.

There is 7 gauge in the steel deck plate and the side skirts around the deck, a piece of 10-gauge steel in the top plate and a tubular steel bumper for additional collision protection. The reinforcement holds the deck steady to assure blade alignment and reduce vibration, which results in a smooth cut even at high speeds and under difficult cutting conditions.

The Prowler has a new blade spindle assembly which has eliminated the grease zerk. The assembly gives the bearings longer life and easier field maintenance.

Cutting height ranges from 1 to 5 in. with a single lever adjustment, and the deck flips for cleaning, blade access and compact transport and storage.

Excel

Zero-turning radius is the driving feature behind Excel’s Hustler Model 6400 Hillsider and 3400 Rear Steer 4x4.

The 6400 comes with six-wheel drive for traction, stability and safety on slopes. Its turning mode allows the operator to make a zero-degree turn without scuffing the turf, and a self-leveling cab with certified ROPS keeps weight evenly distributed for balance. Armed with a 72-in. dual-trim rotary blade, the clipper is powered by a 38-hp water-cooled diesel engine which, along with the operator platform, is self-leveling.

The 3400 Rear Steer is equipped with four-wheel drive in both forward and reverse. An H-bar steering system uses motorcycle speed controls, and the mower can travel as fast as 9 mph forward and 6 mph in reverse.

Grasshopper

Grasshopper’s Model 928D2 zero-radius outfront mower is powered by a 28-hp liquid-cooled diesel engine and a Gemini2 dual-path hydrostatic direct drive. A closed-loop system with one Ross high torque wheel motor and one pump per drive tire allows the mower to move forward at speeds of up to 9 mph. Interlock switching prevents engine start while PTO clutch is engaged or steering levers are in the drive position, and dampened neutral return levers inhibit impact and extend hydrostatic transmission life. The throttle control allows the operator to maintain full engine rpm while using infinitely variable mowing speed for different mowing conditions.

The Grasshopper Gemini2 700 Series mowers feature a G2 dual-path hydrostatic direct drive system which increases forward ground speeds to 8.5 mph. Power units come with either a liquid-cooled diesel engine, the 721D2 model, or gas engine, the 725G2. Built with twin Ross high-torque wheel motors, one for each drive wheel, the G2 hydrostatic direct drive system is a closed-loop system which uses a 7 micron absolute filter. The filter helps productivity in dirty, dusty conditions.

Gravely

Making tracks down the interstate for Gravely is a line of mowers which includes the Promaster 460, 360 and 300 models.

A 30-hp liquid-cooled diesel engine is the heart of the PM 460 model, which also includes direct-drive PTO to power the blades. The clipper also comes with a 60- or 72-in. mowing deck, rear-wheel steering, two-speed transaxle and individual wheel brakes. It’s also a zero-uncut turn and zero-turning radius machine. Zero-uncut turning allows the operator to stop one wheel while the other continues forward, pivoting the mower on the inside wheel and leaving zero grass uncut.

The 360 is powered by a 22-hp liquid-cooled engine with two-speed transaxle and hydraulic power steering. The mower also features a balanced driveshaft to minimize vibration. A hydraulic deck lift for maneuverability around obstacles and a cast iron rear axle are also advantages of the 360.

A single-pedal direction control and an outfront deck are the highlights of the 300 model. The outfront deck allows the user to reach under low-hanging branches.

The mower also comes with dual rear-wheel steering, a 25-hp air-cooled engine, responsive yoke steering for zero-uncut turning performance and a hydraulic deck lift.

John Deere

John Deere’s heavyweight for vegetation control is the 1518 rotary cutter. The three-section flex-wing design features 15-ft cutting and 8.5-ft transport widths, and the twin wings flex from 22 degrees below to 90 degrees above horizontal. A straight bar-type blade holder makes it easier to cut in tall grass or bush, and the center and wing gear cases are slip-clutch protected.

