Light-duty ECO SLT Fills Niche for Large Contractor
A long-time maintenance contractor adds smaller, economical ECO Series trucks to his year-round SLT fleet.
Over the last 8 years K&H Lawn Service’s fleet of Super Lawn Trucks has grown to 10, the last 2 of which were new smaller (12 ft) ECO Series models. Company CEO Kris Hjort says that doesn’t mean they’re done buying 14′ to 18′ models like the rest of their fleet. The 12′ trucks fill a niche in his company.
“After 27 years of doing this and tracking our jobs, we know that when properties are smaller than 8,000 sq. ft. we will be more profitable if we send out 1 person to mow a yard, versus a 2-man crew. It’s just a proven fact.”
He says the light duty ECO Series trucks will seat 2 people, but are perfect for his company’s 1-man operations, and K&H has enough smaller properties to keep 2 of them busy. The trucks comfortably hold everything a single operator needs. Light duty ECO Series trucks cost less to buy and use less fuel. And Kris explains that if they can find a way to cut their costs and still do the job well, they’re going to do it.
Kris says they’ve found that 9 times out of 10 a single operator is going to produce a higher profit per man-hour than a 2-man crew on these smaller properties. He attributes this to a number of factors: There’s no socializing, coordinating work or inspecting other’s work. The operator is 100% responsible for results and has no one else to blame.
Other than 1-man operators sometimes getting lonely during the 12-hour workdays of the spring, the 1-man setup has worked great.
Using Small Crews Even on Large Properties
Even on larger maintenance properties, K&H typically sticks with their standard 2-man crew for their bigger Super Lawn Trucks. Now, they may send 4 people in 2 crews to a single property, but each crew would be working independently. For example, if a drive split the property, 1 crew might maintain 1 side while the other crew would work the other side.
But, normally, a single 2-man crew does everything even on large commercial properties 75,000 to 150,000 sq. ft. Kris says, “2 guys spend a half day to a full day on those. They’re doing multiple things. They’re cutting grass, spraying roundup, checking for weeds, cleaning up areas.”
K&H has a contract with a home owner’s association (HOA) to maintain the front yards for 175 single family homes as well as the entrance areas. Kris says they do the entire HOA neighborhood in 1 day by putting 9 crews on it. Each crew, whether 1-man or 2-man is assigned to separate areas.
SLT Trucks Provide Year-Round Solution
Since crews carry different things in different seasons, Kris evaluates trucks on how well they support that. “I was just talking to my general manager about our fleet. We have pickups, stake-body trucks, a big tandem truck where you can haul 20 yards of mulch. I asked which one of our trucks is the most valuable? Which one can you use consistently and year-round? He said ‘Super Lawn Trucks’.”
“I can use them with snow shoveling crews. I can use them mowing and mulching in the spring, fall and summer. I can use them for leaf clean up, gutter cleanup and holiday decorating.”
Kris says regardless of what seasonal tools, equipment, materials or debris his Super Lawn Trucks are carrying “crews don’t remove their standard load of 2 or 3 commercial mowers or other lawn maintenance equipment from the trucks! That’s why it’s so versatile, because we don’t have to keep taking equipment on and off.”
It can sometimes get a little clumsy finding a spot for things around the mowing equipment, but Kris says it generally works fine while allowing them to eliminate the need for a large additional storage area for seasonal equipment.
K&H snow shoveling crews might haul around 40 bags of ice melt along with spreaders, snow blowers, shovels, etc. A holiday decorating crew often carries a week’s worth of decorating materials without reloading. During spring cleanup a crew might load up 3 tarps full of debris to haul back to the yard. Of course bigger trucks are going to haul more than smaller trucks.
To max out storage space, K&H trucks are outfitted with options like the underbody tool storage system, the power tool storage system, and utility shelves. These are serious utility shelves, big enough that Kris’ crews use them to hold things like wheelbarrows, or bags of pre-emergent, mulch and ice melt.
Since the truck storage area is enclosed, everything is protected from the elements. Tools don’t fall out. Debris doesn’t blow away. And everything you need stays in the truck overnight ready for use the next day.
K & H Lawn Service
PRODUCT/SERVICE: Lawn Maintenance, Landscape Installation & Snow Removal
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 42
Interview & Article by Tom Hatlen, Editor of Hardscape Magazine