Test Drives


Recently we tested a Bandit Intimidator 15XPC Drum Chipper, a true 15 inch chipper with the infeed system and engine power of the big 1590XP/18XP in a chipper the size of Bandit’s 12 inch model.

There have been a lot of ripples across the Australian Arborists’ pond of late, the source of which seems to be a Bandit chipper. After some investigation we discovered that Bandit listened to what its customers wanted and has developed a ‘hybrid’ chipper made up of some of the best parts of two existing, popular and proven units: the 12XP and the 18XP. The result is the Bandit 15XPC, which I have affectionately nicknamed Frankenchipper.

So what has the 15XPC got? Firstly it is a true 15 inch capacity wood chipper with an infeed opening of 15 inches high and 20 inches wide.

Starting from ground up, the Bandit sits on a single, heavy duty spring axle with electric brakes. The chassis is a stronger version of the 12XP’s frame, made of rectangular steel tubing, not just C section steel. The 24 inch diameter drum is also the same size as the 12XP but used to maximum capacity, and is held down with the same oversized bearings from the 18 inch Bandit. Also taken from the 18XP are the larger feed rollers and feed roller motors, resulting in a heap more pulling power than the 12XP.

The 15XPC is powered by a 142hp CAT turbo diesel engine (the same as the 18XP) with full Murphy engine protection and Autofeed Plus. This is a whole lot of wood chipper in a package 2.1m wide by 5.3m long and the answer to everyone’s question: it weighs just 3400kg. Some other features of the 15XPC, which are standard across most of the Bandit range, include:
• Hood pin switch
• Twin disc clutch
• Hydraulic bump bar (no electric switches!)
• E-stop switches at the rear
• High infeed sides
• Hydraulic winch
• Rope shear device for added safety
• And of course where would you be without the old faithful Lift and Crush?
To sum up the 15XPC, you’re getting a true 15 inch chipper with all the strength and power of the proven 1590/18XP in a chipper the size of the 12 inch that can be towed legally behind most modern 4WD utes.

So how does it perform? I must admit, I did prompt The Australian Arbor Age magazine to get hold of the 15XPC for a test drive as I was just as excited as the next guy to get my hands on one to give it a thrashing.

My job for the day of the test drive was a pretty straightforward tree removal; the access was good, albeit blocking a small laneway with the truck and chipper. There was an open building site next door with enough space to rig out some decent sized pieces of tree and stack them in a tidy fashion, ready for when we brought the truck and chipper in. The first part of the chipping pile was comprised of nice straight branches with four of us feeding the machine. It outperformed our efforts with ease, the larger feed rollers making hand feeding a piece of cake.

Next up there were some larger branches and timber which we left as big as possible to give the 15XPC a suitable challenge. We used the winch to pull a capacity sized log up to the chipper and it was pulled into the rollers with absolute ease. The 142hp Turbo CAT did its thing and in no time at all this 6 meter log found its new temporary home in the back of the truck. We were all amazed at the potency of this “little” Bandit chipper. This thing has amazing grunt!

We purposely left some of the larger branches untrimmed to see how it would cope, sure that at least one or two of the gnarlier limbs would not comply. However, it turned out this wasn’t the case. The extra pulling power supplied from those larger feed roller motors certainly did the trick, bullying the wider junction branches into line! We all gave it the big thumbs up. Frankenchipper certainly performed well, and at just 3400kg its compact, powerful and light; perfect if you want to upgrade your chipper but don’t want to upgrade your truck as well. The big chipper for the little guy or the little chipper for the big guy? You decide.

For more information visit banditchippers.com.au

July 24, 2018 / by / in

If you are used to working with petrol-powered equipment like I am, try the battery powered Husqvarna 536 LiPT5 polesaw and let it blow you away.

This month I was asked to test a Husqvarna 536 LiPT5 polesaw. I was interested to see how technology is evolving and curious as to whether this would be good or an under powered dud. I have used some competitors’ battery-powered tools recently and noticed some big improvements over the years.

Years ago I was working for Active Tree Service and was asked to remove a tree under lights at night with an EWP. The site was Pennant Hills Road and deemed to be too busy to close any lanes in the day, so the removal had to be performed at night.

We were using battery-powered saws due to noise restrictions and they were pathetic. They were quickly ditched for the louder, but much more powerful, hydraulic saws. Last year, I was working with a mate who owned a couple of battery saws, and the improvements in power were very noticeable. I still couldn’t quite vision myself grabbing one over a two-stroke, however I was amazed with how quiet they were.