John Deere also offers a three-point hitch mower, a light-duty rotary cutter, a 25A flail mower and a 300 series flail mower. The hitch mowers (261 and 272 models) offer 5- or 6-ft mowing width and come with a deep discharge tunnel and deck which provide better airflow for an improved cut and a uniform discharge of clippings. The rotary cutters are compatible with full-size utility tractors and are available in 4-, 5- and 6-ft cutting widths. An adjustable tailwheel allows the cutter to maintain a uniform cutting height. The mower also comes with a deck that has flat-bar stiffeners and an adjustment bracket on the deck top, along with welded reinforced corner joints on the rear skirt for additional strength. Cutting widths in the 300 series (360, 370 and 390 models) range from 4 ft, 10 in. to 7 ft 6 in. HC-section belts drive the rotor on the 360 and 370, and a two-section, 5VX notched belt drives the 390 rotor. The 390 also features an offset design for cutting up to close trees, and skid plates on all three models absorb shock from contact with the ground.

Kubota

New to Kubota’s utility tractor lineup is the 2WD M4700SCS Turf Special and F60 Series. Armed with the company’s E-TVCS (three-vortex combustion system), 5-cylinder, 47-hp diesel engine, the clipper performs with more power and higher torque.

A 4-speed, partially synchronized transmission with high, low and creep ranges includes 12 forward and four reverse speeds. The transmission also allows an operator to shift on the go for easy direction changes.

The Turf Special also comes with a low-profile front axle, under-muffler and a hydraulic independent PTO wet-type clutch.

Standard operator features include full hydrostatic power steering and an ISO-mounted semi-flat deck with hanging pedals.

Forming the F60 Series are the F2260, F2560, F3060 and F2560E. The F2260, F2560 and F3060 are four-wheel drive models powered by E-TVCS diesel engines rated at 22, 25 and 30 hp, respectively. The two-wheel drive F2560E engine delivers 25 hp. All engines have high torque rise and feature single-pedal operated hydrostatic transmission (HST), which makes direction changes easy.

The series also feature the company’s auto assist four-wheel drive with dual-acting overrunning clutch system. Whether in forward or reverse, the system automatically transfers power to all four wheels when needed, which in turn helps eliminate wheel spin. Once the unit regains traction the overrunning clutch disengages four-wheel drive.

An independent hydraulic PTO clutch makes it possible to activate and deactivate PTO-driven implements while on the move, and F60 models are available with a 60- or 72-in. side discharge mower which can be equipped with a grass catcher. A tilt-up deck, which provides almost 8 in. of clearance when traveling between jobs, provides access for blade replacement or deck cleaning.

If the PTO clutch is disengaged, a PTO brake stops the mower blades automatically for safer operation. If the driver leaves the seat while the clutch is engaged or if the parking brake is not set, the engine automatically shuts down.

Kut-Kwick

The Super-SlopeMaster, produced by Kut-Kwick, can cut on slopes of up to 40 degrees. Powered by a 38-hp water-cooled diesel engine, the mower is skid steered, dual wheeled and can cut a 72-in. swath. A twin, closed-loop hydraulic system, which include hydraulic pumps and geared hydraulic wheel motors, power the forward and reverse rotation of the wheels. Each hydraulic drive system is independently controlled through hand-activate directional control levers for direct drive wheel steering, and the mower has the ability to traverse and turn on slopes for efficiency and to prevent erosion.

Kut-Kwick’s Roadmaster series includes flail or rotary mowers. The front mowing tractor cuts an 88-in. swath and operates safely on slopes of up to 31 degrees. A 78-hp water-cooled diesel engine gives the Roadmaster its kick, and a quarter-inch plate steel mowing deck supports the chassis from the front while pivoting side to side to follow the contour of the ground.

New Holland

In terms of cutting widths, New Holland shows some flexibility behind its Model 954B rotary cutter and Model 918H flail mower.
The rotary cutter has 5-, 6- and 7-ft cutting widths to match cutting requirements. The 5- and 6-ft units can hook up with most tractors up to 60 hp with 540-rpm PTO. The 7-ft units, which are available as pull-type or three-point hitch mounted, can be used with tractors up to 85 hp with 540-rpm PTO. Gearboxes in the rotary cutter contain steel cut gears and are slip-clutch protected. Rear gauge wheels are attached to the deck at four points for more stability and direction control. The unit also features “stump-jumper” blade carriers which help the blades maneuver around obstacles.

