Two ride-on trencher attachments to increase ROI

By Steve SeaboltJune 15, 2022

Most commonly used for fiber installation, microtrenching attachments allow for a narrower trench to be created than possible with a standard trenching attachment

With so many machinery options in the underground construction industry, it can be hard to determine which investment will have the best ROI and allow your crew to be versatile. Ride-on trenchers are still the quickest, simplest and most affordable solution if there are no issues with creating a trench.

One of the top reasons ride-on trenchers continue to be a valuable underground construction asset is the variety of configurations and customization they allow. Ride-on machines, in particular, are an efficient option for underground professionals facing more extensive trenching projects like those deeper than 2 feet and/or longer than 20 feet.

From the standard trencher attachment to a more specialized microtrencher, here are two of the attachments that can improve the ROI of any ride-on trencher.

Standard trencher attachment

The standard trencher attachment is the bread and butter of any ride-on trencher machine. It generally comes pre-installed on a ride-on trencher. The standard trencher attachment will dig approximately 4-6 feet into the ground and create a trench 6-24 inches 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. Most trenchers are mounted near the centerline of the tractor, but some are equipped to “slide” from centerline to an offset position, enabling operators to cut close to fences, walls, and guardrails. 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 should also 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.

What is microtrenching?

A rapidly growing technology in the trenching world is microtrenching. Most commonly used for fiber installation, microtrenching attachments allow for a narrower trench to be created than possible with a standard trenching attachment. For instance, a microtrencher will cut a trench ½ to 3 inches wide. This narrower trench saves

The standard trencher attachment will dig approximately 4-6 feet into the ground and create a trench 6-24 inches wide, although different manufacturers will offer varying size options

contractors backfilling time and costs since less backfill material 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 the cleaner cut and longer lifespan. While a conical bit will be effective through around 4,000 feet – meaning that contractors will likely need to replace bits daily – a diamond PDC blade will last around 20,000 feet before it needs to be replaced.

Trenching and excavation safety

It’s important to 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 recommend 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.

Get digging

Ride-on trenchers have long been one of the most efficient pieces of equipment for any underground construction project. But with the growing ability to customize machines with attachments to meet almost any job site need, their popularity continues to grow.

Steve Seabolt is heavy-duty tractor product manager with Ditch Witch.

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