I will give you an example, I was doing the maintenance on the chipper first thing in the morning, after we all looked at the job. And when I didn’t hear a saw after 20 minutes… I started thinking what are those bludgers up to? I walked around to the backyard and there were branches on the ground everywhere! I was surprised how stealth it was. Even the most experienced of street captains would have been unsuspecting of the tree work happening.

When I was asked to try the Husqvarna 536 LiPT5 polesaw, I was curious. It looks small and compact but this polesaw extends to five metres. It’s also noticeably lighter than a petrol-powered poley. So we figured out to hold the ON button until it lights up and we were ready to go. The first thing I noticed was how fast the chain speed was compared to the last battery-powered polesaw I used from a competitor’s brand about a month ago. So I lined up the first branch wondering if the chain would slow down or if this Husqvarna was going to have some torque. Zip! I cut a branch the size of my wrist and thought… Wow! I could have speared that.

So I cut another one and zip! I was excited. Plenty of chain speed and plenty of torque. I thought this 536 LiPT5 Husqvarna polesaw is worthy and I would own it over a petrol one.

I will absolutely stand by this statement because the second I finished this test drive, I jumped on the phone to the Sales Manager and asked him what he wanted for it. I was impressed and if they start making bigger saws that can equal petrol saws I’m interested. Battery advantages are:
• If you are on a pruning job, the lack of noise keeps those sticky beak street captains at bay
• No mixing fuel
• Kind on the ears
• Always on, just hit the trigger
• Seems to be lighter
• You could start at 6:00am and not disturb anyone

Without testing any bigger saws, this polesaw made me a fan of battery power to the point that I wanted to own it after the first cut.

For more information visit www.husqvarna.com.au

July 24, 2018 / by / in

A new CTE Traccess 170 was taken through its paces this month and left our test driver as impressed as he was in his previous run on the 230 model.

A few months ago, I tested the CTE 230, the big brother of the CTE Traccess 170 with all the bells and whistles, and I was super impressed. These machines are operating within multiple businesses in the arbor and construction industries across Australia, and although I have not personally spoken with any of the individuals who own one of these machines, it is good to see they are getting more exposure as these units get the heightened awareness they deserve. I have tested or used a few different brands of these spider lifts and, if I was looking to buy one, these would be one of the first machines I’d look at. For the record, after working in this industry for the past 20 years, I try to keep my reviews as honest as possible. Someone I know might buy something I’ve talked about. My reviews are all based purely on my own opinion, which is formed from my own experience cutting trees, others I’ve worked with cutting trees and what I like. Some people are Ford and some are Holden, others are neither.

The CTE Traccess machines are big performers compared to some of the others brands I’ve used. I can confidently say that I am no stranger to cutting out of a bucket either and I would love to see how these machines stand up to a few months or even a year of constant use. Hire giant Skyreach have acquired four machines, one of the T170s and one of the T230s in both their Sydney and Brisbane locations; these machines are available for hire. They will be adding to their fleet in the coming months with another order currently underway for the Lithium versions of these machines.

Aside from the tiny footprint, short length and quick set up speed, the thing I love about this machine is the Z style lower boom. When you knock the head out of a tree and it’s time to block down, it is one movement each time to reposition for the next cut. If you are not getting that, you don’t need to play with two or three different controls to reposition the bucket in the right spot for the next cut.

In most machines an up or down movement on the lower boom will pull you away or push you closer to the barrel, requiring an adjustment on the opposite boom as well, and possibly even the tele in or out to get in the right position.

With these CTEs you can just come right down parallel to the barrel, almost to the ground cutting barrel all the way, without letting go of the saw, if you don’t want to. Big time saver in my book.

Another thing I think is better than some of the similar style machines on the market is the bucket stability. None of them are as stable as a bucket truck, obviously. Some are terrible though, giving the soles of your feet and ankles an unbelievable work out just standing in them in the air. The CTE is a fairly stable bucket, not giving the same style of work out that leaves you begging for a break.

While we are talking about the bucket, the one thing I didn’t like was the second rail around the top of the bucket. It’s too tall. Again, that’s my opinion, but I found it to be a little awkward. Something else good in the 170 model is a safety system that will stop you from slewing into the control panel that’s right by the bucket, when the boom is down. It stops an accidental knock and possible downtime. The control panel is actually really handy right next to the bucket when is stowed. The main reason is the stabilisers all have load sensors and if you haven’t set up properly, you don’t need to climb back out of the bucket to sort it out. Awesome idea!

There are no cables, hydraulic lines or anything attached to the outside of the boom to snag or get covered in debris, as everything is tucked inside the boom. If you want to go through all the stats/ working envelope you will see that these machines are better than most or if not all in their class.

