BTB 31: Cherokee Electric Purchases M718E Mulcher
Published on: Sunday 1st July 2012
For Cherokee Electric, the purchase decision reflects a new direction for ROW maintenance as the M718E replaces an aging Hydro-Ax 425 with a rotary mower attachment.
Although the machine has not yet accumulated a great deal of hours, foreman Obie Oden, is impressed with the build quality and performance of the M718E and welcomes the transition from a rotary mowing attachment to a horizontal drum mulching head, choosing the Fecon BH99 with a FGT drum and hydraulic push/brush bar frame.
Oden lists off a bunch of advantages of the Fecon head combined with the Tigercat carrier. The attachment doesn’t throw debris like old tires, discarded bikes and the random scrap metal that is routinely found in the ROWs, reducing liability issues around populated rural areas. One of the operators, Stacey Wood, relates that he once caught a tire when operating the old machine and the blade flung it a good 50 feet (15 m) in the air. When the attachment does hit rock or metal, the horizontal drum mulcher sustains far less damage than rotary blades.
When working near the roadside it is no longer necessary to put a man on the ground with a radio to stop the machine when cars approach. Also, a rotary attachment does not actually mulch. The M718E does a neater job and the mulched material helps to retard new growth. The operators like the visibility to the rear, aided by the rear camera and the overall comfort of the cab.
Oden explains that he is responsible for maintaining about 1,800 miles (3 000 km) of right-of-way. (Cherokee has 2,500 miles in total but 700 miles fall on pasture land.) The ROW swaths tend to be approximately 30 ft (9 m) wide and clearing takes place on a five year rotation with herbicide applied after clearing.
Oden figures the machine will operate around 1 200 hours per year in mixed terrain with some fairly steep ground.