Towns and municipalities use Front Runner for road maintenance as a supplement to their road graders and, in some instances, in place of a grader on small roads, driveways and parking lots. Most towns use the truck mounted Front Runner because, at least in the snowbelt, these trucks are already outfitted with a snowplow hoist.
Some towns have a Front Runner primarily for the purpose of snow removal on soft roads (early and late winter storms when the ground is not frozen.) See Foster, RI article.
Contractors use the grader / rake Front Runner either mounted on a pickup truck or skid steer loader for site clean up and road maintenance during construction.
Landscapers usually use skid-steer or tractor mounted grader / rakes for leveling, sub and finish grading, spreading topsoil and preparation for seeding.
Campgrounds often do not have grading equipment for road maintenance. Many have discovered the truck mounted Front Runner keeps their roads maintained quickly and easily.
Loggers and woodlot owners use the grader / rake for road maintenance and for landing cleanup. Most loggers in the Northeast snowbelt already have a plowtruck on which to mount a Front Runner.
National Forest, State Parks and Recreation use truck mounted units for road and campsite maintenance. The US Forest Service has Front Runners in a testing program at several locations throughout the US.
Homeowners, estates use Front Runner or the FFC grader / rake for maintaining long driveways. Units are mounted on pickup trucks and various types of utility or compact tractors that the home or estate owner already has.
Industrial application, such as sawmills or other millyards use the unit for yard maintenance and cleanup, often mounting the grader / rake on an all terrain forklift, using the lift and tilt controls to operate the unit. One mill operator in Maine did his entire stormwater runoff project with a Front Runner on the forks of a 920 Cat loader.
Front Runner and the FFC grader / rake are used by anyone who needs to cleanup, grade or maintain gravel surfaces. They can be mounted on almost any machine that can lift and push such as: plowtrucks, compact tractors, utility tractors, forklifts and small articulated loaders.
First, there is little “forgiveness” or give to a rigid blade when it hits an obstruction. This requires an operator to work very slowly when using a blade to prevent damage to the attachment, to the truck or loader and to himself. Using individually replaceable flexible tines allows higher working speeds and visibility through the spaces between tines, while providing protection against shock loading.
Second, tines provide a means to scarify, mix and blend materials, important for restoring road surfaces and for many landscaping projects, while at the same time removing stones and debris during the grading process. Tines can produce a surface just as good as a blade even for paving or concrete preparation, especially if followed by a roller or compactor.
Increased Performance: During cleanup operations, the unit removes debris ahead of the vehicle, protecting the vehicle from damage while permitting debris to be piled or pushed completely off the work area. When grading, it allows leveling of materials before the vehicle passes over, smoothing a path for the vehicle as would a bulldozer or road grader.
Better digging action: Just as pushing a garden cart or wheelbarrow causes it to dig into the ground, Front Runner digs into the work surface better than implements that are pulled or towed. (Pulling a garden cart makes it easier to move because it is being lifted as it is pulled, which is opposite to the action desired from a grading attachment.) It is not necessary to use down pressure to achieve a cutting action with Front Runner, which is part of the reason Front Runner is designed to “float”, allowing it to operate smoother than if it were rigid like a fixed blade.
Visibility: Pushing the unit allows the operator to take full advantage of a tractor’s forward visibility. He does not have to look over his shoulder to see where he is going as when back dragging with a bucket or pulling a front mounted rake backwards with a skid-loader. Also, because the attachment is in front of him, he can watch what it is doing and where he is going at the same time in a natural and comfortable manner, without having to look back as he would with a rear mounted attachment. Not only does this reduce operator fatigue and his chances of hitting things that he cannot see, but it also helps to increase productivity. Front Runner’s visibility also makes it easier to work close to obstructions, even on a pickup truck, with the flexibility of the tines providing protection in case they do hit something. Steering around obstructions or along edges is as natural as following the road in an automobile whereas maneuvering a rear mounted attachment requires developing special operating techniques.
For road maintenance, slab and paving preparation and landscape sub grade, it is actually an advantage to have the machine run over the surface as much as possible to provide setting and compaction. When spreading topsoil, the grader / rake operates with such efficiency that it can achieve a desired grade with far fewer passes than would be required with a bucket or a traditional landscape rake, causing less total compaction and loss of soil structure. In some cases, Front Runner is followed by a seedbed preparation device which removes all tracks left when grading. In cases where sod is to be installed, the surface has to be left firm enough to support a sod truck, which itself leaves tracks that the sod covers anyway! When it is essential to reduce the impact of a machine on a work surface, Front Runner works equally well on a skid-loader equipped with the over-the-tire tracks
The grader / rake’s design allows several degrees of camber (tipping from side to side) to allow it to create a crown. Raising the wheel on the side of the road ditch allows that side of the unit to cut into the surface more than the other. With the unit angled, material is pushed toward the center of the road.