All in all, the CTE Traccess 170 Spider Lift is a top machine that is well suited to the arboriculture industry. I hope to see more hire companies get on board with these machines in the near future.

For more information visit www.platformsales.com.au

May 2, 2018 / by / in

Outstanding and awesome are the two words that summarise our test driver experience with the Vermeer BC2100XL brush chipper. Shane Duck tells us all about it.

This month we have been test driving the Vermeer BC2100XL brush chipper. Brush? This thing is a barrel destroyer. It’s a 275hp Cummins, which is a fair bit of grunt and, wholly molly, can it process trees at a fast pace! When you first see it in action it’s impressive, but it’s not until you feed it and it’s sitting there, taking it as quick as you are picking it up and almost saying “Is that all you got?”… That’s when you get an understanding of how efficient it is! This is one timber hungry machine! The BC2100XL brush chipper comes with airbag suspension and hydraulic stabilisers to prolong the life of the suspension. The stabilisers also help when winching sideways. The winch system on this chipper is excellent. It has a swivel head to winch in any direction without excess tension or abrasion on the winching cable. It can take approximately 50m of rope and pull two tonne approximately.

The other cool feature is the winches hydraulic up and down. The winch is on a ram, so you can lift the housing straight out of the way to machine feed the chipper. The mulch! The mulch quality was awesome. I understand there are a lot of variables that can affect mulch quality and this machine is brand new, however the chips were so uniform in size it was outstanding. It’s easy to see this machine is really designed for land clearing and machine feeding. It’s set up so you can hand feed it, but the features it comes with really take away the need for someone constantly standing by the machine. For example, let’s talk about the SmartCrush. The BC2100XL has a bottom roller offset from the top roller and sits forward by 11 inches. These rollers are equipped with sensors, so when the first roller senses a load from the weight of a barrel or limb, the top roller will open and climb up onto the woody section without applying any force into the top roller. This takes away the need for an operator to stand there on a lift and crush.

After four seconds the top roller will automatically increase the downward pressure, as if someone is standing there on the lift and crush. This gives maximum pulling force even if you are feeding branches or a barrel. You don’t even need to touch the remote. The SmartFeed feature monitors engine revs and works like an autofeed, but is accurate, and the machine never seems to bog down – which is probably why it is productive. Another thing you won’t find on the brochure of this beast is the lack of a clutch. That’s what I said! It has a spring tensioning system on the belts. I haven’t come across this before to be honest, but I am guessing it’s something that would be less maintenance than a clutch and that’s the way it was explained. You have a lever, the same as a clutch and just have to engage it in the same way.

It’s got all the cool hydraulics on the chute for maximum control of where you put the mulch and the machine weighs about eight tonnes. The BC2100XL has a remote that enables you to check all gauges and engine diagnostics from the cab of your machine. You can operate everything, except the winch for safety reasons, and you can’t engage the drum obviously. You can move the chute and even program revs at which the roller backs off. Awesome. I wish I had at least 20 trees to knock over and feed them through with an excavator on the day and see how fast we could process them. The BC2100XL is purpose built for this kind of work and absolutely up to the task. It would be ideal on any crane job too. I imagine any big company would gain a competitive advantage with a machine like this BC2100XL Brush chipper.

For more information visit www.vermeer.com.au

May 2, 2018 / by / in

When it comes to doing tree work, the Avant 745 Articulated Loader, with all its attachments, is one of the heavy weights in our industry.

Everyone knows by now how awesome an articulated loader can be for tree work. It almost goes without saying: boosting crew morale, saving your back, speeding up the jobs, not tearing up the grass like a skid steer or excavator might and, I am sure, there are more positives, but that’s just a few. The benefit of having a machine that can glide in and out of tight residential properties or quickly track across manicured acreage doing all the lifting with minimal or no damage to the property is enormous. It gives you the ability of turning a traditional two or three day job into a one day event.

Due to their articulation, these mini loaders can take a bit to get used to, when it comes to manoeuvring, but once you get the hang of it, they become a very valuable part of the crew.

The Avant 745 was one of the first articulated mini loaders I started to see around about 10 years ago and they are becoming more and more popular.

While there are a few different brands on the market, there is a very good reason for the popularity of Avant. The quality of this machine is second to none. It’s very fast with speeds of up to 30km per hour, has easy to understand controls and a reliable 49hp Kubota engine. There is also over 150 attachments for Avant mini loaders.

This 745 model in particular can lift approximately 1.5 tonnes up to 3m in the air (that I personally can vouch for), which makes it good for loading logs or mulch into the back of most tree trucks.