Cutting widths of 60, 71 and 89 in. in the flail mower can be used with tractors up to 70 hp equipped with 540-rpm PTO. All 918H mowers can be centered behind the tractor, or offset for close cutting. Forward rotation of the rotor knives lifts the grass for even cutting, and reversing the rotors allows the clippings to be mulched, thrown to the rear and through an extended rear shield for even distribution.

Tiger

The triple gang flail mower T3F-282C is Tiger’s latest creation. The new product has a 20 1/2 ft combined cutting width and comes with interchangeable all-purpose cut and smooth cut knives. The side mowers are armed with 67-hp hydraulic motors, while the rear mower comes with a gear box which carries a 90-hp rating constant and 135-hp rating intermittent. It also features double-row spherical bearings mounted inboard on the ground roller, a hydraulic system drive and an 81-hp-rated adjustable belt system.

Tiger’s boom mower TRB-50C has a 20-ft, 6-in. boom reach and features a 50-in. rotary, brush cutter head, 60-in. rotary, grass and light brush cutter head, 50- and 63-in. flail mower cutter heads and a ditcher. The 50-in. cutting head has a 435 degree rotation, full-length skid shoes, retractable shield, shielding cutter knives and a 3 1/4-in. forged spindle mounted in double tapered roller bearings. The boom mower operates with three hydraulic lift cylinders—one single-acting with nitrogen accumaltor and two double-acting cylinders—mounted on the top and bottom. The hydraulic pump is 188-hp rated.

The company’s rotary mower is less likely to suffer a costly breakdown because it runs without a clutch, universal joints, V-belt or chains. The rear mower can work individually or simultaneously with a side-mounted mower. The hydraulic motor in the 60-in. cutter carries a 128-hp rating, while the 72-in. cutter rates at 139. Ditchers, flail heads and guardrail mowers are interchangeable between side and rear mower.

A 75-in. mounted clipper on the side and a 90-in. offset or centered one in the rear are offered on Tiger’s flail mower TSF-75C. The model also comes with a three-point hitch for CAT II tractors on PTO drive. The gear box is rated at 90-hp constant and 135-hp intermittent. The mower also has the capability to interchange with a rotary mower, ditcher and boom mower. The hydraulic motor and three groove self-adjusting drive belt are 74- and 81-hp rated, respectively.

Toro

Forming Toro’s line of mowers are the mid-mount ZRTs, which include the Z252L, Z253 and Z255. The Z252L is the newest addition and comes equipped with a liquid-cooled 22-hp engine that can cut up to 4.4 acres per hour with blade tip speed over 18,100 ft per minute. The decks have a 12-gauge welded steel construction and the cutter can reach ground speeds of up to 9 mph forward and 6 mph in reverse.

The Z253 and Z255 carry engines of 23 and 25 hp, respectively. Decks of 52, 62 and 72 in. are available on both models and can cut up to 5.1 acres per hour. A square-designed, .188-in. welded tubular steel carrier frame with four-point floating deck suspension and offset castor wheels minimizes scalping and tracking. The Z253 and Z255 can also reach ground speeds of 9 mph forward and 6 mph in reverse.

Woods

Ideal for highway/right-of-ways, the Batwing 3240, produced by Woods Equipment Co., has a 240-in. cutting width and a 16,000 ft per minute blade tip speed.

The cutter is equipped with Woods’ patented Intra-Drive gearbox, which eliminates the need for a splitter gearbox. Intra-Drive gearboxes feature output shafts of 2 1/8 in. in diameter and double spindle shaft seals.

The Batwing 3240 offers a 14-in. deep deck, which increases cut material capacity and reduces clogging. Under-deck baffling controls material flow for optimal clippings distribution.

A self-leveling hitch with four-bar parallel linkage prevents early drawbar wear, and the Batwing 3240 is compatible with tractors rated between 60 and 250 hp with either 540 or 1000 rpm power take-off speeds.

Supporting the deck structure is a heavy gauge steel box frame, which leaves the top of the deck free of structural components.

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