Because the grader / rake is widely used for landscaping as well as flatwork, it is designed to rotate freely both up and down as well as from side to side to follow compound grades. This feature also contributes to simplicity of operation. Because of the way it allows the unit to integrate with existing boom and bucket controls on a loader or the plow hoist on a truck, it eliminates the need for the additional controls often required by other grading attachments. Using only standard controls and wheel settings, Front Runner can be adjusted for lift, angle and tilt in the same manner as a six-way blade on a bulldozer.
The wheel system allows changing the wheel depth settings simply by removing a hitch pin, lifting or lowering the wheel, and reinstalling the hitch pin. This operation requires no tools and is quick and positive. The wheel stem setting (similar to many rear mounted rakes) is only changed during initial setup or when adjusting for tine wear
Because tines are made of heat treated high carbon spring steel, they are extremely rugged tine and breakage is not as much of a problem as you might think. With the power and momentum of a 4 x 4 truck or loader pushing the unit, however, tines which hit an immovable rock or stump can occasionally be bent beyond their ability to spring back. They can often be bent back to their original shape in a simple procedure. Any tine broken or damaged beyond repair can easily be replaced.
The increased production gained by using flexible tines in place of a blade more than offsets any losses that may occur during operation.
This is hard to answer because types of use and conditions will vary widely. In the heavy use that truck mounted units receive while performing road maintenance in New England, it is typical for a set of tines to last at least two seasons. With the slower operating speeds and less compacted materials encountered by skid steer loaders doing site work, it is normal to get several years from one set of tines.
The grader / rake has a tendency to aerate the ground more than a blade or a bucket does, which makes it very effective for drying out wet surfaces in the Spring or after rainstorms, often making it possible to keep a job on schedule that would otherwise have to wait.
SNOW REMOVAL… The Front Runner or FFC grader / rake is very effective for plowing snowstorms which occur before the ground is frozen. It has the tendency to mix some gravel with the snow it leaves behind, creating an excellent surface for traction and for future snow removal after the surface packs and freezes. After the ground has thawed in the Spring, it can clear snow without digging up or “rearranging” the surface of a road or driveway as a snowplow might do. The wet, sticky snow typical of early and late winter storms and southerly climates can usually be plowed without modification to the unit. Adding rubber flaps ahead of the tines makes the unit more effective for clearing dry snow which tends to filter through the tines.
FOR BREAKING ICE…
The unit can often be used to break up ice on warm or sunny days, reducing the need to spread sand and/or salt. It can be effective on both paved and unpaved surfaces either by eliminating ice or by providing traction when pulling up gravel from the road surface or sand which has melted down from on top of the ice. Tines seem to cut into ice rather than floating over it on high spots like a snowplow.
A lift bar is provided at the balance point of the tractor mounted unit for picking it up when it is not attached to a tractor, allowing it to be easily set onto the back of a truck or lowbed before loading the tractor separately. In order for the unit to take up less overall length or reduce weight when transported on the front of a pickup truck, wheel assemblies can easily be removed by pulling out both hitch pins. Reinstallation on the next job takes less than a minute apiece.
It should be wide enough so that when fully angled it will still cast debris or gravel material past the vehicle’s wheels. For instance, a loader that is 6′ wide will require a unit 8′ in width to keep the loader from driving over the windrow or debris. Most trucks will require an 8 foot or 8 foot 6 inch wide unit (trucks with duals.) Several widths are available to suit most applications.
A mast mounted receiver carried by the unit intercepts a beam from a laser transmitter and transforms it into a signal which tells the operator whether he is above, below or on grade. The operator adjusts the unit accordingly to achieve proper grade. It is also possible to install a fully automatic machine control system which is actuated directly by the laser, eliminating the need for operator control. The grader / rake operates so easily and with such precise control that many operators find they can obtain desired grade manually much easier than they can with other laser guided grading equipment.
Perhaps the grader/ rake’s biggest advantage is versatility. It handles grading and cleanup functions at the same time and can also maintain roads, parking lots and job sites. It allows a skid steer loader or compact tractor to do much of the finish work usually done by a bulldozer or a pickup truck to do much of the work of an expensive motor grader at a fraction of the operating cost. The grader / rake costs less than half of what some skid-steer graders cost and does many of the same things. It is extremely easy to learn to operate because it uses standard controls in a normal manner. On a pickup truck it is easily transported and fast on the job.
Fork lift truck can be equipped with a grader / rake using an adapter which slides over the forks. This provides an easy means for a mill or yard operator to clean and maintain his lot with a machine he already owns. The smaller Four Wheel Drive Articulated tractors with quick attachment systems are another effective choice. Utility tractors with a front mounted hitch system rather than a boom and bucket are a newer class of specialty machine often used by golf courses and municipalities for moving snow, mowing and other duties. The Front Runner, FFC grader / rake has been adapted to this type unit with results that fall in between the performance on the skid steer and the articulated tractor. Please call our toll free line if you have questions