The attachments on these loaders are so quick and easy to change. My favourite attachment was the rotator grab. This would make feeding the chipper very easy, while you’re getting used to the articulation. Being in the wrong position wouldn’t be a problem as you can swing the load any direction as you advance.

I’ve used rotator grabs a fair bit on excavators and they can be unreal when access isn’t great, as you can feed the chipper from most positions. The rotator grab would also be handy for sneaking up the sides of houses, as you can turn the load as you’re moving and not having to put it down.

The grinder attachment was a little hard to get used to and could bog the machine down. However, it’s a handy option given the fact it is not too expensive to own and gives an option for a few extra dollars on a site you are already on.

This machine has a heap of power and traction for its size. The amount of attachments available can make an Avant turn into many other useful machines, but when it comes to doing tree work… pound for pound, this machine is one of the heavy weights in our industry.

Avant is family run in Sydney and boasts great customer service, from what I’ve heard from those I know who own one.

Owning a machine like this is certainly on my to-do list and is the sort of tool on the crew that can help you make more on the job! A must have if you can afford it. That said, guys I’m not sure what else to say other than I wish I owned one myself.

For more information visit www.avantequipment.com

May 2, 2018 / by / in

The snorkel MHP15HD heavy duty trailer mounted articulated boom lift was pushed up in the air and went through a tough day of work.



This month I was asked to try out the Snorkel MHP15HD boom lift to see what I thought. First of all it’s a very sturdy looking trailer mount. Usually every machine is different and has something that needs to be pointed out in order for you to use it the first time, not this machine. What I found to be good about the Snorkel is its simplicity, with traditional lower controls and basket controls and auto levelling, anyone who has used any kind of platform before would be able to hop into and operate without having to be shown a thing. This is a positive when inexperienced or numerous operators are using the machine.




The machine has electric power to the basket which makes it good for tradies that may use power tools and has a 10.9m cut-out switch for operators that aren’t ticketed; LV insulation is an option and it has lifting lugs in case it needs to be lifted into a site.

The machine is an articulating knuckle boom and does not have a telescopic boom. Time to go in the air. The machine looked sturdy and it was very sturdy in the air. The controls were smooth and at no time did the basket wobble around.




I found the machine easy to set up and pack away. This Snorkel MHP15HD is a great little machine for jobs where you don’t need a huge amount of outreach or for those who aren’t used to using pickers. You could easily set it up under that small to medium tree in a park or front yard, something too dead to climb or a small job you don’t have enough money on to get a climber in for. It’s a sturdy machine that would be handy to have around.


For information call 1300 900 700 or find your local branch at www.ahernaustralia.com.au




September 26, 2017 / by / in



Zeus by Teupen is the new release from the Spider Lift specialists at ASPAC Group.

Having sold hundreds of Spider Lifts since the Australian release of Hinowa in 2003, ASPAC Group knows a thing or two about the industry advances that have finally seen the German made and assembled Zeus by Teupen product available on our shores.

For those who may not recognise the name, Teupen (Pron Toy-Pin) have been designing and manufacturing spider lifts for 40 years and are the worlds largest and most respected supplier, their reputation built on quality, ease of use and reliability.

According to ASPACs Martin Eade it is this combination, along with an extensive product offering from 13 to 50 metres that will see Zeus by Teupen significantly grow the usage and ownership of Spider Lifts in the Tree Care Industry.




“The Zeus by Teupen has everything a client could want,” explains Eade. “Typically German the quality is exceptional, unlike anything I have seen previously, the units are very well guarded against falling branches and debris, including the Kubota engine and they are simple and instinctual to operate.”

The units are extremely stable when in the air and combine this with clever design to give units with worlds most extreme outreach, a case in point the new 19T with 14.5 metres of horizontal outreach.”

Backing up the claim that the Zeus by Teupen are the most reliable on the market, they are protected with an industry leading three-year comprehensive warranty and in remote areas a FIFO machine down response guarantee.




And this German made spider lift would not be complete without some unique operator assistance that would seem equally at home in other Icons such as BMW or Mercedes.

The new Zeus by Teupen 21 and 24GT Articulated and the Telescopic series 19, 23 and 31-metre units all have Zeus assist. This evolutionary control system will differentiate between operator error and technical fault, and actually guide the operator through the problem with on screen prompts.

Zeus Recall is also standard which enables operators on the T series to press a memory function and have the machine manoeuvre back to where it was previously positioned, ideal for those tricky situations.




Zeus by Teupen is available now in Australia from ASPAC Group. Call (03) 9796 4254 for your obligation free information kit, or to arrange an on site demonstration.

June 7, 2017 / by / in
Vermeer SC40TX Stump Grinder

Words by Mat Smith, for The Australian Arbor Age

It seems that tracks are all the rage these days and Vermeer have definitely cottoned on to this.

The new Vermeer SC40TX Stump Grinder has taken full advantage of a tracked under carriage. It’s a new offering to the ever popular mid-size stump grinder range and with a few tricks up its sleeve the SC40TX should fair well against its competitors. Let us take a closer look at what this brand new grinder has to offer.

We will start from the ground up; the SC40TX is built around a proven design – the Vermeer skid steer loader. The tracks have a High-mount rear sprocket which keeps the drive mechanism out of the dirt, therefore allowing less wear/contact with abrasive material such as sand and rocks as well as keeping the hydraulic motor out of the debris and contamination.

Overall the SC40TX weighs in at 1400kg, its 3.3m long and just shy of 3ft wide. The cutter wheel has a diameter of 18″ and can grind to an impressive depth of up to 16″ while still being able to grind stumps 2ft above ground level. The sweep is 50″.

Power is fed from a straight bevel gear box, which in turn feeds from a direct couple with a hydraulic motor, this means no clutch, and no belts to replace or maintain, saving you time and money in the long run. The power plant behind all this is a 3-cylinder turbo diesel Kohler engine, kicking out 40-horse power and 133 ft-lb of torque. These are good numbers for a medium size machine, especially one equipped with some smart electronics designed to help the operator with his business of turning tree stumps in to mulch.

The SC40TX  grinder can be operated in 2 modes, the first being the ‘ride on’ position, this being the normal position you would be to transport the grinder between stumps and it’s ideal for sites where you have multiple small/medium stumps to deal with. The Grinder can be easily tracked from stump to stump, then with the flick of a switch you can grind away. When you’re done simply track to the next stump then grind some more. Track, flick, grind, repeat. Secondly, if you have something a little tastier to grind, or you would like to get a little more intimate with your tree stump, simply track over to your stump, hop down from the ‘ride on’ position, swing out the ‘side operator’s station’ (that is neatly stowed away while not in use) and continue your grinding while enjoying the front row view!

Operator safety was a large factor in the design of the SC40TX. With its ‘Operator Presence System’, you wont be going near the spinning cutter wheel. Basically you have to be present in the ‘ride on’ position or present at the ‘side operator’s station. This is achieved by a load sensing switch at the ‘ride on’, and a nifty touch sensitive knob at the ‘side operator’s station’. The moment either is ‘Tripped’ the cutter wheel comes to a swift stop, making a foolproof system and a safer working environment.

So how well does the SC40TX grind stumps?

Due to the low down grunt, solid build and ‘SmartSweep’ its an impressive mid sized machine. The SmartSweep control system monitors engine load and provides continuous feedback resulting in a smooth and consistent cutter-wheel sweep rate. This feature improves efficiency and productivity at the stump while helping to decrease wear and tear on the machine. It grinds slightly different to what I am used to, but in a good way. Its some thing one has to experience for themselves, to truly see the benefits.

At a glance, if you buy a SC40TX Stump Grinder, you are getting a solid, stable, manoverable track machine, with a powerful, reliable and smart grinding head that is safe and easy to operate. All this at a price that is very competitive. What more would you like?

March 18, 2017 / by / in
Work smarter, not harder.

Delivering superior reach, balance and performance for high level tree care, the Husqvarna 525PT5S telescopic pole saw is undoubtedly one of the handiest pole saws on the market.

With a maximum reach of around 5.5m and weighing in at a light 7.0kg, giving it one of the best reach-to-weight ratios on the market, the 525PT5S pole saw is especially well-suited to commercial tree pruning, with flexible reach to suit users’ needs.

Top class performance is delivered by the X-Torq® engine, which produces high torque while reducing emissions by up to 75% and delivers up to 20% better fuel economy – the ideal combination for commercial operators.

The increased torque results in a high chain speed that delivers clean cuts with no splitting. Chain lubrication is automatic and adjustable, so it is easy to set the chain lubrication level according to specific needs and cutting conditions.

Smart features for easy and comfortable operation

The convenient telescopic shaft allows for quick cutting height adjustments to easily prune tree branches with your feet still planted firmly and safely on the ground.

The rear-mounted engine acts as a counter-weight to provide a comfortable stance with superior balance and also features a rear impact guard to protect the engine from wear and damage.

The auto-return stop switch on the 525PT5S makes starting the machine uncomplicated, since the stop switch automatically resets to the ON position.

For simplicity, the choke and purge functions have been engineered to be easily within reach, as well as easy to understand and use.

March 11, 2017 / by / in , ,